In communities across the nation taxpayers are standing tall gaining strength by reaching out to each other and becoming a major force for the protection of our constitutional liberties.
This is the type of movement Howard Jarvis hoped would carry on long after his 1978 Proposition 13 revolution. In his book I’m Mad as Hell he stated “The message of Proposition 13 and its aftermath was clear: People can collectively effect change in the public interest if only they get mad enough and if their anger is rational and justified. People who want to do something don’t have to wait for somebody else to lead them: Americans can do things for themselves.”
Howard knew from experience what citizens can accomplish. In 1978 anger over high taxes especially property taxes that were forcing people from their homes erupted in an epic battle between average taxpayers and the entrenched forces of California government including their special interest allies and government employee unions. When the smoke had cleared Proposition 13 which limited annual increases in property taxes and required a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to increase state taxes passed with over 65 percent of the vote.
Politicians across the nation were shocked. Even President Carter acknowledged at a press conference that he heard the message. Howard Jarvis the father of Proposition 13 became a national symbol of tax revolt. He was on the cover of Time and was runner-up for their “Man of the Year.”
In short Howard was the quintessential expert on tax protest. And he would be extremely proud of the citizens who are now speaking out and taking action to protest high taxes and government intrusion into their lives.
He would be encouraging. “Everyone knows twenty or thirty people who will work with them” he would say while stressing that people did not have to wait for leadership they could lead themselves.
Howard was also a realist. He acknowledged that volunteer organizations are hard to hold together. He said “We fought very hard and managed to sell the idea of loyalty and unity among ourselves” adding “We told our tax fighters to hang tight because we knew that numbers gave us political clout.”
Whether they know it or not many are already following Howard’s advice. On April 15 of this year I had the privilege of addressing thousands of Tea Party protesters on the steps of the State Capitol.
The crowd responded enthusiastically when I read to them the Declaration of Taxpayer Rights based on the writings of Thomas Jefferson and the work of Howard Jarvis. It has been signed by thousands of Californians.
We the people of the State of California declare that all taxpayers are endowed with certain unalienable rights; that among these are the right to limited taxation the right to vote on tax increases and the right of economical equitable and efficient use of taxpayer dollars.
Those of us at the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association believe that we can have the kind of government structure we want if we are willing to work for it. Individuals should not think they have to do everything themselves or that they have to do it alone. Each of us can take small steps. Go to city council meetings or school board meetings. If you are an expert on something use your expertise to advance the cause of freedom. And if you do nothing else urge your friends and neighbors to vote and to vote responsibly.
By combining with others we taxpayers are becoming mighty. Now is the time to make extra effort to establish and protect our rights. Some are already taking that extra step. Whatever you call yourself — tax protester tea party activist or defender of freedom — if you are taking responsible action to return our state and nation to a system where government serves its citizens rather than the other way around then Howard Jarvis would be proud of you and so are we at his namesake organization.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.