Tax the Rich for Schools and Services – Don’t Let Them Silence You!

Written by Chris Daly. Posted in Economy, Education, Healthcare, Homelessness, Housing, Labor, Opinion, Politics

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Published on July 17, 2012 with 13 Comments

Yes on Proposition 30, No on Proposition 32.

By Chris Daly, guest commentary

Editor’s Note: Former District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly is the political director for SEIU Local 1021.

July 17, 2012

The Most Important Election

Every other year someone steps forward to talk about how the upcoming elections are the most important of our time. This year in California, they may actually be correct.

On November 6th, Californians will be asked to do so much more than hand President Obama 55 electoral votes. With two statewide initiatives, we will decide whether to reverse decades of tax policy that has enriched the wealthiest while starving basic public services like education, healthcare, and safety; or we could pass a deceptive measure that will eliminate unions’ ability to fight for our priorities: jobs with good wages and benefits and a society where working families can live with dignity and respect.

99% versus 1%

Five years ago during the first year of the subprime mortgage crisis, Americans lost 25% of our net wealth. Unemployment doubled. Since that time, 750,000 Californians lost their homes. Now, one in three California mortgage holders is underwater, meaning they owe more on their mortgage than the value of their home, and more than 10% of Californians are still unemployed.

While the financial crunch on everyday people is now painfully clear, economic inequality and the disparity in wealth has been growing for decades. Since the late 70’s income inequality in the US has increased by 33%, with the richest 1% of Americans now controlling 40% of the nation’s wealth and capturing nearly 25% of the total income (up from 33% and 12% 25 years ago.)

Meanwhile, we’ve witnessed an incredible strain on our public services. School closures have created overcrowded classrooms. Local and state governments have enacted draconian cuts to health and human services to balance their budgets and some have had to resort to declaring bankruptcy. This decline in the public sector has been caused in part by a plummeting tax burden for the wealthy (including major cuts in capital gains tax as well as income tax.)

Who Pays the Bill?

These tax breaks have been no accident. With almost unlimited resources (and giant loopholes in campaign finance regulation) the elite have been able to underwrite a dominant political program. In 2010, just under 27,000 contributors, the “political 1% of the 1%,” spent $774 million on federal and state candidates. 17 individuals contributed more than $500,000 each. Built on the power of the dollar over the power of the vote, the elite have been able to swiftboat elections to install politicians to carry their water. Meanwhile, their think tanks move messaging like “tax breaks for the top stimulate the economy,” even when the facts don’t bear this out.

Fortunately, the people are no longer buying this trickle-down economics. Last year, SEIU Local 1021 was a part of a coalition of people concerned about their communities in the development of the millionaire’s tax. This proposal was merged with the Governor’s revenue proposal and would generate $6-9 billion year for the schools and services, with 90% of the monies coming from the rich. Our Local collected nearly 13,000 signatures to place this Tax the Rich measure on November’s ballot. If passed, this would turn around decades of tax policy that have let the wealthy off the hook for our State’s vital public services.


For years, an aggressive element of the 1% has been pounding away to take away the power of their main counterbalance, organized labor. In California, an elite group of conservatives from Orange County have pushed initiatives to prohibit unions from using member dues for political purposes. Even though they failed in 1998 and 2005, they are back this November with an extremely deceptive measure.

Even though the Special Exemptions Act claims to be about “stopping special interests” the measure actually gives special exemptions to corporate special interests and Super PACs. It would do nothing to fix what’s broken in Sacramento. Instead, it would give even more power to the wealthy and well-connected to influence elections and control government. With organized labor’s resources no longer in play to counter the 1% in politics, the voices of everyday people will be silenced. We simply cannot allow this measure to pass.

Tax the Rich for Schools and Services – Don’t Let Them Silence You!

We know that this November, educating and turning out SEIU Local 1021 members to vote is not going to be enough. We will be training hundreds of our members to become political leaders for the 99%. These leaders then will be responsible for turning volunteers out to phonebanks and precinct walks, so we can reach tens of thousands of infrequent voters in Northern California to help swing this election, to pass Prop 30 and defeat Prop 32. And this is just the beginning. We aim to build a team that can drive the efforts of SEIU Local 1021 and the broader progressive movement to make a real difference to working families across Northern CA.

Chris Daly

Chris Daly is the Political Director for SEIU Local 1021, a union of over 50,000 public sector and non-profit workers. He served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 2001-2011 and owns and operates The Buck, a bar and grill on Market Street.

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Comments for Tax the Rich for Schools and Services – Don’t Let Them Silence You! are now closed.

  1. Grammar error alert: “…decades of tax policy that has enriched…” should read “decades of tax policy that have enriched…” 

  2. I’m glad that Chris is sharing his analysis with us.  I don’t think I’ve seen anything in media from him since he started working at SEIU 1021.  I though he’d have a more public role.

  3. Thanks for explaining these two state propositions that I haven’t had time to take in.  Shared on my social networks.

  4. Public sector unions aren’t the sole reason for the financial problems facing California’s state and local governments, but they are a very large part of it. Public sector employees now make in pay and benefits over twice what the average private sector worker makes. The average pension for a state or local government worker in California is nearly $70,000 per year – IF you look at people retiring recently (since benefits and payscales wen’t up) and worked a full 30+ year career. Perhaps Mr. Daly thinks we should ALL get a pension like this. I would agree. But if every one of California’s 10 million residents over 55 years old got a pension of $70,000 per year, it would cost $700 BILLION per year, in a state with a GDP that is only $1.6 trillion. That is, giving everyone a pension like our current government workers get would cost Californians 44% of their ENTIRE economic output. That, Mr. Daly, is impossible.

    I’ll try to wrap up with just one more thought, since this comment will probably be taken down anyway. Corporations are NOT fighting unions on this measure. Big business in California is in detente with public sector unions. They work together to overregulate business, which small emerging competitors can’t afford to pay for. This creates government jobs and kills those private sector companies that might challenge the domination of the monopolies. And pension funds, which can’t possibly hope to earn 7.5% per year, are an obvious example of how bankers and unions are working together. Unions negotiate unsustainable pensions, give the money to the bankers to gamble globally, and shake down taxpayers to bail out these funds whenever returns are insufficient.

  5. Apologies Greco, thanks Luke

  6. We need to increase taxes for schools and essential services.  However, we need pension reform every bit as much as we need more revenues.  We must address both revenues and costs of government.

  7. greco, his affiliation to SEIU is clearly stated at the top of the article…jeezus,  

    • To be clear, Patrick, I updated the article with the editor’s note after El Greco posted his comment. In the meantime, however, Chris has updated his bio to reflect same. 

  8. Chris, if we give these center-right Democrats more tax dollars, they’re not going to be spending it on the 99%.  They will take those dollars and figure out how to screw the 99% and hand over more subsidies to the 1%.  The Republicans would do the same thing, only labor would be clamoring against the Republicans in a way that they never would against the Democrats.

    When labor endorses center-right Democrats like Obama or Brown early and often, it sacrifices its leverage and diminishes its power because power sees that as a display of weakness and as license for further abuse.

    Not one more dime to the Democrats or Republicans until the common ground demands of Occupy and the Tea Party for the democracy we were promised in Civics Class is restored.  Continuing to feed the beast feeds the parasites that have attached to the beast and are sucking us all dry.

    Most of this comes from the right, but labor is also party to the abuses.  There is to be a contract celebration at SEIU 1021 this week.  What is there to celebrate after Prop C gave right wing tea party billionaires what they wanted from the hides of SEIU’s members?  What is there to celebrate after the latest contract doubles the price of prescription medications, of emergency room visits and raises the copay for physician visits to 500% of what it was seven years ago?

    Instead of celebrating, there should be a public apology from SEIU 1021 to its membership for getting it wrong and caving into billionaires and the DLC and by extension to all unorganized workers whose circumstances will deteriorate as a result.

    Labor has been mostly wrong for most of the past decade.  Labor is wrong on this as well.

  9. Is not Mr. Daly employed by, or a consultant to, the SEIU?  Journalistic transparency would require that he identify himself as such if he is in fact paid by the SEIU.

    •  El Greco, I was awaiting Chris to update his bio.  Now updated.  I also added an editor’s note.

      •  Thanks, Luke, a small but important detail.

        • Nod.