Progressives’ situational, self-serving, love of transparency

CapitolWe’ve all heard of “situational ethics.” This column is about “situational transparency,” a phenomenon among progressives who love transparency in matters of public policy, except when they hate it.

Let’s review the areas in which progressives support transparency: the salaries of CEOs, the race and gender of employees, the details of business supply chains and, of course, extensive disclosures about campaign finance.

But in other matters, particularly relating to their own interests, the same people are flatly opposed to transparency. For example, progressives claim to desire disclosure of who pays for political advertising, and they backed legislation such as Assembly Bill 249, a burdensome mandate to add confusing content to political ads. It was so burdensome, in fact, that an exception was made for ads paid for by labor unions, major backers of progressive politicians.

Progressives also campaigned hard against Proposition 54, the California Legislative Transparency Act, which voters approved despite liberals’ complaints. Prop. 54 requires that bills must be posted online in their final form for at least three days before lawmakers can cast a final vote on them. Proposition 54, which the voters approved in 2016, also requires the Legislature to make video recordings of all public hearings, and it allows any member of the public to record a legislative hearing.

Another example of how those in power resist having the public see what they are doing involves public employee compensation. For years, government agencies and departments have resisted disclosing how much their managers and employees are paid in both salaries and benefits. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association had to file numerous lawsuits — or threaten lawsuits — to get local governments to disgorge the data. After prevailing in all those actions, compensation data is now available for public inspections — a healthy development in countering government entities that constantly plead poverty and demand higher taxes.

Perhaps the most glaring example of progressive hypocrisy when it comes to transparency is revealed by the defeat of Senate Bill 1074, authored by state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, which would have provided California’s millions of motorists with valuable information about the price of gasoline. Titled “Motor Vehicle Fuel: Disclosure of Government-Imposed Costs,” SB1074 would have required gas stations to post near each pump a breakdown of all the different costs that go into the price per gallon of fuel, such as federal, state and local taxes and costs associated with environmental rules and regulations, including California’s hidden tax, the permit fees that fuel producers have to pay under the state’s infamous cap-and-trade law.

As you might expect, the progressives who control the state Legislature refused to provide the public with the true cost of government when it comes to driving our cars. The same folks who rail against the oil companies and who are quick to allege deep conspiracies about corporate profits have no interest in informing the public about government-imposed costs that dwarf the oil companies’ profit margin on a gallon of gas.

We can also expect them to oppose the government transparency that would be required by an initiative that recently met the signature requirement to qualify for the November ballot.

The Tax Fairness, Transparency and Accountability Act of 2018 would require that any law creating a new, increased or extended tax must contain “a specific and legally binding and enforceable limitation on how the revenue from the tax can be spent.”

Even if the tax revenue will be spent for “unrestricted general revenue purposes,” the law must say so.

California politicians often complain about “ballot-box budgeting” and requirements for voter approval before taxes can be raised. But progressives have earned a reputation for hiding the cost of their policies, and voters can’t be blamed for playing an aggressive defense.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This article was originally published by the Orange County Register

These Are 4 Ballot Measures That Actually Deserve a “Yes” Vote

vote-buttonsMost of the oxygen in the room for this November’s election is being sucked up by the prolific and particularly vitriolic presidential showdown between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  You may be focused on that race because of your desire to make everything great again, or just a morbid fascination with reality TV-meets-American politics.

That said, if you’re from California and you look down-ticket, you’ll quickly encounter “Ballot-Measure-Palooza” – 17 different measures waiting for you to do some ballot box governing.

My default on ballot measures is to vote “no,” unless there is a compelling reason to vote “yes.”  There are, in my opinion, four measures that are no-brainer “yes” votes – and so I wanted to run through them, and why I am voting for them.

Prop. 53 – The No Blank Checks Initiative. This measure would require that when state policymakers want to issue revenue bonds for a project that exceeds $2 billion, they must first have that approved by a vote of the people. This is a brilliant idea because, frankly, there is no adult supervision in the State Capitol.  Special interests own the place, and since they make big bucks from state spending, it stands to reason they love to see any new revenues.  This measure ensures a reasonable case for this epic amount of borrowing must be made to We, the People.  I wrote about this measure in detail here.

Prop. 54 – The California Legislature Transparency Act.  The primary component of this measure sounds simple, but actually represents substantial reform.  It would require that any proposed legislation in the State Capitol be made available to the public in its final form for 72 hours before it can be voted upon in each chamber.  Yes, this continues the theme of applying adult supervision.  I cannot tell you the number of terrible, horrible pieces of legislation that are jammed through at the end of session.  Tax increases, new regulations, new programs – most that would raise a hue and cry of concern, except by the time the public finds out – it’s too late.  Read more about it here.

Prop. 65 – Jam The Greedy Grocers.  A couple of years ago, after trying about a hundred times, the enviro-extremists in the legislature passed a law banning single-use plastic grocery bags, and imposing a ten cent tax on each paper bag.  The tax was set up in a way that the grocery stores pocket the ten cents. Before you scratch your head, let me explain further.  For years the California Grocers Association was part of the coalition stopping the bag ban.  But on this last go-around, they switched sides, as estimates pegged the grocers’ revenues from the bag taxes at hundreds of millions of dollars. Enough voters signed petitions to halt the bag ban, and it has been placed on the ballot as Prop. 67 – on which I am voting “hell no.”  But in case it passes, I’m voting “hell yes” on 65, which would take the revenue from the greedy grocers and instead repurpose it to state environmental programs – and leave the sell-out grocers holding the bag, so to speak.  I wrote about this here.

Prop. 66 – Fix The Death Penalty, Don’t End It.  This would address legal and administrative hurdles that have resulted in only 13 death-row inmates being executed since 1978, in order to make the death penalty work.  There is another measure on the ballot, Prop. 62, that would prohibit the use of the death penalty in California.  If your value system is such that you think that no matter how despicable or evil someone is, and no matter how heinous an act of violence they commit, that being put to death by the state for your crimes is a bad idea – you’d want to vote “yes” on 62, and “no” on 66.  On the other hand, if you think that the death penalty serves as both an important deterrent to some who would commit the most horrible of crimes – often cold blooded, pre-meditated murder – and also provides for justice for surviving victims, then “yes” on 66 is an important vote to cast.  Read more here.

As you peruse the other thirteen ballot measures maybe you will find one or two you think are a good idea.  Maybe you want more state bonds issued for school construction.  Or maybe you want to be able, finally, to make those pot brownies that you’ve been craving since your days at UC Berkeley.  I will let you sort through those decisions.  But I think you will find that higher taxes and more regulations are right there on the ballot, awaiting your blessing and vote.  As if California doesn’t have high enough taxes, or more than enough regulations.

Originally published in Breibart News/California