Saturday, June 21, 2008

Why I Support Dellums' Tax Increase Plan

In his first meaningful action since becoming Oakland Mayor a year and a half ago, Ron Dellums has proposed a parcel tax to pay for new police officers. According to Oakbook, hiring 200 additional officers will cost homeowners $250 per year in parcel taxes.

My initial reaction to the proposal was my standard response to new taxation. I generally oppose new taxes on all levels, so this seemed like another in a long line of taxes I would oppose.

However, a friend encouraged me to think about the issue in more selfish terms. This makes sense to me. After all, the Leftists in control of the city constantly pursue their own ends with complete disregard for the welfare of others. And, while this approach violates the Golden Rule, it does follow the Silver Rule, which is almost as good: "Do unto others as they do unto you."

The first question is how the money will be spent. I think it's safe to assume that between 50 and 90 percent of the money will either be stolen for outside programs (think Measure Y) or go to bureaucracy. So, I'd anticipate a net increase of 20 to 100 police officers for my $250.

While this is probably still not enough to fully staff a police department for a city the size of Oakland, it should produce some direct benefits to me and my family. Violence should decline somewhat, and economic activity might increase as a consequence.

The critical second question is how much the proposal costs. To understand more about this question, I took a look at the Alameda County property tax website.

What I found was pretty interesting. Parcel taxes are well known to be regressive, since owners of small, inexpensive houses pay exactly the same dollar amount as those who own mansions.

I hadn't fully understood, however, the true dimensions of this regressiveness. Houses in Oakland cost anywhere from $100k to millions. The median house is in the $600k range. Without going too much into specifics, my house lies somewhat above the median of this range.

What I realized is that, as a percentage of my house value, this tax would have dramatically less impact for me than for poorer residents. This is great, as it means I am far more likely to recoup the cost of the tax than they are if the new police officers have some impact on property values.

So, from my own economic perspective, it makes sense to support the tax.

Both of the above arguments are critical to my support for the tax. I categorically oppose taxes for schools and the fire department, because I believe they add little incremental value to my property value.

Paying more for schools, in particular, has proven to be utterly worthless. Oakland remains a complete laughingstock, as the delta between Oakland and Piedmont house values demonstrates.
But paying for cops is significantly more promising. And, as a percentage of house value, this tax costs me relatively little. So, I support it. If you're in the same boat as me, I suggest you support it as well.


  1. Jane Brunner was the one who said she wants a tax that would hire 200 more officers, not Dellums. (Such a measure would be for police only.) As it says in the Oakbook story, the details of what Dellums is proposing have not yet been released.

  2. I tried to make that distinction clear in the first paragraph. Dellums has proposed "parcel taxes for police" while Brunner has offered more specifics. Still, I think the paragraph is accurate, since I only used the Brunner proposal to give a sense of what this might cost.

    Let me know if you disagree.

  3. this is a parody, right?

    I mean, the sentiments in this post are about equal to an eighth grader's -- self-centered and filled with resentment.

  4. Not in the least. Your reply is cute, but completely content free. Let's hear a valid counter-argument.

    Perhaps we could all learn something from eighth graders. I contend that Oakland's single biggest problem is liberal guilt and the nanny-state behavior it generates. Increased selfishness is a reasonable cure to this ill. And, obviously many Oaklanders agree with me, as the school system continues to lose students every year. Many of those students' parents are those who have chosen to stop sacrificing their children on the altar of socialism.

    As for resentment, you're damned right I resent Oakland's limousine-liberal set. They decrease my quality of life, my property values and nearly every other tangible facet of my life. And, I contend, they do poor people just as much harm.

  5. Even with your allowance for City Hall grabbing at least 50 percent of the new revenue to feather their own nests, the cost estimate is understated.

    To see the true cost, step back and consider the political context. Passing this tax encourages the city council to keep proposing parcel tax after tax as they have done for years (Measure Y, Measure Q, Landscape and Lighting Assessment (LLAD) ...)

    Indeed, the City outright stuffs the ballot box when it has the opportunity. This just happened with the huge LLAD tax increase. The voters defeated it, but City Hall created votes out of thin air and declared the increase was passed. See

    Measure Y did not deliver one additional police officer for three years. Library cutbacks continue despite Measure Q. For the so-called LLAD, nearly 80 cents of every new dollar goes back to the general fund for anything except for parks, tree trimming, and street lights. The wording of the proposed Son of Measure Y turns out to be full of escape clauses.

    Want all this to continue? Then vote for the measure.

    Defeating Son of Measure Y is a vote of no confidence in City Hall. Stop the nickel and dime cheating.

  6. Most of the ballot measures that have passed in the last decade or so end up filling up the general fund.

    Every time some bleeding heart measure comes up, it gets approved. Once all the money is collected, the existing funding is cut and dumped into the general fund.

    We end up getting taxed more, and it doesn't change the condition of the cause we are voting on.