Making a Difference

I got a text not long ago, from the Democratic Party, asking if maybe I’d be interested in running for local office.

I did not say no. I didn’t even ignore the message. A thought occurred to me: maybe a white older guy with post-chemo hair could be an electable surrogate for the under-represented.

It’s sad that such a thought should even occur. But I have strong feelings about how things should be. My hometown police are already reluctantly giving back some of the military gear they’ve collected (an armored car!), so I’m not alone there. Imagine how many school breakfasts that armored car could have bought.

We should feed our residents, starting with children. Let’s help people addicted to drugs, rather than wait for them to commit crimes and throw them in jail, at astronomical taxpayer expense.

Let’s build houses for people with no place to live.

“But that’s expensive!”

Yes. And in a city like San Jose with no real profitable businesses, that’s a problem. (That was a joke, son.) But actually it is a problem, unless you tax the rich. There are individuals in this town that could pay for it all with pocket change. But if they don’t volunteer, well, it’s time for them to pay for the people and community that made them rich in the first place.

If those rich assholes decide to move rather than pay, San Jose loses nothing, because they’re not paying much now. Whoever buys their houses will pay more property tax than they were paying.

What could I do as a tiny voice at the bottom of the policy pyramid? I don’t honestly know. The way cities tax the rich is through property taxes, and in California those are carefully controlled at the state level by Proposition 13. But I think I could matter to the people in this city.

The thing is, I already have a job – a job I simply can’t afford to leave. A tech job, and though I’m well-paid I’m also making billionaires richer.

Tax me. Tax those billionaires even more. It is time to fundamentally change the way we value work.

Prop 13 was born because soaring property values were leading to a situation where people who had lived in their homes for a long time were being taxed onto the streets. I do not disagree with the foundational goal of Prop 13.

But as time has passed, the flaws in the ideal have become apparent. The biggest problem is that if you own a rental property, you can keep jacking up the rent, but your tax liability hardly moves at all. In that situation, Prop 13 is working against the people who only want to say in their homes.

Rental properties should either not be protected by Prop 13, or perhaps more simply the property value should be based on rent collected, and not on the assessed value at all. The property is worth what it makes, after all. You could add some complexity and make the valuation based on net profit rather than gross, which would theoretically reward landlords who maintained their properties, but that seems like it would be subject to abuse.

This would be very bad for the economics of owning rental properties, and would ideally also be bad for Air BnB nonsense. The prop 13 tax relief was meant for the people who live in their own homes. I am completely behind that. It’s the other assholes getting rich off Prop 13 that we have to take down.

Any office I might run for would have to work with the existing tax structure, however, so the above is not actually a campaign plank. We will just have to find some other way to tax the rich. Maybe a tax on gas-guzzlers not used for business, offset by free public transport. Still working on that.

There will be future episodes where I spell out my campaign platform more specifically. I’d be afraid to run, if I weren’t too liberal to ever get elected.