But when a long train of abuses and userpations…
by Byron Clark
Without trying to ruffle any feathers, I will write about various subjects that perplex the modern age. The reality is that none of what write I about is new but rather the cyclical nature of the human experience.
While technology is relatively new the problems that persist are not. They are however being realized at a more rapid rate. I will attempt to write from my life’s experience and my location as it gives dramatic effect to the problems that we all face but on a larger and more visible scale.
I am a multi-generational Californian who comes from stock that was established here prior to statehood. My life’s history is entwined with that of my ancestors. Through documented family history as well as oral history, I have a strong knowledge of what and how things used to be as well as a pretty good knowledge of written history from school. This is from the discovery of this continent, exploration, the Revolutionary War, as well as subsequent history.
I have a modicum of knowledge of world history as well. It would again appear that much of mankind’s history is replete with the same struggles albeit at different times. The same themes pop up over and over.
A brief history lesson shows that the three main types of people that came to what is now American fall into three main types. There were those that came for religious freedoms, there were those that were sent here as they were criminals and were excommunicated from their birth home (it was cheaper to send them here to fend for themselves then to pay for incarceration) additionally there was a sub group among these that were indentured servants to the third group. These were the rich or semi rich opportunists that were loyal to the crown.
Due to the vast wilderness, most of the people formed towns for safety and companionship. A few struck off into the wilderness. Some flourished but most failed. As time went on resources were discovered and trade as well as trade routes were established. The crown seeing this suddenly wanted both control and what they perceived as their rightful tithing or taxation.
This arrangement continued for approximately 150 years until garrisons of the kings army were built. Edicts were imposed by the crown. Taxes, fees, levies, and unjust laws were instituted until many began to balk. A list of grievances was sent to the king with no response. More soldiers were sent to bolster the already standing army. Skirmishes began to erupt along the frontier between the French and British. The native Americans began to push back as well. Nobody was happy and discontent began to foment.
Finally out of desperation with nothing left to lose a group of men gathered, talked, argued, and finally decided to write one last time to the king. These men wrote the most eloquent transcript that has ever been written. They wrote the Declaration of Independence.
“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”.
When this was written taxes were at an all time high as well as fines, fees, and levies. Trade routes were taxed and controlled. Soldiers were being billeted in private homes with no compensation. Food was seized. Searches for the sake of searches were routinely being done with seizure of property without due process. Finally the order came from the king to seize all armories and confiscate all weapons. Thus began the War.
California is unfortunately seeing much of this on a very rapid, accelerated time table. The common tax rate before the Revolutionary War was three percent. In California most will argue when I tell them the common tax rate. Before I do this I want to explain how it is that we got here.
Using myself as the example may help. I had worked from an early age mowing lawns and doing odd jobs for cash. I gave no thought to life or what it takes to live. Finally in high school my father told me that if I wanted a car I had to pay for it myself as well as the upkeep and maintenance. So I went out and got a job. I worked part time of about twenty hours a week. I worked full shifts during the weekend and a few hours after school. I made the sum of $1.10 per hour. In my mind I should bring home $22.00 per week. What a surprise I had when I received my first check and it was substantially less. There were several deductions that I had never heard of or thought about. The federal government taxed me for working. The state also taxed me. Then there was something called Social Security and Medicare. That stuff was for old people. I had just started working and they were taking my money. It just wasn’t fair!
After talking to my Dad he explained that taxes were necessary to pay for policemen, firemen, to keep us safe. Some of the tax money was used to build and maintain the roads, provide water, and sewer. OK, that made sense. My anger went away.
Time marches on. I finally made enough to buy my first car. The maintenance, tires, fuel, and insurance ate up all of my money. I was happy as I had my car. What was that you ask? My first car was a 1965 Studebaker Commander. Not real sporty, but being a four door all of my friends could pile in.
More time and I graduated and joined the Marines. After service I came home and did not want to work so I decided to hunt. I spent the winter of 1975, 1976 predator hunting. The sheep ranchers association had a bounty on coyotes. I would hunt them, collect the bounty, then skin them and sell the hides. Lucrative in the winter, not so much in the summer. I went to work. Life went on. I did not balk at paying taxes as it was a way of life and a necessity for society and me.
More time and I married. My wife worked as did I. I thought we made decent money but life being what it is, we just never could seem to get ahead. Just when the last car payment was made the refrigerator gave out. Then the washer and dryer. Then the car needed to be replaced. We bought our first home after working much overtime to amass the down payment. The house needed to be furnished. Our Daughter needed clothes constantly as she was growing. Life became mundane, work, pay bills, work, and pay bills.
Now in my thirties I began to think about college for our Daughter as well as someday being able to retire. I took a long hard look at our finances to see if we could make changes, cut something out and begin to save in earnest. What I found was appalling. First is that I realized that Social Security, if it still existed when I retired, would not support me or my wife. I needed more. How could I get more?
At age 39 I decided to completely change direction. I had relied upon my physical labor. I had been a delivery driver, truck driver, and warehouseman. I had destroyed my back and required surgery. After surgery I was unable and unwilling to return to driving or warehouse work. I became a salesman. I made decent money but had no retirement or medical benefits.
I decided to go to work for the state. I became a Correctional Officer. I passed the testing process followed by the thorough background investigation. I went to the Academy and toughed it out to graduate. I then was assigned to a maximum security prison as an Officer. Just prior to going to the Academy my wife and I purchased a new home. We kept our original home and rented it out. When I went to work I scrambled for overtime to get everything under control financially. Between my wife and I both working overtime it wasn’t long before everything got much better. Four years later I tested for Sergeant and came out high on the list. My first interview was five months later. I was promoted at San Quentin. I commuted 210 miles a day for fifteen months. I was then selected to teach at the Academy. I worked there for two years until budget constraints curtailed the recruiting process. I was lucky enough to return to my original prison which was only 27 miles from my home.
I worked there for about two and a half years and tested for Lieutenant. Again I ranked fairly high. Again my first interview was at San Quentin. Again I accepted. My plan was to do a year, finish probation, and then transfer back. Before the year was up the state budget took a hit and the only classification frozen from any transfer was Correctional Lieutenant. The state was planning on downsizing the parole division and the majority of Parole Agents had been Lieutenants. So they had priority for any and all vacancies.
The state came up with a money saving plan. They would furlough all workers two days a month. Unlike normal state workers, public safety employees were mandated to work two days without pay. This became three days a month, then four days a month. At the same time gas prices sky rocketed to above four dollars a gallon. It was costing me $2300 per month just to drive to work. Then my renter had to be evicted as he had damaged to house. The house need repairs that I could not afford to make. The banks were failing and the housing market fell apart. I wound up losing the rental.
I do not tell you any of this to make anyone feel sorry for me but rather to set the stage. If I were to ask anyone what percentage of their income was taxes the common answer would be anywhere from 28 to 32 percent. I would be ecstatic, do back flips to pay even 35 percent.
First I will list the taxes. Then I will hit you with the really bad news. The federal government taxes your income, the state taxes your income, if you have a home or property you pay property tax. If you own a vehicle that is licensed that is a tax. If you put fuel in your vehicle you pay tax. If you have a home phone it is taxed. A cell phone is taxed. Your internet is taxed. Your satellite or cable is taxed. If you consume adult beverages that is taxed. If you consume tobacco products that is taxed. If you have an RV or boat that you might be able to sleep on there is personal property tax. Then when you want to spend your money you have to pay a sales tax. Then depending upon where you live in California you may have to pay a school maintenance and building tax called Mello-Roos Tax. The average American without even realizing it pays somewhere between 60 to 80 percent of their income to taxes. And they wonder why they can’t get ahead.
Currently in California there is a ballot measure to undo Proposition 13. In the 1970’s the state, counties, and cities had a free for all on taxation of property. There was an epidemic of tax liens against seniors who had paid their homes off and retired just to have two things occur against them. First was that the city or county would arbitrarily appraise the value of the home to existing value and increase the tax rates to as high as 5%. Many thousands of elderly lost their homes and retirement savings due to the greed of government. Two men, Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann wrote and proposed Prop 13. It froze the taxable amount at the original purchase price and capped the tax rate at 1.5%.
The current ballot initiative is shrouded in much opinion and conjecture as well as media hype and bias. A review of the bill clearly states the following. All commercial property and businesses will be assessed the new tax rate. OK, but what does that mean? A quick review of real estate law clearly states that rental property is indeed classified as commercial property. The next question is, can all homes be rented in California? The answer is yes. The rationale for this is to fund the refurbishing of schools, the maintenance of schools, and to increase the quality of education. However just like the gas tax increase from the 2018 election cycle that was supposed to be for roadway construction, maintenance, and improvement all of that money has gone to pet projects and none is going towards roads. Now the Governor wants to increase the gas tax yet again as that was not sufficient.
Back to prop 13. The immediate fallout is that landlords will not take the hit. Businesses will not take the hit. Landlords will simply increase rents. Businesses will increase their prices. The market value of homes will plummet as nobody will be willing to assume that type of open ended tax liability.
Two more issues dealing with money in California. First is that on September 20, 2019 Governor, Gavin Newsom signed Executive Order N-19-19. He leveraged $700 billion dollars from the three largest state retirement systems. He attached CalPers, CalSTRS, and the University of California retirement system. This was done, according to the Executive Order, to advance green technology. The problem with this is that the term leverage is a legal term which means to use as collateral. Every Governor since Reagan has attempted to attach CalPers. The courts have always shot them down as they are stealing retirement money and gambling with the lives of retirees. By doing this Gov. Newsom subverted the law. He did not take any money but rather is and has already secured loans. When the state cannot pay, the creditors will then foreclose on the retirements and bankrupt the retirees.
But wait, it get better. Prior to 1998 a state employee who retired and moved to another state was taxed by the State of California on their retirement income. The State that the retiree moved to then taxed the income a second time. A federal suit was filed and California lost. Now due to oppressive taxes and high cost of living there is a mass exodus of retired city, county, and state workers leaving the state. That is lost revenue for the state so Gavin Newsom is preparing to take this back to court to be able to thwart the mass exodus and increase the taxes.
So the original rally cry prior to the Declaration of Independence was, “taxation without representation”!
Are we now repeating this?