Several years ago the last time California was "going off a cliff" I wrote a column entitled "Taxpayer Ants and Government Grasshoppers." It was based on the wonderful old Disney cartoon about industrious ants working hard and putting away provisions for the future and a lazy grasshopper which refused to do the same.
Those familiar with the story will recall that when winter came and the grasshopper faced death from starvation and exposure the ants took pity and bailed him out with hot food and a warm place to sleep. The grasshopper then repented his ways and changed his tune to: "I owe the world a living. I’ve been a fool the whole year long. Now I’m singing a different song. You were right and I was wrong."
But this was just a Hollywood ending. In Sacramento where our ruling elite fail to learn lessons the endings are different.
Sacramento is now filled with a new crop of cash-eating locusts and they are no better than their predecessors. They show no remorse or regret for their failure to rein in spending and no sympathy for the taxpayer ants who themselves are struggling to get by and are wondering if they will make it through the winter of our declining economy.
To add insult to injury the grasshopper chorus now sings a new song led by Assemblywoman Noreen Evans. She revealed the lyrics a few days ago before a conference committee on the budget. "This mantra out there ‘live within our means’ while it sounds really nice while it sounds really simple and it sounds really responsible it’s meaningless" she intoned.
Evans’ statement is breathtaking for its arrogance. For California families and businesses the idea that one has to "live within their means" is a common sense notion and those who do not follow it find themselves in bankruptcy. Evans admission demonstrates yet again how disconnected our liberal political leadership is from ordinary citizens. Taxpayers can’t help but wonder if this is how Evans views our state fiscal crisis will her next chart-topper be "Let Them Eat Cake?"
The Legislature approved massive tax increases in February that make California taxes the highest in many categories in the nation. California now competes with New Jersey for the largest tax burden in all 50 states. Still the majority of lawmakers believe that it isn’t nearly enough and are now seeking to raise additional taxes and fees.
The logically challenged Evans justifies calls for new revenue by saying that it is for the "needy." However if the Santa Rosa Democrat is so concerned about the least amongst us why did she and most of her colleagues approve the February tax package that includes new sales taxes higher car taxes and a $200 cut in the tax deduction for dependent children? These taxes fall disproportionately hard on low and middle income Californians. And why did these same tax-and-spend lawmakers who use children and the poor as human shields to defend raising taxes approve Proposition 1A for the May Special Election ballot that would have perpetuated these highly regressive taxes for an additional two years?
Apparently to Evans and her crew it is the government employee unions who are the truly needy. Although California has the highest paid public employees in the nation the majority in the Legislature has worked diligently to protect them from cuts in wages and benefits and from layoffs. Sacramento demands higher taxes that go in large part to maintain workers who receive high pay lavish pensions and are able to retire young enough that if they choose they can pursue a second career.
Meanwhile private sector workers are seeing their savings evaporate and are compelled to work longer to provide for their own retirement as well as for employees of government. Nearly a dozen out of every 100 Californians is unemployed and those still working struggle to hang on to their homes and jobs.
This year the ants are beyond providing another bailout to Sacramento. If the grasshoppers don’t change their tune soon we’ll all suffer a very very chilly winter.
Jon Coupal is President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association– California’s largest taxpayer organization — which is dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and promoting taxpayers’ rights.