Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.
The seeds of California’s current crisis were planted more than 30 years ago, when voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 13. … Property tax rates were capped, and homeowners were shielded from increases in their tax assessments even as the value of their homes rose.
– Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist
Well, the attribution should say, “Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist and recipient of the Nobel Prize for economics.”
The latter distinction should qualify him to hold forth on California politics and economics, even from his chambers in Princeton University’s distant, ivy-covered halls.
This is true, even though he is talking through his MIT doctoral tam, or more likely, out of the nether regions of his academic regalia. For Plato said, in essence, that any idiot can talk about politics, which is the province of every man.
And, as politics and economics are inseparable, Dr. Krugman may be said to have double the right of the average idiot.
Consider Dr. Krugman’s assertion last month about “the seeds of California’s current crisis.” To the quote above he added, “The result was a tax system that is both inequitable and unstable. … Even more important, however, Proposition 13 made it extremely hard to raise taxes, even in emergencies: No state tax rate may be increased without a two-thirds majority in both houses of the State Legislature. And this provision has interacted disastrously with state political trends.” (He finds this undemocratic, even though the two-thirds rule was democratically imposed.)
It is natural to expect Dr. Krugman to attack Proposition 13, for the Left hates any shackles on government taxing authority. But he hardly sounds professorial as he goes on to write that “… California, where the Republicans began their transformation from the party of Eisenhower to the party of Reagan, is also the place where they began their next transformation, into the party of Rush Limbaugh. (This may be interpreted as, “It’s so infuriating that Limbaugh has a bigger audience than I.” – MA)
“As the political tide has turned against California Republicans, the party’s remaining members have become ever more extreme, ever less interested in the actual business of governing. And while the party’s growing extremism condemns it to seemingly permanent minority status … the Republican rump retains enough seats in the Legislature to block any responsible action in the face of the fiscal crisis.”
Allow us to translate: “Ever more extreme” means “anchored in the middle of the road;” “actual business of governing” means “consolidation of economic control in the Capitol;” “responsible action” means “tax increases.” ”
(The Nobel laureate also is distressed that the GOP’s “national committee has just passed a resolution solemnly declaring that Democrats are ‘dedicated to restructuring American society along socialist ideals.’” “Solemnly” means “isn’t that incredible?” and the balance of that sentence means, “It’s such bad form to call a spade a spade.”)
Let’s take a non-Nobel look at California’s general fund budget. Five years ago, it was about $79 billion. The proposed 2009-10 budget now stands at about $95 billion, or an increase of 20 percent. But note: Last year, the general fund budget was over $103 billion, a four-year jump of more than 30 percent – far, far above inflation. It jumped 15 percent in one year, from 2004-05 to 2005-06, and 11 percent the next year. State government has been overusing its credit card, and the bill has come due. However, dropping to a budget total only slightly below that of three years ago is an agonizing exercise for a Legislature habituated to massive, year-to-year increases.
The solution doesn’t lie in economic science. It isn’t in politics. It doesn’t take a Nobel Prize winner to recognize that it’s simple bookkeeping.
As for Prop. 13: A couple of years ago, we told a Krugman-like fellow that without Proposition 13 protection, an elderly woman of our acquaintance would have been taxed out of her home. We assumed he would see injustice in this, but he responded that it was time she got out of that house and gave somebody else a chance at it. Thus, its tax assessment could rise and help fund social programs. One assumes this would include housing old folks displaced by the state.
Statists like Dr. Krugman base their position on one, fallacious premise: that government somehow knows best and does best. And never mind evidence to the contrary.
San Francisco residents now may be fined if they fail to sort their recycling correctly. However, city officials declare this does not mean the institution of a “garbage police.”
Not yet, anyway.