The Washington Monument Strategy Backfires

When governments want to cry poor in order to justify raising taxes, they often use a well-worn strategy, known as the Washington Monument strategy – that is, close down services that the public actually wants rather than the vast majority that the public doesn’t want.

California’s governor, Jerry Brown, pulled this stunt in order to increase the chances that voters would approve higher taxes this fall. He threatened to close many of California’s beautiful parks. As usual with government, there was no actual shortage of money, but this time the fraud was discovered.

Testimony from 30 interviews with state employees portrays parks administrators who appeared to have the opposite problem from one long described by Gov. Jerry Brown – excess cash left over and not enough ways to spend it.

That was the case in June 2011, when the investigation found former parks administrator Manuel Thomas Lopez tapped some of the funds for a cash buyout of accumulated leave without authorization. The state Resources Agency made transcripts available late Friday from the completed report by Deputy Attorney General Corinne Murphy on Lopez’s actions.

Brown’s administration revealed last month that the parks department had long hidden $54 million without reporting it to the Department of Finance and state lawmakers, who have constitutional authority over spending in California.

It is amazing that Brown’s tax increases are still ahead in the polls, although they have lost considerable support since the scandals broke. But when the majority of the people are receiving re-distribution from the government, why would they not vote to raise taxes?

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