The tax debate

Steve Westly’s recent television ads have accused Phil Angelides of proposing tax increases on working families. As progressives, we care deeply about this issue. Doing something about the middle class squeeze happening in this state is a top priority, but given that taxes are the dues we pay to live in a civilized society, not some kind of punishment. So Westly’s “taxes are a last resort” message seems like too broad of a brush. The real question: “who pays?”
According to the CBPP, unbelievably, California still has a regressive tax system. Despite a mildly progressive income tax, lower and middle class families pay a larger percentage of their budget than the rich. 70% of Californians support fixing this. A progressive tax system would have a host of benefits: it would result in less money going towards housing and stock bubbles and would give us less public squalor while preserving plenty of private affluence. And it’s the right thing to do: the idea of tax levels being set according to ability to pay goes back to the founding of our country.
So let’s try an experiment. The Angelides campaign has chosen not to respond to this misleading ad on their website, so we thought we’d give them a chance to do so here. In the interest of fairness we’ll let the Westly camp respond to that, and then give Angelides a rebuttal if they want it. We’ll run these posts over the next few days and see how it goes.