Your Money or Your Life?
It was television that grabbed the viewer by the throat and wouldn’t let go.
Here is how the Los Angeles Times described it:
The dramatic 30-second ad depicts a woman cowering in her bedroom as she desperately dials 911 and tells an emergency operator that someone has broken into her home. Holding her terrified little daughter she pleads: “We’re alone here. Please send someone.”
As a gloved intruder makes his way up the stairs to her bedroom she becomes increasingly frantic. “You don’t understand” she tells the operator. “He’s here right now.”
The commercial ends with the woman screaming “No! No! No!” The sound of a heart beating is heard and then a dial tone.
Was it a promotion for a new crime drama? No it was an ad paid for by backers of a 2004 Los Angeles County tax increase and their message was clear: Pass the public safety tax or the women in your family could be raped and murdered.
Why is this ad relevant today? Because it foreshadows the campaign that can be expected in coming months from the Sacramento tax-and-spend industrial complex.
Jerry Brown and his tax-happy allies in the Legislature have just been handed a huge gift by the US Supreme Court. The Court has confirmed the state must release thousands of inmates to relieve prison overcrowding. This is welcome news for tax raisers especially on the heels of what they regarded as the bad news that the state would be taking in almost $7 billion more than anticipated which severely undercut Brown’s argument that the state desperately needed more revenue. Now with the ability to threaten to release prisoners in front yards across the state the governor has a new weapon in his battle to increase the burden on taxpayers.
The messaging will be “pay higher taxes or have thousands of vicious criminals released into your community.” And considering Senate boss Darrell Steinberg’s previous comments that he would consider reducing state services to districts represented by lawmakers who oppose new taxes these districts could be targeted as a dumping ground for felons. Even the 2004 commercial could be dusted off edited to show the intruder wearing a prison jump suit — or for more dramatic effect the old fashioned “striped pajamas” — breaking in on the vulnerable mother and daughter. Voters will be asked to choose between their safety and thousands of dollars of additional taxes for every family.
The irony is double barreled. First because of the unanticipated additional revenue the state can afford to incarcerate prisoners and meet court imposed standards. Second one of the principal reasons that it is so expensive to house a prisoner in California — we have the dubious honor of being number one in the nation — is the sweetheart deals negotiated with the prison guards union by both Brown and his protí©gí© former Governor Gray Davis in return for millions of dollars in campaign contributions.
As the rhetoric escalates probably backed up by an electronic media and mail campaign it is important for voters to be wary and remember the 2004 Los Angeles County tax increase campaign.
In an attempt to further terrify votes the pro-taxers featured on their website a newspaper headline that read “L.A. streets no longer safe for children.” The headline was phony made up by the campaign but it makes an important point: There are no depths to which those looking for more cash from taxpayers will not plunge. No level of intimidation or underhanded sleaziness is off limits if tax backers think it will bring in the money they are seeking.
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.