I’ve been spending a lot of time huddled over a calculator I stole from a fifth grader, trying to get a jumpstart on tax season, which falls just behind elections as my second least favorite season. And I’ve come to two conclusions: Firstly, I should have just committed to being even more degenerate and not bothered making any income at all. Secondly, I think I need a new accountant; Mr. Muffins, the numbers-savvy border collie who lives next door, has been stifling my efforts at what I call creative expression taxation. Basically, I want to claim that I live in Tibet, which doesn’t pay sales tax, but shop in Florida, which doesn’t pay state income taxes, but vacation in Amsterdam, which has the best-looking prostitutes … I mean culture. All while loudly proclaiming pride in my actual hometown of San Luis Obispo. According to Mr. Muffins, my methods are illegal, my facts completely confused, and, worst of all, he accused me of being a flip-flopper. It’s tough trying to have it all, especially when you set high moral standards for yourself, as I do.
Amirite Katcho Achadjian? From where I’m sitting, the Republican assemblyman is about the only person who understands where I’m coming from, what with signing the Americans for Tax Reform Taxpayer Protection Pledge promising not to support any tax increases whatsoever, then voting with California Democrats for Assembly Bill 8 which extended about $2 billion in taxes, in order to woo the oil industry bigwigs while arguing that the bill is great for the environment. He’s trying to scratch more backs than he has hands, and anti-taxist Grover Norquist is not amused by the footie Katcho tried to pass off as a red-blooded Republican handie.
The best part is that all of Katcho’s bending and folding into the shape of whatever origami animal will garner him the most votes and money has only served to alienate the people for whom he was twisting. Case in point: When he first started as an assemblyman, Katcho was pulling a solid B grade with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Today, after going to all the trouble of signing the pledge and then getting down, dirty, and semantical over how he didn’t violate the pledge when he voted for AB 8, Katcho’s pulling a D-, which would make a student of my caliber ecstatic, but probably isn’t the grade the assemblyman was shooting for.
And here I was hoping I could just pat Katcho on the back for being reasonable enough to compromise with state Democrats in order to pass a bill that helps California meet its clean air goals. And I totally would if I a) believed Katcho voted for the bill out of anything more noble than a desire to please his oil industry buddies who supported the legislation because it pushes back what would have been a requirement to have a certain number of hydrogen fueling stations for clean-energy cars, and b) understood where Katcho stood on the issue of taxes. Or anything, for that matter. The problem with signing a blanket anti-tax pledge at the beginning of your political career is that you find yourself doing the hokey pokey any time the subject of taxes is raised. If Katcho opted to acknowledge that he’d made an error in being pressured into signing the pledge and perhaps acknowledged that such pledges are juvenile—I think I signed three in junior high, all of which guaranteed that I’d stay away from the opposite sex on account of their cooties, but thankfully no one’s holding me to that today—he’d be off the hook. He’d be better than off the hook. I’d bake him a “way to evolve as a politician and human being cake” (vanilla with a lemon buttercream frosting) and he could join the very small ranks of reasonable politicians refusing to buy into the bipartisan nonsense.
Of course, now that Katcho has, according to folks who think an extension is as good as an increase, broken his tax pledge—gasp!—and discovered that Grover Norquist isn’t actually capable of delivering anything stronger than a “how dare you,” he might be inspired to start making decisions based on the merit of the proposal, instead of opting for the most scratchable back and voting accordingly. Personally, I kind of figured that a guy willing to go on 60 Minutes and brag about the fact that he would shame on any politicians who reneged on the pledge and would start flinging cholera-contaminated monkey poo at the offender, but the truth is that conservative legislators are reneging on the pledge right and left and Norquist has yet to roll up his sleeves and deliver the spanking he promised. The organization had plenty of opportunity to sound off when a New Times reporter called them for comment about Katcho’s vote, but rather than follow through on their threat to shame him, they dodged.
What this suggests to me is that none of these politicians holds the ideology of the no-new-taxes pledge all that close to heart. Which is fine—great, in fact, since we’d all like to move beyond the blustering windbaggery currently preventing Republicans from supporting any legislation that so much as occupied the same room as a Democrat. But it also begs the question: Why did they sign the pledge in the first place? And the answer is not terribly flattering. They signed the tax pledge for the same reason that I shaved a dairy cow into the side of my head in junior high—everyone else was doing it. Of course, there’s nothing particularly unusual about some dumb kid following the herd, but when you’ve got a pack of supposed adults who are responsible for making important decisions that impact us all, I’m not sure I want the dude who’s desperate to fit in with the cool kids calling the shots. And as far as explanations for our government’s inability to function go, the fact that a few extreme rightwing bullies are trying to shame their more rational counterparts into making decisions they don’t like in order to prove that they’re “conservative enough” is just plain sad.
And at the end of the day I’m left with no clue what Katcho actually believes in or supports. The truly sad thing is I wonder if he knows anymore.
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