Whatever Happens to California’s Proposition 30, the Tax Revolt Is Alive and Well

Kevin Drum says that if California’s Proposition 30—a temporary tax hike on the rich to avert sharp cuts in the budgets of California’s already rather meagerly financed K-12 schools—passes, then it’ll be a symbolic marker that the tax revolt launched by Proposition 13 has come to an end.

I disagree. The signature ideological development of the Obama Era has been the deeper entrenchment of the tax revolt mentality as the Democratic Party joins the GOP in insisting that higher taxes should be off the table for at least 95 percent of the American population. The big debate inside Democratic circles is now over whether making five times the national median household income makes you rich, or whether to be “really” rich you need to be a millionaire earning 20 times the median national household income. Californians aren’t considering a scheme to redistribute income from the rich to the poor, they’re considering how to finance basic public services—schools, roads, etc.—for the broad mass of the Golden State’s residents. And even in a state that’s well to the left of the national center there’s overwhelming consensus that these services are not sufficiently valuable for a person to pay for. Instead the entire debate is over whether or not someone else should pay for them.

This question about taxing the rich is an important one but is itself the legacy of the tax revolt. Voters believe that $1 less of private consumption is less valuable than $1 of extra public service provision.