Support your local tyrants!

Government tyranny is hardly restricted to the federal government. Many people believe that the worst governmental tyrannies of all are committed by local government. New York and San Francisco have become infamous for regulating food and drinks, and San Francisco has led the way towards the use of invasive recycling police, banning the sale of pets, and much more. California GOP state Chair Ron Nehring was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle as saying that "San Francisco epitomizes that local government can be the most tyrannical level of government."

I don't mean to leave out Los Angeles, though. Bankrupt though the city is, tyranny is nevertheless a booming business:

The City is $500 million in the red. Rather than do what is necessary - cut expenses and show leadership - Villaraigosa and the spineless City Council has taken to terrorizing the city's residents by slamming them with fees. This includes sharp increases in fines for parking and directives to the LAPD to "increase traffic enforcement".

With respect to fees, in a recent controversy involving the LA Department of Water and Power (LADWP), Villaraigosa attempted to strong-arm the City Council into approving a 37% rate increase. He has tripled the city's trash collection fees, and supports ballot measures to increase other taxes on city residents, including additional property tax surcharges.

In another terrific piece by the L.A. Weekly, reporter Michael Goldstein notes that, despite 13% unemployment, Villaraigosa and his hacks have instituted these regressive taxes with no regard for the citizenry. Rather than include his staff of 205 in budget cuts, Villaraigosa saw fit to raise parking ticket fines. The city plans to double the number of red-light cameras by next year - despite mounting evidence that they contribute to accidents rather than prevent them. This, while he and the City Council drive free cars with free gas, are exempt from parking tickets, and make 4 times the median income of LA residents, according to Mr. Goldstein.

Sources have informed me that the LAPD has been told to increase traffic enforcement....

And you know what that means.

Need I mention red light cameras?

Insane as it sounds, cities are also busily installing RFID spy chips on recycling bins, so that they can snoop on people's garbage habits, and send in the garbage cops to collar the dangerous criminals who neglected to separate their glass and plastic.

And in my previous home town of Philadelphia, the greedy government bureaucrats are demanding that bloggers get $300 business licenses!

even if your blog collects a handful of hits a day, as long as there's the potential for it to be lucrative -- and, as Mandale points out, most hosting sites set aside space for bloggers to sell advertising -- the city thinks you should cut it a check. According to Andrea Mannino of the Philadelphia Department of Revenue, in fact, simply choosing the option to make money from ads -- regardless of how much or little money is actually generated -- qualifies a blog as a business. The same rules apply to freelance writers. As former City Paper news editor Doron Taussig once lamented [Slant, "Taxed Out," April 28, 2005], the city considers freelancers -- which both Bess and Barry are, in addition to their blog work -- "businesses," and requires them to pay for a license and pay taxes on their profits, on top of their state and federal taxes.

Mannino says the city doesn't keep track of how many bloggers and small-website owners are affected.

Via Glenn Reynolds, who adds,
As our profligate politicos get more and more desperate for cash, look for more stuff along these lines.
Glenn also links Dan Riehl's post and Investors Business Daily, which says this:
Philly bloggers, as well as tax watchdogs and speech guardians outside the city, are understandably upset. If city hall can tax speech, it can tax anything. What -- and who -- is next? Should Philadelphia get away with this, other cities will surely follow. Constitutional rights are small hurdles for covetous lawmakers.
Naturally, they justify their tyrannical behavior by saying they need the money. What I'd like to know is why they're singling out a few starving bloggers as "businesses." What about sellers on Craigslist and Ebay? Is the city sending out $300.00 invoices to all of them too? Why not? I am sure there are many thousands of precisely such unlicensed online "businesses" (which surely make much more money than bloggers do) so what gives?


Maybe I shouldn't be giving the tyrants ideas.

Of course, it might be that bloggers are seen as an easier target because they are relatively few in number, whereas so many people sell on Craigslist and Ebay that if the city went after them there'd be massive public uproar, with a resultant backlash at the polls.

What I cannot understand is this: what psychological mechanism causes so many apparently normal people who live in cities to vote for these greedy and profligate tyrants who then turn right around and regulate, tax, nanny, herd into crowded trains, and generally butt into the lives the people who elected them? And what's even more baffling is why so many of these same voters see their cities' very bankruptcies as a reason to vote for the people whose policies did it.

Really, I don't get it.

Is there such a thing as voter masochism?

Or is all masochism local?

posted by Eric on 08.24.10 at 03:56 PM


Ugh. There's no tyrant like a local tyrant.

TallDave   ·  August 24, 2010 7:42 PM

Is there such a thing as voter masochism?

Only as a kind of investment, I think. To see (or to feel assured of) other people getting pushed around in a worse (or more deserved (or totally undeserved)) way, they'll take some abuse, too.
The mechanism doesn't have a name, exactly, but the subclass of sadism Theodore Millon called "enforcing" describes the type well, and Deleuze and Guattari famously defined fascism as at its core a will to "stake your own death against the death of others," which pretty much covers it.

guy on internet   ·  August 24, 2010 11:33 PM

The difference, of course, is that if local tyranny gets too onerous people can vote with their feet by moving away. I don't suffer at all (except for my part of the federal tax money that bails out other states and municipalities - that's another issue) from California's or California's cities' local tyrannies. And if I feel my local politicians are pushing policies that are too much to swallow I can start a movement to change it or I can leave if my attempt to change my fellow locals' thinking fails.

That changes exponentially once the tyranny becomes a national phenomenon. While there are difficulties involved in a move from California to say, Texas, they are nothing compared to the difficulties in changing countries. That tyranny will still lay claim to you in the form of taxation, as I understand it, for about 10 years. Individual states and cities still don't have that power.

Crawdad   ·  August 25, 2010 10:26 AM

Individual states and cities still don't have that power.

I bet that in short order California will try to have that power.
I read the Adobe, twitter and eBay, and a few other CA firms, are moving to Utah.

I figure, California legislators are currently trying to figure out how they can keep collecting taxes from them.

Veeshir   ·  August 25, 2010 1:22 PM

we shut down a large warehouse facility and moved it about 40 miles across the border to Nevada. The simple act of moving operations resulted in about $1.2M in savings per year because, at the time, California decided that inventory was subject to tax. Hint: large warehouses have lots of inventory.

Veeshir   ·  August 26, 2010 9:27 AM

The Republicans are so funny, when the economy is good you say let’s all celebrate “Cinco de Mayo, my brothers” but when the economy is down “it’s all your fault, you damn immigrant”. When most Americans (with Latin America roots) go to the polls this November we will remember that the GOP has gone on a nationwide rant in proposing and passing several anti-immigration legislation (that our US Courts continue to strike down) and have continue to blame the immigrant for the flat economy or worse. We will remember who stands with us and who stands against us, so trying to stop it now is somewhat funny, but go ahead, you will not change our minds. Plus the more radical of the GOP are now attacking our Constitution and our Bill of Rights, in a misguided attempt to garner some much needed votes, they really are fools, and leading the GOP towards obscurity because they are no longer a party of ideas, just of empty suits. Your hate made you do it, in November; you will reap what you have sown. I wonder what Abraham Lincoln would say about todays GOP, he unlike the current GOP was a man of ideas.

Benito   ·  August 26, 2010 4:54 PM

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