- Water Trough Era
- Nash Mill Weed
- Boonville Fourth
- Good Sandwich
- Water Rights
- Engr Rules
- Mental Health
- Highway Tragedy
- Catch of the Day
- Firewood Permits
- Missing Diver
- Goodbye Viola
- Ukiah Inhalations
- Common Entertainment
- Modern Crucifixions
- Tax Reforms
UKIAH'S VENERABLE Water Trough bar at the south end of State Street, bar-tended and baby-sat for the last quarter century by the affable Larry Mayfield, will close in September. We're pretty sure it's the oldest bar in the County under one owner, Ted Schamber, who, until a few months ago, pulled a shift or two behind the plank himself until he got too old to report for active duty. There's a couple of old bars in Fort Bragg, maybe one legitimately old one in Willits, but the Trough pre-dates World War Two, as does Mr. Schamber, who has seen it all and then some.
PATRONA, the upscale eating place on the north end of the County Courthouse in Ukiah, has bought Schamber's liquor license, not that you're likely to see anybody at Patrona ordering up a shot and a beer. And then another one. And a third. Then just the shot. And what the hell, Larry, let's make a night of it. My, my. If the Trough's walls could talk we'd have the true history of Mendocino County just for the listening.
IT'S LEGAL to buy pot in the state of Washington, but it's not legal to grow much of it there, which probably explains the massive new grow by people from that fine state on the tranquil slopes of Nash Mill Road.
IT ALL HAPPENS in Boonville. If you're looking for good wholesome Fourth of July fun, especially if you've got children you need to entertain for a few hours, you can't go wrong by driving in for the big 4th celebration at the Boonville Fairgrounds, all proceeds to the Anderson Valley Educational Foundation and on to scholarships for all local students who want to go on to college.
MONDAY was hot, 103 in our shade, but a slow news day whose only excitement turned out to be the best sandwich I've ever had, and I got it right down the street at the Boonville General Store. I know my fellow gluttons are just dying for the details, but just before I swooned from the pure ecstasy of downing it, I remember sourdough bread baked on the premises, homemade mayo, what seemed like a half-pound of turkey, the smiles of the utterly charming women who work there and…
THERE HAVE BEEN 1250 water rights issued for the Russian River above Healdsburg since Feb. 19, 1954, half of which are in Mendocino County. The water board has issued “curtailment orders” for 652 of those 1250, so about half of the 652, around 330, would be in Mendocino County. Some 40 of our noble sons of the soil get their water directly from the twenty percent of the water controlled by Mendocino County stored at Lake Mendocino. Ukiah Valley’s water districts (some of which supply vineyards as well) also get some of that 8,000. Sonoma County owns the rest.
IN OTHER WORDS, hundreds of permits for just a few dozen Mendocino vineyard owners in a jumble of arrangements that would confuse M.C. Escher. Not all water drawers need permits because they suck directly out of the river — “we don’t need no steenkeen permit.”
IN THEORY, domestic/drinking water is supposed to have priority and then the older permits are supposed to have priority over the newer ones. This, obviously, puts grape growers far down the priority list since most of their permits have been filed within the last two decades.
BUT THE BYZANTINE permit system the Water Board has evolved into is beyond management because it’s essentially an honor system which requires ungaged permit holders to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for permit paperwork but with no enforcement to speak of — other than the occasional gotcha notice to a small-draw permit holder; large-scale growers are de-facto exempt from the feeble existing regs.
WATER BOARD BUREAUCRATS have allowed this unmanageable arrangement to balloon to the point where they can’t do their basic job of ensuring drinking water for Ukiah Valley. The grape growers aren’t going to voluntarily give up their water and they and their lawyers will fight any real attempt to curtail water draws to the bitter end, and they'll probably win because they can afford to stay in court forever.
IF THE WATER BOARD and grape growers had done what former water board staffer Bruce Fodge proposed back in the 90s: a strict diversion season, limited pipe sizes with gages on all pipes, and a minimum flow requirement before pumping, most of this expensive and unwieldy permit system would be unnecessary and much more fair, especially during a drought. (And perish the thought of what the Napa River has: an independent water master in charge of water allocations.) As it is, however, the Russian River will go dry and Ukiah will die of thirst before any reasonable cutbacks are imposed.
THERE'S A SUSPICIOUSLY well-informed character calling him or herself 'Engr Rules' haunting the websites that discuss the Willits Bypass. This person attempts to refute pretty much everything Bypass opponents assert. If he doesn't work for Caltrans he seems to have up-to-the-minute access to the latest Bypass propaganda put out by Big Orange.
A WILLITS WOMAN named Julia Dakin, in person, confronted Geoffrey Wright of Caltrans with the accusation that Wright was 'Engr Rules.'
CALTRANS' spokesman Phil Frisbie wrote to Dakin: "..... After you visited him at the bypass construction office and accused him of being Engr Rules, and I am sure he is not. Caltrans employees have all been admonished that I am the only person who may speak for Caltrans to reporters and in social media. I do not even know for sure Engr Rules is a Caltrans employee; he might be an engineer working for our contractor, or he might even be the spouse or other close relative of an employee. Phil at Caltrans."
E. RULES has now appeared on the AVA website. This is the commenter who, last year on the FB board, said things like, and quoting from memory, “How could most of the traffic be local, there’s only 5,000 people in Willits?” Big bypass booster Phil Dow of MCOG, confirmed some years ago that the bypass would reduce traffic by 20 to 30 percent; Caltrans is now claiming there’ll be a 40 percent reduction of traffic (odd since studies done for Harris Quarry confirm that through traffic has gone down since the economic crash). But even using Caltrans’ sketchy 40 percent figure, “most of the traffic” remains local.
CALTRANS is on record in anticipation of a 20 to 30 percent reduction in traffic, though "E. Rules naturally prefers the 30 percent number. Caltrans is now saying 40 percent, based on some supposed updated study: but even using Caltrans’ figure, “most of the traffic” remains local.
FOR A NON-EMPLOYEE of Caltrans, E. Rules sure spends a lot of time on the ’net defending the agency's huge Bypass missteps. Some still assume he’s Geoffrey Wright, the engineer for the project. The anonymous commenter has denied actually working on the Bypass, but acknowledged being closely related to Caltrans. Comments like “only 5,000 people in Willits” make it seem like he’s not local. He’s very slippery: Facebook is a great venue for propagandists because you can say something different than you said a month ago and, if anyone even remembers the individual comment; it’s often really hard to find what was said or it can be deleted or edited out of its original meaning.
WE'VE GOT our ace techno-sleuths on the case. If “Engr Rules” does turn out to be a well-paid Caltrans employee, posting from a Caltrans server/posting from work, it could be argued that they’d given up their right to personal privacy along with the paycheck.
INDEED the first "E. Rules" comment on the AVA's website originated from a Department of Transportation server (caltrans.ca.gov or dot.ca.gov). A subsequent comment from E. Rules arrived yesterday afternoon, this one coming from a Verizon Wireless server (perhaps indicating the use of an electronic mobile device, like a phone, pad or tablet).
A READER WRITES (responding to Supervisor Gjerde's comments about the lack of mental health services on the Coast): “Gjerde is right on target in saying that mental health service delivery is a mess. And it isn't much better whether you are inland or on the coast. But to imply that this is all the fault of Ortner misses the mark. The County has an unbroken record over the last twenty or thirty years of providing inadequate adult mental health services. Ortner has actually increased services inland and on the coast, especially crisis response. But the NAMI partisans won't be happy until all of their adult children are on forced medication, confined to locked facilities, or both. NAMI complains that not enough people are being hospitalized but a big chunk of the mental health budget goes to expensive out-of-county lockups. County mental health is working with Ortner to keep more people at home and improve local crisis services. Even the Grand Jury recognized improvement in this area. But it all costs money and takes time. The type and level of ‘care’ that NAMI (and apparently Gjerde) would like to see has never been provided by the county because the dollars are not there. And not everyone agrees that forced medication and locked doors is a therapeutic response to dissent, unconventional behavior, or whatever else the authorities decide to define as mental illness. Just ask Solzhenitsyn.”
THREE Point Arena High School students died Sunday morning in a 4am, single-car crash on Highway One near Sea Ranch. The three boys were coming home from a quinceanera and were northbound when Jhovani Gonzalez-Marquez, 18, of Gualala, lost control of his 1996 Acura Integra. According to CHP officer Hawkins, the car crossed into the oncoming lane, spun and slid sideways into a tree. "A low tree branch, combined with the vehicle slightly rolling over, crushed the interior cab of the Acura," Hawkins said.
Gonzalez-Marquez and his front-seat passenger, Aron Gonzalez-Marquez, 14, of Gualala, died on impact.
A third passenger, 17-year-old Jason Alanis Marquez of Pacific Woods, was knocked unconscious and was flown by helicopter to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, where he died later Sunday.
The cause of the crash is under investigation. Alcohol has not been ruled out as a contributing factor, Hawkins said.
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GONZALEZ/MARQUEZ MEMORIAL FUND
Fundraising has been started to help offset funeral and other costs for our local boys (18-year-old Jhovani Gonzalez-Marquez, 14-year-old Aron Gonzalez-Marquez and 17-year-old Jason Alanis Marquez) who tragically lost their lives yesterday 6/29/14 in a horrible car accident near Sea Ranch. Online donations can be made at: http://www.gofundme.com/avt6jg. There has also been an account set up at WestAmerica Bank under the name of Gonzales/Marquez Memorial Fund (#2204088005). We have had some local businesses step up to offer financial and other support for these families! To date: Pirates Cove Restaurant, Shoreline Restaurant, Heart of a Child Toy Store, DJ Yasmine (DJ services for the celebration of these boys' lives). There were also counselors available today at Point Arena High School. Thank you for sharing this fundraising information to help these families in their time of need.
Janet Heenan, Gualala
CATCH OF THE DAY, MONDAY, JUNE 30TH
RUDY BERAIN, Santa Rosa. Meth sales.
KEVIN BULLOCK, Ukiah. Meth charges.
TABETHA CONNELL, Ukiah. Tweek and tweeking.
CAROL CURTIS, Fort Bragg. Meth.
GASPAR GOMEZ, Fort Bragg. Revocation of probation.
RAMONA HALDERMAN, San Jose. Burglary, grand theft.
TABATHA HAMILTON, Ukiah. Misc drug charges. (Two Tabathas, df spelling in one day.)
LAURIE HAYES, Covelo. Battery, Probation violation, smuggling drugs into jail.
SAMMI LEGGETT, Covelo. Meth, failure to appear.
JUSTIN McGUIRE, Willits. Drunk in public. This kid, already a frequent flier, is sinking fast.
MICHAEL SEIFERT, Ukiah. Revocation of felony probation.
KIRSTYN SMALL, Ukiah. Assault with a deadly weapon not a firearm. Goodness, Kirstyn. Really. You don't look like that kind of girl.
DON WILTSE, Laytonville. Revocation of probation.
FIREWOOD PERMIT SALES RESUME ON JACKSON DEMONSTRATION STATE FOREST
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) Mendocino Unit is pleased to announce the resumption of firewood permit sales on Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF). Due to the limited accessibility of timber sale areas containing downed timber, permits will be limited to two cords ($20.00) per household. Firewood areas will be open July 1, through September 30, 2014, until wood supply is gone, the first significant rain, or resource damage occurs due to illegal woodcutting, whichever occurs first.
Permits and information on how to safely engage in collecting firewood are available at the CAL FIRE Fort Bragg office located at, 802 North Main Street, Fort Bragg, CA (707) 964-5674. Office hours are 8-12 & 1-5 Monday through Friday.
Multiple uses of JDSF for a wide variety of activities that benefit the public, the economy and natural resources are what our demonstration forests are all about.
ON JUNE 29, 2014 at about 9am, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputies were summoned to the 5400 Block of South Highway 1, Elk, to assist the Elk Volunteer Fire Department with a report of a citizen over a cliff. While enroute to the location, additional resources were requested to respond to the scene. Representatives from the United States Coast Guard Station Noyo River, CalFire, Elk Volunteer Fire Department, Department of Fish and Wildlife and Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department responded to the location to assist. Mendocino County Deputies arrived at the scene and learned Feng Chang Wei of San Francisco, had entered the ocean with four friends to dive for abalone. Due to the strong current and rough ocean conditions, the group began to be pushed into a sea cave along the bluff. Several of the men clung to the rocks trying to avoid being pulled into the cave. At one point Feng Wei was struck by a wave and pushed into the cave where he became distressed. His friends attempted to rescue him from the cave but were quickly over taken by the strong waves and were forced to swim out to save their own lives. Helicopters, boats and rescue divers were utilized throughout the day to search the area but Feng Wei was not located.
UPDATE JUNE 30, 2014: The Mendocino County Sheriff's Search and Rescue (SAR) Team responded back to the location, with the assistance of Elk Volunteer Department, to evaluate the ocean conditions to see if it was safe for divers to enter the water. The Dive Team evaluated the conditions and found it was still unsafe to enter the water. SAR Teams did search nearby beaches as well as search the ocean cove visually from land but were unable to locate Feng Chang Wei. The Sheriff's Office plans to renew search efforts on July 1 with the SAR Dive Team and additional resources from the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Elk Fire, and Mendocino Fire Departments. Anyone with information related to Feng Wei’s disappearance or whereabouts is urged to contact the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch Center at 707-463-4086. (Sheriff’s Press Release)
COUNTY MOURNS THE PASSING OF FORMER LONG TIME MENDOCINO COUNTY CLERK-RECORDER, VIOLA RICHARDSON
Mendocino County officials have announced the passing of former Mendocino County Clerk-Recorder, Viola Richardson, at the age of 85. “She was a real firecracker and knew everything there was to know about the County back in the day,” stated John Pinches, 3rd District Supervisor and Chair of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors. Viola served the people of Mendocino County for 29 years. She first joined the County in December, 1953 in the entry level position of Deputy Recorder. She was first elected County Recorder in 1963, and again in 1967 as County Clerk/Recorder. Viola was re-elected for three consecutive terms before retiring from service in 1983. Upon her retirement, Viola was recognized for her years of dedicated service from the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors and organizations such as the County Clerk’s Association of California, the County Recorder’s Association of the State of California, the Northern Area Clerk’s Association, the California Jury Commissioners Association, and the California State Association of Local Elected Officials. “Vi never had a bad word to say about anyone and she was all about serving the public,” added Marsha Wharff, former Mendocino County Assessor/Clerk-Recorder. Flags at County facilities have been lowered to half-staff to honor and pay respect to Viola and her family. Private services are being arranged with a celebration of life to be held at a later date. For additional information, please contact the Mendocino County Executive Office at 707.463.4441. — Carmel J. Angelo, Chief Executive Officer
ON JUNE 19th at about 9:55 PM Ukiah Police responded to the 200 block of Observatory Avenue for a group inhaling nitrous oxide. Arriving officers located a group standing around a parked vehicle, and numerous empty nitrous oxide canisters scattered on the ground. Officers observed a device used to inhale nitrous oxide on the seat of the vehicle, and contacted a 17 year old male juvenile from Covelo. The juvenile was wearing a backpack, and when he moved officers could hear additional nitrous oxide canisters rattle inside the backpack. The juvenile was found to possess more than 5 unused nitrous oxide canisters and several grams of marijuana, and was arrested. A search of the vehicle revealed numerous used and unused nitrous oxide canisters, a partially consumed bottle of liquor, beer, and over half a pound of marijuana. Officers arrested 19 year old Sparrow Mary Steele, of Ukiah, for possessing nitrous oxide, possessing marijuana, possession of alcohol by a minor, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. (Ukiah PD Press Release)
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ON JUNE 21st at about 11:15 AM Ukiah Police responded to the rear of Rite Aid, at 680 South State Street, for a subject inhaling from a spray can and yelling. Officers observed 36 year old Jai Chandler Kamke holding a spray can and yelling at another subject. Kamke refused to drop the can and placed it into his mouth and inhaled from it. Kamke was arrested for possessing an inhalant, and remained agitated and belligerent. Kamke was on probation for use of an inhalant, and was also charged with violating probation. (Ukiah PD Press Release)
I have spent these several days past in reading and writing, with the most pleasing tranquility imaginable. You will ask, “How that can possibly be in the midst of Rome?” It was the time of celebrating the Circensian games, an entertainment for which I have not the least taste. They have no novelty, no variety to recommend them — nothing, in short, one would wish to see twice. It does the more surprise me therefore that so many thousand people should be possessed with the childish passion of desiring so often to see a parcel of horses gallop, and men standing upright in their chariots. If indeed it were the swiftness of the horses, or the skill of the men that attracted them, there might be some pretense of reason for it. But it is the dress they like; it is the dress that takes their fancy. And if, in the midst of the course and contest, the different parties were to change colors, their different partisans would change sides and instantly desert the very same men and horses whom just before they were eagerly following with their eyes, as far as they could see, and shouting out their names with all their might. Such mighty charms, such wondrous power reside in the color of a paltry tunic! And this not only with the common crowd (more contemptible than the dress they espouse), but even with serious-thinking people. When I observe such men thus insatiably fond of so silly, so low, so uninteresting, so common an entertainment, I congratulate myself on my indifference to these pleasures — and am glad to employ the leisure of this season upon my books, which others throw away upon the most idle occupations.
— Pliny the Elder, Rome, c.109
VOILA: WORLD WAR THREE
Whoever really runs things these days for the semi-mummified royal administration down in Saudi Arabia must be leaving skid-marks in his small-clothes thinking about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his ISIS army of psychopathic killers sweeping hither and thither through what is again being quaintly called “the Levant.” ISIS just concluded an orgy of crucifixions up in Syria over the weekend, the victims being other Islamic militants who were not radical enough, or who had dallied with US support.
Crucifixion sends an interesting and complex message to various parties around this systemically fracturing globe. It’s a step back from the disabling horror of video beheadings, but it still packs a punch. For the Christian West, it re-awakens a certain central cultural narrative that had gone somnolent there for a century or so. ISIS’s message: If you thought the Romans were bad…. Among the human race, you see, the memories linger.
ISIS has successfully shocked the world over the last two weeks by negating eight years, several trillion dollars, and 4,500 battle deaths in the USA’s endeavor to turn Iraq into an obedient oil dispensary. Now they have gone and announced that their conquests of the moment amount to a Caliphate, that is, an Islamic theocracy. In that sense, they are at least out-doing America’s Republican Party, which has been trying to do something similar here from sea to shining sea but finds itself thwarted by hostile blue states on both coasts.
More to the point, the press (another quaint term, I suppose) is not paying any attention whatsoever to what goes down with ISIS and the other states besides Iraq and Syria in the region. I aver to Saudi Arabia especially because Americans seem to regard it as an impregnable bastion against the bloodthirsty craziness spreading over the rest of the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia is, of course, the keystone of OPEC. Saudi Arabia has had the distinction of remaining stable through all the escalating tumult of recent decades, reliably pumping out its roughly 10 million barrels a day like Bossy the cow in America’s oil import barn.
Or seeming to remain stable, I should say, because the Saud family royal administration of mummified rulers and senile princes looks more and more like a Potemkin monarchy every month. 90-year-old King Abdullah has been rumored to be on life support lo these last two years, his successor brothers already dead and gone, and other powerful Arabian clans with leaders who can walk across a room and speak itching to kick this zombie Saud family off the throne. To make matters worse, the Sauds have also managed to sponsor much of the organized Sunni terrorism in the region (around the world, really) in their role as the chief enemy of the Shia — as represented by the politicized clergy of Iran.
Things are happening at lightning speed over in the region and beware of how the turmoil spreads from one flashpoint to another. This would be an opportunity for ISIS to put the Saud family on the spot regarding the just-announced Caliphate — as in the question: who really calls the shots for this new theocratic kingdom? (Answer: maybe not you, doddering, mummified, America suck-up Saudi Arabia). What’s more, what happens to the other kingdoms and rickety states in that corner of the world? For instance, Lebanon, which has been a sort of political demolition derby for three decades. The founder of the group al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), pre-cursor to ISIS, was the Lebanese Abu Mus‘ab al-Zarqawi — blown up in a USA air strike some years ago. Lebanon has been under the sway of Hezbollah for a decade and Hezbollah is sponsored by Shi’ite Iran, making it an enemy of ISIS. Might ISIS roll westward over Hezbollah now to capture the pearl of the Mediterranean (or what’s left of it) Beirut? I wouldn’t be surprised.
Then there’s Jordan, and it’s youngish King Abdullah, another notorious USA ass-kisser. Those crucifixion photos coming out of Syria must be making him a little loose in the bowels. And, of course, Syria, where this whole thing started, is a smoldering rump-roast of a state. And finally, that bugbear in the bull’s-eye of the old Levant: Israel.
It is miraculous that Israel has managed so far to stay out of the way of this juggernaut. Of course, among its chief enemies are Hezbollah and Hezbollah’s foster father, Iran, which happen to be the enemy of ISIS and, of course, in that part of the world the enemy of my enemy is my ally — though, I’m sorry, it’s rather impossible to imagine Israel getting all chummy with the psychopaths of ISIS. One thing is a fact: all other things being equal, Israel has the capability of turning any other state or kingdom in the region into an ashtray, if push came to shove. Voila: World War Three.
REP. ISSA: SHIELDING $300 BILLION IN TAX EVASION
by Ralph Nader
The IRS has been under loud scrutiny as of late by House Republicans regarding the agency’s role in targeting conservative-leaning political nonprofit groups applying for tax exempt status. Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) has led the charge in these fiery hearings, earlier this week accusing IRS Commissioner John Koskinen of “game playing” by failing to produce key emails from a senior IRS official. Ranking minority Committee member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) provided a very different account of the entire episode, apologizing to Koskinen for having to “go through this hell.”
All of this political gamesmanship is, however, a distraction, from the real issue facing the Internal Revenue Service — funding. Many Americans dislike the IRS and will paint you a vivid picture of the tax man knocking down your door for a slice of your hard earnings. Those Americans might be surprised to learn that the current IRS annual enforcement budget has been cut to about $11.3 billion. As a comparison, that’s less than the $14 billion Apple Inc. used to buyback its own stock in one month this past February, a move that only serves to provide meager benefits to its shareholders. The IRS simply does not have the budget to do its lawful job effectively, which is to collect revenue for the U.S. government.
What does that mean for taxpayers?
According to an April article from The Associated Press: “This year, the IRS will have fewer agents auditing returns than at any time since at least the 1980s.” The IRS loses an estimated $300 billion a year due to tax evasion — a key contributor to deficits. A proposal by the Obama Administration claims that the IRS could bring in an additional $6 for every dollar it adds to the enforcement budget. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, a highly regarded veteran public servant, said that he pushes this rather convincing point in Congress to little reception or reaction. “I say that and everybody shrugs and goes on about their business,” he told AP. “I have not figured out either philosophically or psychologically why nobody seems to care whether we collect the revenue or not.”
Congress certainly seem to care when it comes to heated party politics, however.
The US tax code has long been perforated by corporate lobbyists and corporate tax attorneys whose primary purpose is to circumvent its laws so that their profit-rich companies can avoid paying their fair share to Uncle Sam. In many states, it is a literal race-to-the-bottom for elected officials to offer corporations sweeter tax deals to keep jobs in-state, as illustrated by the Boeing controversy in Washington State earlier this year. Notably, besides getting a state tax holiday, Boeing paid zero in federal income tax on large U.S. based profits last year — along with many other major U.S. corporations such as GE and Verizon. Some of these Fortune 500 companies even get a rebate check! (See “The Sorry State of Corporate Taxes” report from Citizens for Tax Justice. )
And of course multimillionaires and billionaires, by taking full advantage of tax loopholes, deductions, deferrals and other forms of creative accounting, often pay less in taxes than middle-class Americans. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan that passed the House of Representatives earlier this year would shamelessly benefit the wealthy elite with even more tax cuts at a time of rising mass poverty.
The end result is that the wealthy 1 percent continues to profit hand-over-fist using public resources and infrastructure while the 99 percent pay the bills for it — all the while struggling to pay their own bills, mortgages, student loans, and more. And when Wall Street runs amok, it’s the taxpayers who must pay the bills for the catastrophic damage resulting from regulatory slumber, as we saw back in 2009.
It’s abundantly clear that significant, transformative tax reform is necessary. What remains unclear is who will benefit the most from such reform. Americans from both the left and right must seriously ask why individual U.S. taxpayers are fronting the money for hugely profitable corporations — the right calls it “crony capitalism” and the left calls it “corporate welfare.” Both agree that it is a serious problem. This is taxpayer money that could potentially be used to repair critical public infrastructure, create decent paying jobs, or, simply, to reduce the tax burden on individuals. (See my new book Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.)
One solution to ensure that the interests of small taxpayers are accounted for and protected is to establish taxpayer watchdog associations across the country. These organizations would work full-time in each state to make sure that individual taxpayers get the best deal possible. After all, big corporations can afford to support an army of tax accountants and attorneys to continually update the playbook of tactics to avoid having to pay their share. Most taxpayers don’t have this luxury. What they do have, however, is sheer force of numbers. Organization of such watchdog organizations could be as easy as a notice on the 1040 tax return and state tax forms inviting people to join. These non-profit advocacy groups would be supported by modest membership dues and would receive no tax money. The members would elect a board of directors that could hire researchers, organizers, accountants and lawyers to work as taxpayer champions.
Such pressure from united citizens would provide an avenue to enhance the influence of individuals and small businesses in a fairer, more efficient tax collection and policy-making process — something that is much needed in our current American oligarchy. Perhaps even Republicans like wealthy Cong. Darrell Issa could see the benefit of having such groups actively watchdogging for the people.
A simple motto to consider when asking what we choose to tax is: “Tax what they burn before we tax what we earn.” Before we place the largest burdens of taxation on workers, we should tax areas that have the most potential negative or damaging influence on our economy and our society. Tax the polluters, the addictive products industry, the Wall Street speculators, the junk food peddlers, and the corporate criminals. Consider this: A fraction of a 1 percent sales tax on high velocity speculation in derivatives and trading in stocks could bring in $300 billion a year!
If taxpayers really want to protect their interests, they must organize and fight for themselves. The corporations certainly have the money — but they can’t match the envoy of an engaged citizenry, especially one that is informed and turns out to vote.
(Ralph Nader’s latest book is: Unstoppable: the Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.)