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.