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Teachers, Nurses: Save Our State from Bungling Billionaires





A few weeks ago an agonized fundraising appeal went out from three right-wing millionaires on behalf of the so-called “Californians for Reforms and Jobs, Not Taxes” campaign against Proposition 30.

Apparently business executives Floyd Kvamme, David Marquardt and Mark Stevens had learned that Prop 30, also known as the “Protect Schools and Local Public Safety Act,” would cause the wealthiest Californians to have to part with one to three percent more of their enormous incomes to support public education and public safety programs. Faced with the unnerving prospect that millions of school children might have smaller class sizes, and neighborhoods across the state might become safer places to live and work, they sprang into action.

Their letter to their friends in the one percent did not beat around the bush.  Aimed unerringly at the naked desire of some capitalists to become ever richer at the expense of everyone else, it plaintively asked:

“Will you please add up what you will be spending over the next seven years if this tax hike passes and contribute all or a percentage of that figure?”

The fundraising letter fell into the hands of the California Nurses Association and California Federation of Teachers.  As a result, members of the two unions performed a skit entitled “Bungling Billionaires” in front of TV news cameras beside the swanky St. Francis Yacht Club in the San Francisco marina on August 21, the day before the America’s Cup yacht race began.

The skit featured the christening of the yacht “SS Dilettante” by the right-wing fundraisers.  Unfortunately, the christening destroyed the boat, and the wealthy anti-tax threesome were revealed as “bungling billionaires” who didn’t know what they were doing to the state of California.  They were carted away by nurses and teachers after being handcuffed with life preservers marked “Prop 30.” View photos here.

Following the skit, San Francisco elementary teacher Sunny Dawn spoke about the importance of passing Prop 30 for the young students in her classroom.  Registered nurse Zenei Cortez described the effects of the economic crisis on her patients, and said that:

“Proposition 30 is an important first step to address the health impacts from our budget crisis.”

And former Google software engineer Frank Jernigan, a member of Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength, provided an alternative perspective for prosperous citizens:

“For me, an extra two percent or three percent in taxes is not going to make a bit of difference in the way that I live.  But by bringing billions of dollars in new revenues to California for public schools and safety, Prop 30 will make a tremendous difference in the lives of many.”

Members of the actual anti-tax fundraising committee include Floyd Kvamme, GOP donor and part of a group fined by the Federal Elections Committee after the 2004 election; David Marquardt and Mark Stevens, venture capitalist donors to George W. Bush and Mitt Romney; and John Cox, fringe candidate for president in 2008, whose PAC has accepted money from Philip Morris.

Prop 30, backed by Governor Brown, the California Labor Federation and a broad coalition of unions and community organizations, proposes to restore public education and public safety programs slashed over the past several years by asking the richest Californians to pay a more fair share of taxes for seven years, and asking everyone to pay a modest one quarter cent increase in the state sales tax for four years. The taxes would bring in $9 billion in the first year, and $6 billion each of the next six years, and offer the working people of California a more hospitable and nurturing place to live. Learn more about Prop 30.

Fred Glass is the communications director of the California Federation of Teachers. His post first appeared on Labor’s Edge and is republished here with permission.

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