UPDATED: Union Backers, Democrats Behind ‘Nonpartisan’ Middle Class Taxpayers’ Association

Bradley J. Fikes Bradley J. Fikes 25 Comments

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UPDATE, 1:50 pm July 11: Here’s a revealing Tweet from Murtaza Baxamusa, a board member of the Middle Class Taxpayers Association:

Americans Support Higher Taxes, Tax Group Director Says

Americans Support Higher Taxes, Tax Group Director Baxamusa Says

Why is a supposed protector of middle class taxpayers advertising a Daily Kos story that claims Americans want higher taxes?

Answer: Because according to Baxamusa, it’s a “fact” that Americans are undertaxed!

Amercians Are Undertaxed, Tax Group Director Baxamusa Says

Amercians Are Undertaxed, Tax Group Director Baxamusa Says

How about a truth-in-advertising name change to Americans For Higher Taxes?

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The San Diego Reader’s increasingly active blogs carried a story last week about a new group formed in San Diego, the Middle Class Taxpayers Association.

What are the concerns of middle-class taxpayer? The group says: “Issues that concern the middle-class include jobs/employment, safety net (social security, medicare), healthcare, quality of life/environment, financial debt, asset building, moral public budgeting, housing, small business development, education, retirement security, and consumer safety.”

Notice what’s not included in that list? Taxes.

The Middle Class Taxpayers Association advocates higher taxes on big business

The Middle Class Taxpayers Association advocates higher taxes on big business

And what is “moral public budgeting?” And why does a taxpayer group list “quality of life/environment” and “consumer safety” among the issues it’s addressing? There’s a whiff of an agenda here, and it’s not about lowering taxes.  I’ll explain more below.

The group describes itself as “a voice for the rest of us that are not served by big business-funded taxpayer groups.”  One of those groups is the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, which has many corporate backers.

Okay, so the group is against big business. Now just who is the Middle-Class Taxpayers Association for? A look at the names on its board of directors gives further clues. They are dominated by the political left, labor unions  and Democratic Party supporters, such as:

Pat Zaharopoulos, which the Democratic Professional Club lists as its president;

Murtaza Baxamusa, previously director of the left-leaning Center on Policy Initiatives. Baxamusa is now president of the San Diego County Building Trades Council’s Family Housing Corporation. The Building Trades Council is an association of construction unions.

Pat Washington, a former president of the San Diego Democratic Club According to her biography on the site, “Washington has worked in voter outreach and voter engagement efforts including the ‘No on 54,’  “No on Prop 8, Re-elect Assembly member Marty Block and other pro-Democratic campaigns. ”

Linda LeGerrette, campaign manager for Democrat Richard Barrera in his challenge against Supervisor Ron Roberts. She’s also active in the farmworker’s union movement, and in organizing Cesar Chavez Service Clubs in K-12 schools. This brief biography of her and her husband gives more detail on their social and political activities.

In short, the board represents left-leaning interests, including labor unions and Democratic party activists. Not a tax fighter in the bunch.  And as the Reader story made clear in its lead, the group has union backing:

“Today marked the inaugural meeting of the Middle Class Taxpayers Association, held at the College-Rolando Library branch. It was attended by close to 100 of the group’s stated membership of over 500 citizens. Union members were well-represented, as the group teamed with the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council to attract initial interest in the movement.”

Set against this background, the claims of being for middle-class taxpayers take on a new meaning. The group is for higher taxes on big corporations and the wealthy.  It’s not about lowering taxes at all. You won’t see the Middle Class Taxpayers Association actually argue for reducing middle-class taxes, except in combination with higher taxes elsewhere.

When the group denounces big business for getting tax breaks, its response is to call for higher taxes on big business, not to lower taxes on the middle class. Its true purpose is to get more money for government programs.

The political agenda of the Middle Class Taxpayers Association

The political agenda of the Middle Class Taxpayers Association

I mentioned the curious phrase “moral public budgeting” a while back. What does this mean? In left-speak, “moral” means spending more government money on the poor. This is moral. The desire to reduce taxes and cut spending on social services to help hard-pressed taxpayers is immoral. Regrettably, this Orwellian phrase has found support in some religious sectors, such as the Diocese of San Jose.

These groups work the moral ratchet one way, toward ever-higher taxes. It’s immoral to spend too little on taxes for the poor, but it’s never immoral for the government to take money from taxpayers, no matter how high the bill goes.

So that’s the agenda of the “Middle Class Taxpayers Association” – left-wing activism, especially by unions. But as is usual with such political groups that call themselves “nonpartisan” or “nonprofit”, the media will likely accept their claim at face value.

At least the San Diego Reader story pointed out that the group was co-operating with unions for its event. But the San Diego Union published a story that totally omitted the group’s political ties. It also failed to note that Insurance Commission Dave Jones, who attended the event, is a Democrat. Take a look at his endorsement list.

Why did the U-T story fail to note this event’s political nature? That’s a question you should ask every reporter who writes such a story, and news source that publishes such a story. Make them aware that their readers/viewers/listeners notice such things.

The U-T story’s last paragraph stated:

“The Middle Class Taxpayers Association, which was formed on tax day (April 18) this year, is a local nonprofit grassroots advocacy organization with about 500 members. It’s purpose is “to serve as a voice for the middle-class in San Diego,” according to its website, middleclasstaxpayers.org.”

A more accurate summary would be: “The Middle Class Taxpayers Association is a left-leaning union-backed group that advocates for higher taxes on big business.”

Tip to reporters: An easy way to spot a group’s hidden agenda is to look at its board of directors.  Ignore the group’s name; it means nothing. Political organizations routinely give themselves misleading names, as in this case, to fool the public and the press.

Ditto for any claims of non-partisanship. Non-partisan doesn’t mean non-political. For example, the California Budget Project makes a big deal about its status as technically nonpartisan, but it’s still left-leaning. Kudos to Time magazine for accurately characterizing the California Budget Project as a “liberal think tank.”

Can we get other reporters to follow this example with all politicized groups, no matter what their agenda?

UPDATE: The unions appear to be readying a “soak the rich” push on California’s income tax, raising the tax 43 percent for wealthy Californians, according to CalWatchdog. The measure would be timed for the November, 2012 ballot. And failed Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is pushing yet another in a long series of Democratic attacks on Prop. 13.   These measures will no doubt be welcomed by Texas and other states bent on attracting disaffected California businesses.

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(DISCLOSURE: This is my opinion, not necessarily that of my employer, the North County Times).

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Comments 25

  1. Isn’t this the third or fourth effort (I lose track) of the left to form an “alternative” to the SDCTA in the last decade? My gosh they are stubborn and really do not learn.

    1) The taxpayers have spent several DECADES enhancing their brand. Lani is doing a great job in building on the great work of a long line of great ED’s who focused on doing very good, well researched policy analysis to underpin advocacy on the part of fiscally concerned civic leaders

    2) The taxpayers have been willing to, on occasion, endorse taxes. This irritates the libertarians out there (yes, RR, I am looking at you) but it is of tremendous help with the organizations brand with the public.

    3) Advocates like the late Harvey Goodfriend were critical in providing the “non-corporate” voice for the organization.

  2. For those who agree with these dishonest lefty con artists that we need a taxpayer organization that is not funded by big business, they need look no further than our all volunteer, totally grassroots, unabashedly pro-taxpayer outfit — San Diego Tax Fighters.

    Shucks, we don’t even collect annual membership dues from our poor brethren. We ask only a one-time $50 lifetime (nonrefundable) membership fee, and take no corporate money. Of course, in truth, none has ever been offered.

    The downside of being an SD TF member is that you have no voting rights whatsoever. Indeed, we don’t much care what you think. Control rests entirely with a carefully handpicked pro-taxpayer board (handpicked by me).

    On taxes, there are only three viewpoints:

    1. Taxes are too damn high.
    2. Taxes are about right, but should go no higher.
    3. Taxes are too low.

    San Diego Tax Fighters represents two of the three categories above. The third group has ample representation already.

    I might add that we are open to discussions about new taxes — as long as they are TRULY revenue neutral (if not a net reduction in taxes). There are cases where some taxes are a better choice than others, so a tax SHIFT is at least discussible. But proponents better bring their A game to enter this arena.

  3. I might add that we formed San Diego Tax Fighters in 1999 because the conventional taxpayer groups — notably San Diego County Taxpayers Association — were too often on the side favoring higher taxes. Frankly, they were pretty bad from a pro-taxpayer standpoint.

    But things have changed for the better. While not as principled (or dogmatic) as SD TF, SDCTA has become a MUCH better champion of the taxpayers. The staff is first rate, and the board has been taking considerably stronger pro-taxpayer positions.

    Yeah, SD TF and SDSCTA are still gonna disagree on some issues (and do), but those disagreements are far less common than in times past. Indeed, I’m proud to be an active member of SDCTA.

  4. Why is it that San Diego has to rely on Bradly Fikes, a NORTH COUNTY TIMES science and business writer, to “out” this bogus taxpayer group on ROSTRA? Where is the rest of our local media?

    Perhaps I missed their reports of this con job. If so, kindly post up the links.

    And if any of the media did ANY stories on this outfit without making clear the blatant labor union/progressive connection and obvious dishonesty, they have soiled their pants. U-T — change your diapers.

  5. Mr. Fikes, will you be similarly dissecting the agenda/board of directors/etc of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association?

    Here’s my own tip for reporters: The SDCTA/Lincoln Club also mean nothing, so look at THEIR boards of directors and funders. Corporations, business lobbyists, developers.

  6. The photo amply illustrates the level of intelligence of the supporters. The economist holding the middle sign says “I paid more in federal income tax than Chevron.” Must be a very wealthy union member!

    FACT: Chevron paid over $1.5 billion in federal U.S. income taxes in 2010. Add on the state and international income taxes, and they paid over $12 billion — about 40% of their pre-tax profits.
    http://www.stock-analysis-on.net/NYSE/Company/Chevron-Corp/Analysis/Income-Taxes

  7. Jefferson,
    I was responding to news reports that didn’t make clear the left-leaning political bias of this group, which violates its purported agenda of being for middle-class taxpayers. Taxpayers groups are supposedly about lower taxes. When they haul in the lefty social justice talk, the hidden agenda is obvious.

    As Richard points out, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association bought into the high-tax mentality in years past. They appear to have changed their tune to be more in keeping with a real taxpayer group. But if they regress into being a front for big business at the expense of the average taxpayer, yes, I’ll document that too.

    And it may be a surprise to you, but corporations, their lobbyists and developers can also be left-leaning. Corporations such as General Electric, run by Obama favorite Jeffrey Immelt, stand to make millions from government regulations, such as the mandate phasing out incandescent lightbulbs.

  8. Post
    Author

    Richard, that’s an interesting catch. Will this Middle Class Taxpayers Association defend its Chevron claim against your evidence, abandon the claim, or just ignore what you found and pretend nothing is wrong?

  9. When corporations, their lobbyists and developers are left leaning, they are often called something else by the left and the MSM, other than corporations, lobbyists and developers … “non-profit,” “non-partisan,” or “socially responsible.” Of course, right leaning corporations and developers aren’t socially responsible, since they only provide jobs to middle class taxpayers (the real ones).

  10. Brad, when it comes to truth, that’s not a topic that interests the left. The main purpose of forming such a bogus group is to have a “taxpayer association” sign the union ballot arguments, and to provide cover for their political candidates with a “taxpayer” endorsement.

    It’s just a propaganda tool. What they lack in honesty, they will make up for in big-time labor union funding. Joseph Goebbels would be proud.

  11. Post
    Author
  12. Does the guy in the middle of the picture really want to compare total taxes paid him vs. Chevron?

    What an assclown.

  13. It’s not that the group has a political agenda — it’s that it’s a FAKE group — intentionally misrepresenting itself as a taxpayer group.

    It would be like me forming a “Tea Party for Socialism” group so I could fool Democrats into thinking I’m/we’re on their side.

    Hmmmm . . . .

  14. We don’t know about the guy in the middle, but the one on the left is pretty clearly Stephen Whitburn, is it not? Recent candidate against Ron Roberts and chairman of the SD Democratic Club from 2005-07.

  15. Richard, I just found a couple of tweets from a board member promoting HIGHER taxes because Americans are UNDERTAXED. These are added to the post.

    But that is just one board member,and perhaps his views are not representative. So let’s hear from more group officials to clarify whether they agree with that sentiment.

    I invite any officials with Middle Class Taxpayers Association to state here, using their names and titles with the group, whether they think Americans as a whole are:

    Overtaxed,

    Sufficiently taxed, or

    Undertaxed.

  16. The guy in the middle of the pic…how many people does he have on his payroll? Chevron employs more than 60,000….that’s quite a few “middle class taxpayers.”

    How about a tax on stupid tweets?

  17. Tweeted…
    From San Diego Rostra — Question to Middle Class Taxpayers’ Assoc officials: Americans Overtaxed, Sufficiently taxed, or Undertaxed?

  18. Funny how you don’t address *at all* the content of either article that those original tweets link to. You hold up DailyKos as a boogeyman but don’t even attempt refuting the information presented in the post.

    You say that the “fact” of the second tweet is Baxamusa’s, except it isn’t. It’s the exact title of the article being linked to, probably by their twitter widget. So it isn’t according to him, it’s according to the author and editor of the article.

    I would imagine that nobody here finds it reasonable to assume that every word of every title of every article is endorsed as a personal quote when linked on Twitter. And you still don’t argue against the content of that article either. If you don’t think it’s a fact, you might want to try that if you’re going to condemn it.

    If you want to discredit your competition with partisan attacks, you’re free to try. If you want to say that those who disagree with you are illegitimate participants in the tax debate because of their ideology, that’s your choice. But your refusal and/or inability to do anything *but* argue along those lines is embarrassing.

  19. I think I can answer for the board members of this outfit. They favor higher taxes on “the rich” (a.k.a. anyone making more than them) and evil-corporations (a.k.a. any corporation).

    They want LESS taxes on everyone else. Simple, straightforward class warfare. Plays well in the union halls.

    Perhaps a more accurate question is this: “Does government IN THE AGGREGATE collect too much in taxes, about the right amount, or too little in taxes?” I think the answer to that question more accurately establishes that these charlatans are not the friends of taxpayers.

  20. Lucas, if the group had been forthcoming and labeled themselves honestly, I would have little objection (aside from debating their goals). A couple improved association names come to mind:

    The Middle Class Soak-the-Rich Taxpayer Association

    The Middle Class Labor Union Tax Subsidy Association

    I’m sure others can come up with more catchy appellations for your organization. But regardless of the specific wording of such a full disclosure title, such honesty would earn my highest respect.

    Not that I have to worry about such honesty emanating from this outfit and its handlers. Right?

  21. Lucas,
    The goal of my post was to show that this group’s name is deceptive — NOT to discredit them because of their ideology. It’s the deception that is illegitimate.

    If this group openly proclaimed it was a “progressive” organization fighting to raise taxes on big business, that would be honesty. But instead, it presents itself as representing middle-class taxpayers, hiding its true agenda.

    As for the substance of the articles linked to, if you want to argue that Americans are undertaxed, go right ahead. That’s another issue I’d be happy to discuss.

    Correction accepted about the tweets. Yes, they automatically grab headlines. However, if you look at them in aggregate, they support the agenda I outlined – soak the rich, support unions. And I note an absence of articles complaining that taxes are too high.

    So sorry, Lucas, the pretense that Baxamusa is just tweeting information doesn’t stand scrutiny. He’s tweeting what he and his group agree with.

    Here’s one of Baxamusa’s own headlines that make his sympathies clear:
    “Today marks 1-yr anniversary of failure of @CarlDeMaio petition to ban living wages in San Diego.

    Actual headline:
    “Registrar: DeMaio measure short on signatures”

    If you want to argue that Baxamusa’s tweets represent the agenda of a legitimate taxpayer group, go right ahead.

  22. We would guess that the following tweets today from the head of the San Diego POA, are examples of regurgitated tweets/headlines, not necessarily his opinion, yet items he wouldn’t be tweeting unless he agreed…

    From: @BrianMarvel
    Sent: Jul 12, 2011 10:17a
    RT @CalPERS: CalPERS Pensions Fuel California Economy http://ow.ly/5CAnV

    From: @BrianMarvel
    Sent: Jul 12, 2011 9:28a
    RT @PensionFacts: More proof today that slashing pensions will hurt CA’s economy http://bit.ly/oJ8SMZ

  23. Actually, if the Crips and Bloods had good PR departments, they could put out similar and equally accurate PR’s: Something like:

    “Crips’ Thefts Stimulate Economy.”

    “Bloods’ Blood Money Prospers Us All”

    A thief who steals someone else’s money and spends (or, indeed, invests) it is doing just as much for the CA economy as the taxes confiscated (under threat of force) for the benefit of our public employee aristocracy.

    It’s just another example of the “Broken Window Fallacy,” the ludicrous but too common assertion that breaking windows increases prosperity.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broken_window_fallacy

    It’s sadly ironic that such theft is most actively championed by the very people who supposedly protect us from thieves.

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