Press Clips: Fox (Mis)Fires, Oligarchs on the March


Joel Fox is a temperate and thoughtful guy whose online opinings usually skip the fact-free cant and bombast that mark so many offerings from elsewhere in California’s conservative blogosphere.

So imagine our surprise when Fox fired his latest broadside at Calbuzz over at Fox and Hounds, a truly woeful – or was it willful? – misreading of our recent dispatch chronicling the state and nation’s steady march from democracy to oligarchy.

Filled with straw men, fatuousness and borderline hysteria, our friend Joel’s ravings served up a pungent hash of off-point platitudes, boiler plate bromides and red herring reasoning that did everything but attack our ancestors — while managing to utterly avoid addressing the central argument of our thesis.

Other than that, it was a helluva’ piece.

Dr. Corey meet Dr. Fox: We’ll spare you most of the gruesome details, except to note that, among other things, Fox fabricated his own premise for our argument (“Calbuzz…claim(ed) the way to save California is to tax the rich and tax businesses”); misrepresented the thrust of Jerry Brown’s 1992 presidential campaign (it wasn’t the flat tax, as Fox claims, which was only one issue that Brown employed to make the broader point that the political system is rigged to redistribute wealth upward – but what do we know, we only covered it); and leaned on sweeping, unproven assertions in lieu of evidence to make pre-cooked points (Tiger Woods and the tennis-playing Williams sisters prefer Florida to California because of tax laws, he says, and they “are just the tip of the iceberg” – Ah, the old ipso facto iceberg sum proof – Irwin Corey would be proud).

We could go on, but shooting at life boats ain’t our style. Except sometimes.

We’re political writers, not advocates like Fox, so we bring this whole thing up because we’re still scratching our heads about why he mysteriously neglected in his bashing to even mention, let alone critique, the analysis that we actually proffered.


1-There has been a massive shift in wealth in the U.S. over recent decades, to the overwhelming benefit of the richest one percent of the population and the detriment of almost everyone else.

2-This shift has occurred – and been enabled by – 30 years of policies based precisely on the tax-cut, low-regulation ideology that Fox and his cohort just love, and which they continue to champion, despite the fact its real-life impact has been to trigger the greatest recession since the 1930s.

3-Awareness of the accumulating evidence of how and why wealth is becoming more and more concentrated in the hands of a tiny, oligarchic class is growing; as it moves into the mainstream, this awareness over time will change the terms and framework of political debate dramatically:

Paradoxically, the recent idiocy of Capitol Republicans, who blocked a popular vote on whether to extend a few modest taxes and fees that would  affect almost all Californians, has now made the GOP’s natural base among the very wealthiest taxpayers a far more narrow, rich and inviting target for pols and interest groups who are looking for Plan B to balance the budget while heading off even more cuts to education and other services; Plan B’s  Exhibit A is last week’s announcement by the California Federation of Teachers that they will push for a 1% income tax hike on the state’ richest 1%, a proposal that a new Ben Tulchin poll shows is backed by nearly three in four voters.

Such a proposal would find fertile political ground, in part because the dramatic national trend of growing wealth inequality is, if anything, more pronounced in California.

Which, of course, would hardly be a boon for bumper sticker, anti-government orthodoxy or the cozy “taxpayer advocate” political network that’s so well served the interests of Fox et al. since Howard Jarvis was still stumbling around in a boozy haze.

Hey, maybe that’s why he didn’t mention what we said.

Recommended reading:

— Here’s a nifty infographic primer on what’s actually happening to real people in the U.S. economy.

–Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now a professor at Cal, writes about the implications of the oligarch economy in a clear, accessible, frequent and timely way, as in this recent essay on the subject.

–Also this and this or this. Or this or this and this.

Rip Van Calbuzz: Not sure how this one got by us at the time, but the eagle-eared Steve Harmon had an intriguing scooplet on Sacramento’s budget mess that mysteriously seems not to have been picked up.

Mike Genest, the finance director under ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, had a revealing comment in a wide-ranging budget discussion on Capital Public Radio today.

Genest, now a political consultant advising Republican senators who are in talks with Gov. Jerry Brown, was asked if Brown’s tax extension should be placed on the ballot. He said:

“As a Republican, I kinda hate to say it but our tax burden is less now because of recession. The amount of the economy going to state government is lower than it has been for several years. Except for right at the bottom of the recession, you go back 30 years to find tax revenues at this low a level. So, there is a case to be made that we might need to keep those taxes at a higher level for a while.”

He went on to say, however, that Republicans “shouldn’t lose the opportunity while contemplating doing this. We ought to take that opportunity to get serious reforms.”

Politics is all about exploiting opportunities, but the brazenness of the ask couldn’t have been clearer. A Republican who is advising GOP senators in talks with Brown, acknowledges that the tax burden is low and the current rates should be continued — but that they might as well extract as much as possible since they have the leverage of a two-thirds vote that’s required to put a tax issue on the ballot (with the goal, of course, of, as Genest said, “helping the economy grow”).

Guess that’s why Genest hasn’t moved to Florida with Tiger, Serena and Venus.

Where’s the Inquistor when you need him: Genest isn’t the only Republican talking out of school: we can only imagine what torments right-wing talk show host Eric Hogue will endure on the rack for uttering this heresy, suggesting that the children of illegal immigrants are actually, um, people.

For Republicans to spend time in crafting legislation that refuses qualified, achieving high school graduates is highly corrosive. Granted, Americans are rightfully frustrated with the lack of attention from the federal government toward illegal immigration and its impending fiscal costs placed upon taxpayer supported state and federal budgets – not to mention the effects (good and bad) illegal immigration has upon our private sector economy. But we must learn to restrain ourselves from legislation and ballot initiatives that do nothing but evolve into political wedge issues and cultural ‘cat nip.’ Funneling any initial state reforms through the children of illegal immigrants (to get back at the parent’s illegal behavior) is mean-spirited, politically corrosive and wrongheaded.

Fleischman! Fox! Hogue and Genest to the dungeon at once!

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There are 9 comments for this post

  1. avatar mezzicun says:

    I recently came across a series of tables on wealth distribution in America and the data I perused was since the Clinton era, and boy do those numbers boggle the mind. Especially revealing is how it was accelerated and widened during Bush II years. How the recession impacted the richest and the rest of us. The only negatives I recall seeing were the incomes derived from the rest of us–somewhere along the lines of real wages receding about 1%.. I read somewhere else that during the early 2000’s, during a particular 3-4 year period, the richest 1% of the population captured over 2/3rds of the wealth created. I believe this period ended in 2005 or 2006. Too bad I”m off today otherwise I’d be able to source this stuff. The NYT also just had a debate among researchers as to why people are not outraged at this phenomena.

    And while I’m at it, it’s intriguing and revealing to note that the narrative in this country has gone from outrage at the banks, corporations, CEO’s, real estate industry, et al, to the vilification of organized labor and working people in this country as some sort of “privileged elite”. It really is worrisome.

  2. avatar tonyseton says:

    The critical difference between journalists like you gentlemen and the neo-lith bloggers is that your views are based on a foundation of facts while they spew nonsense unrelated to reality. It’s much easier to write such stuff when they can make up their own “facts.” Viz, Breibart editing the Sherrod tape.
    Perhaps you saw the story about the reporter who had been “kidnapped” by Biden’s people. Ridiculous. He wrote a story explaining what really happened. The blogosphere went (further) nuts and accused him of lying.

    • avatar mezzicun says:

      It’s unfortunate, but until they are not able to make money denying reality, it won’t change much.

  3. avatar Ernie Konnyu says:

    The increased growth in income of the richest one percent of America has not occured since 2007 paralellel with the decline in capital gains starting in 2008, the major reason for California’s decline in tax receipts.

    The liberal dogma that you tax the rich even more disproportionately than they are taxed now chases the rich from California along with the jobs they create through investing the money they earned that is not needed for daily expenses.

    If you do not like the 1.2 million jobs California lost the last few years perhaps you ought to come up with some other method to satisfy your economic morality than soaking the rich even more. An example to follow is Texas where they do not have state income tax at all. Why do I write that? Well! During the same period that California lost !.2 million jobs Texas gained about 175,000. Get the point libs?!!!

    • avatar Andy says:

      It also rained a lot more the past two years, but I don’t blame that for the economy. There is no evidence that wealth flees thsi state because of its tax burden, certainly not the sales and vehicle tax proposed fro extension.

      By this logic, West LA, Atherton, and the Sans (Francisco, Monica, etc.) would be ghost towns.

  4. avatar chrisfinnie says:

    Ernie, Ernie, Ernie. There you go again.

    Texas has a $27 billion deficit and almost no state spending they can cut because they’ve already cut services to the legal limit. If they cut past that, they imperil their federal matching funds–which will only make their deficit worse. Yes, they’ve created jobs. But the vast majority of them are part-time, minimum-wage jobs. Because these workers can’t pay for basic living expenses on what they make, they put an additional strain on state services. So don’t give me any fairy stories about Texas. Or at least don’t expect me to believe them. Because I don’t get my “facts” from Faux Noise.

    Corporations and the rich were taxed at much higher rates during the Eisenhower administration than they are now. They were still rich. The economy was booming. The middle class grew. People were moving to California. Tax rates on both groups were higher during the Reagan administration than they are now. Same during the Clinton administration–when we slashed the deficit and also had a booming economy. If you just want to look at California, taxes were higher when the first governor Brown was building the UC system. And the economy was booming and people were still moving to California.

    None of this is my opinion. You can look it up and verify it yourself. And none of it supports your contentions.

    • avatar Ernie Konnyu says:

      Thank you Chris and SezMe for pointing out the fallacy in your ideological explanations through your explanations.

      Try to negate the impact of 1.2 million lost California jobs on those who lost them and their families. And try to explain to them that had their jobs been in net job creating Texas they would likely still be working.

      You see, despite your intelligence, lefty ideological smoke and mirrors do not cover up real human California misery.

  5. avatar SezMe says:

    Ernie, Ernie, Ernie. There you go again.

    The rich don’t invest in California jobs with the money above their living needs. If this was true we’d have a unemployment rate of 3%. There are trillions of dollars on corporate asset sheets that are not going into jobs – again in California. But job growth overseas is high because THAT is where the big money is going.

    And as Chrisfinnie points out, don’t drag out that Texas nonsense. In the last few years California has seen around 350 new biotech firms created while Texas has had fewer than 50. Why? Because the educational system in Texas mostly turns out dumbasses, not well qualified high-tech workers. I mean, if it’s so great why don’t YOU move there?

  6. avatar Merton Hanks says:

    Hopefully when gavin goes on his “fact finding” mission he’ll be able to debunk all of the Texas fairy tales. Not going to hold my breath, however.

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