UPDATE, 1:50 pm July 11: Here’s a revealing Tweet from Murtaza Baxamusa, a board member of the Middle Class Taxpayers Association:
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!
How about a truth-in-advertising name change to Americans For Higher Taxes?
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.
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.
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.
(DISCLOSURE: This is my opinion, not necessarily that of my employer, the North County Times).