Calbuzz, Fleischman and Cleveland

John Seiler:

Calbuzz has been maintaining a line that “democracy” demands that a tax-increase election must be held in June, as called for by Gov. Brown. The latest: “Calbuzz Democracy vs. Flashpoint Feudalism.” Actually, it’s the current system — high taxes making us tax serfs — that most resembles feudalism. But never mind.

Calbuzz writes: “The other morning, there was an intriguing headline slapped over a story on Flashreport, the conservative web site run by our favorite knuckle-dragging blogger and Republican operative, Jon Fleischman.”

Knuckle-dragging from caveman times? But I thought they were attacking feudalism, which existed as recently as a couple of hundred years ago, not something from millions of years ago? They must get their paleontology from the Ringo Starr movie “Caveman” (pictured at right). So never mind.

Calbuzz didn’t like it that an article had over it, “Yet another reasons (sic) why we shouldn’t put taxes on the ballot.” Calbuzz then huffs about opposing putting a tax-increase vote on the June ballot:

Seemingly fearful that their arguments on the merits would not prevail in a statewide election test, they instead reserve to themselves the right to forbid ordinary people from having a decisive say about a momentous policy question that will shape the future of California.

Like a small band of feudal lords, they seek to dictate to the vassals and serfs what the shape and size of the state’s political and economic landscape shall be, placing their highest priority not on the will of the people, but on their own power, exercised through the tyranny of a tiny minority.

For one thing, the “tiny minority” is more than one-third of each house of the Legislature.

For another, California has had plenty of democracy. Just last November, we had an election in which voters rejected tax increases outright by defeating Proposition 21 and Proposition 24. And in May 2009, voters also rejected Proposition 1A, a tax increase similar to the one proposed by Brown (but for two years instead of Brown’s five years). Prop. 1A was wiped out by voters, 65% to 35%.

Maybe we should have a tax-increase election every day just to make Calbuzz happy.

Moreover, American governments are (or at least are supposed to be) republican (small “r,”) with elements of democracy (small “d”). That means the pure will of the people is restrained by constitutions, bills of rights, and customs.

The people, for example, cannot by a majority vote revoke the Bill of Rights. To do so would require amending the Constitution via the usual cumbersome process. This process makes it harder, for example, to shut down free speech or freedom of religion.

Finally, Calbuzz’s article includes a picture of Grover Cleveland (shown at right), with the caption “No Relation to Grover Norquist,” the anti-tax activist who’s behind the anti-tax pledge taken by almost all Republican legislators in California.

Doesn’t Calbuzz know? Cleveland was the last small-government Democratic president in the tradition of Thomas Jefferson. Historian Thomas DiLorenzo writes:

Ascending to the governor’s mansion [of New York], Cleveland became known as “the veto governor” for vetoing numerous Tammany Hall patronage bills put before the state legislature. Inevitably, this reputation would follow him into the White House where he would veto hundreds of bills, including forty-nine that he pocket vetoed on his very last day in office, March 4, 1897 (see Alyn Brodsky, Grover Cleveland: A Study in Character New York, St. Martin’s Press, 2000, p. 57).

During his first term as president Cleveland vetoed hundreds of pension expansion bills as unwarranted raids on the U.S. Treasury. He became Public Enemy Number One in the eyes of the “Grand Army of the Republic,” the Union army veterans lobbying organization that consistently agitated to plunder the taxpayers. Despite the dwindling number of veterans, expenditures on veterans’ pensions had increased by some 500 percent in the previous twenty years, purely because of the political clout of Union army veterans. (Southerners paid taxes to finance the pensions, but did not qualify for them).

That’s why Grover Cleveland was America’s last great president, of either party. His heroism in fighting excessive government pensions obviously reverberates today in California. There’s no question where he would stand: cut the government workers’ pensions, don’t increase taxes.

And he was a Democrat.

Jan. 19, 2011

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