Occupy the INITIATIVE Process – Three Great Propositions Next Year for the 99%




Irvine contingent in LA earlier this month, staring down the LAPD: Dew-B, Joey, Stephen, Web, Anastasia. We are now beginning Phase 2 (while continuing Phase 1.)

Yes, my proposal is now “staffed,” which will be the first question I get asked when I propose at the next General Assembly that we at Occupy OC/Irvine form an Initiatives Committee.  That is, I have another couple Occupiers interested in helping me – a political scientist and an economist – to sort through and analyze the best initiatives for us to be involved in collecting signatures for.

I was inspired by two things – the wearisome Dan Chmielewski’s tireless chiding of the movement for lack of involvement in the political process, AND finding out about three great initiatives filed for next year that totally converge with this movement’s goals.  That’s the Millionaires’ Tax, the Corporate Political Accountability Act, and the Tax and Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Act.  If my proposal is accepted, we will have Occupiers at all the usual crowded places collecting the needed signatures to get these vital measures on next year’s ballot, and hopefully Occupies all over California will follow suit.

Just think – we can wear something indicating that we are UNPAID VOLUNTEERS collecting signatures for something we believe in and are not misrepresenting.  Very few signature gatherers out there can say the same.

And the rest of you should remember to vote YES on these initiatives next year, too!

The Millionaires’ Tax

Officially entitled, for now, the “Millionaires’ Tax to Restore Funding for Education
and Essential Services Act of 2012
,”  and filed by the “Restoring California Coalition,” this measure is the most progressive solution on the table for undoing the devastation that has been wreaked in California by the destructive excesses of the 1%.  It, simply, entails raising by 3% the taxes on INCOME over ONE MILLION DOLLARS, and by 5% on income over TWO MILLION DOLLARS.  These are the people who have profited throughout, and often as a result of, the financial shenanigans that have driven the rest of us Americans and Californians into unemployment, bankruptcy, and foreclosure.

The measure would restore SIX BILLION in funding for K-12, higher education, social services, public safety, and roads. As the Courage Campaign’s Rick Jacobs says, in language Occupiers can understand:

“This is the only initiative proposal that would restore funding devastated by the recession, and rehire thousands of teachers, senior care providers and public safety personnel, without affecting the wallets of working families and the middle class.  It addresses the heart of the problem:  that total income share to the state’s richest 1% has doubled over the last twenty years, while their tax rates have fallen and the 99% have fallen further behind.”

And this measure is tremendously popular, with a recent Tulchin Research Poll showing 2/3 of Californians backing the idea of the Millionaires’ Tax.  Broken down:

  • Definitely yes: 37%
  • Probably yes: 26%
  • Lean yes: 4%
  • Lean no: 2%
  • Probably no: 7%
  • Definitely no: 15%
  • Don’t know: 8%

This measure is in contrast, and somewhat in competition, with another revenue measure being pushed by Governor Brown, the Democratic leadership, and the SEIU leadership (although many if not most SEIU members prefer the more progressive Millionaires’ Tax.)  The Governor’s plan would raise a little more – 7 BILLION a year – through a 1/2% sales tax for five years, and a tax hike on folks making more than 250 grand a year.  In that way it’s more regressive – arguably less fair – since the lower 99% of us who would be paying this sales tax didn’t do anything to tank the economy and have only been suffering.  And folks can vote yes on both plans if they like, but I wouldn’t be asking Occupiers to collect signatures for the Governor’s plan – it doesn’t need us.

Question:  If both the Millionaires’ Tax and the Governor’s plan pass, will only the one with the most votes go into effect?  Answer:  It’s too early to say, until we see how the Governor’s plan is written.  The Millionaires’ Tax is written so that if they both pass they both go into effect and we get $13 BILLION a year in new revenue – wow!  But the Governor could conceivably be a prick and put the two bills into competition – let’s wait and see.  That would make him the enemy.

When can we start working to get signatures to get the Millionaires’ Tax on the ballot?  Some time around mid-January, as the bill was filed with the Attorney General on Dec. 5.

The Corporate Political Accountability Act

This one, also, is right up our alley, as we all agree that corporations, especially since the Citizens United ruling, wield WAY too much influence on our politicians (and initiatives.)  The authors of the CPAA note that “decisions to use corporate funds for political contributions and expenditures are usually made by corporate boards and executives, rather than shareholders… [and] shareholders and the public have a right to know how corporations are spending their funds to make political contributions or expenditures benefiting California candidates, political parties, and political causes.”

Hence the bill would require any political contribution to be approved by a majority vote of the company’s shareholders, and if that vote is between 50-99%, the contribution can only be that percentage of the originally proposed amount.

I asked one of the bill’s authors, Tom Willis, if he had any idea by how much this would decrease corporate contributions, and he admitted there was no way to tell exactly, but “it would certainly be very substantial, as corporations DO NOT WANT their shareholders OR the public to know how much they’re spending on politics, and where.”  [paraphrase]

Then I asked, “Is this bill in response to the ‘Paycheck Deception’ measure also on the ballot?”

“Yes, ABSOLUTEY!” he laughed.

In case you don’t know, “Paycheck Deception,” or as they call it, “Paycheck Protection” is a scheme that anti-labor rightwingers have tried to pass repeatedly, and are trying again next year, to decimate the power of labor unions by outlawing their use of union dues for political contributions.

So, our Corporate Political Accountability Act would be a good thing in its own right.  But if “Paycheck Deception” passes, the CPAA will be UTTERLY ESSENTIAL if we don’t want to see corporate money dwarf labor money even more than it already does.

Status?   This was filed with the AG last week, so it will probably be till February before we can start collecting signatures for it, but Occupy will be all over it, if *I* have anything to say about it!

Tax and Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Act

This one’s a little harder to connect to Occupy’s themes of economic justice, but

  • Greg Diamond made the case to me that it does, maybe he’ll get on here and remind me how
  • It WILL help our revenue shortfall, and thus the 99%
  • The other two aren’t quite ready to work on yet, but this one is
  • It received major “spirit fingers” at last night’s General Assembly
  • and Guy Fawkes will rip my head off if I don’t include it!

You can read all about this vital measure here.  I hereby ask Guy Fawkes to give us an update on the progress of the signature-gathering in the comments here, and invite him to bring forms down to Occupy Irvine this week, because I intend to ask my colleagues to get to work qualifying it for the ballot.  And lay off the “Northwood Night Stalker” stuff, it’s getting boring and the guy’s not important, okay, dude?

The rest of you – keep your eyes open for Occupiers with clipboards, and sign!

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.