Brian Baker: High cost of feel-good taxes


On March 7 we’re having an election in this county, and there’s only one thing on the ballot in the SCV: Measure H, a proposal to increase the sales tax countywide by one-quarter percent to “Prevent and Combat Homelessness.”

It sounds so noble: prevent homelessness! And so cheap, too. Only one-quarter of one percent increase in the sales tax!

But let’s take off the rose-colored glasses and deal with reality. First, homelessness will never be “prevented,” and the problem can never be “solved.” That’s just a fact of life.

Decades ago it was public policy to involuntarily confine and institutionalize the homeless under various vagrancy and other such laws.

But those laws were ultimately – and rightfully, in my opinion – deemed to be an unconstitutional infringement on their right to autonomy and self-determination, so such practices were banned.

That means that today’s homeless can’t be forced to do anything unless they’ve actually broken some law.

It’s also important to understand and accept that a significant portion, maybe the majority, of homeless people are in that condition either by choice (yes, there are those who actually choose to be homeless) or because they suffer from some condition (drugs, alcohol, mental deficiency) that makes them incapable of functioning in a structured and/or ordered environment. Therefore, by default there are going to be many people who simply won’t avail themselves of anything offered by this measure if it passes.

So though this tax increase may provide some programs, policies and facilities that might help some of the homeless, in no way will it “prevent” homelessness.

In fact, the long-term result may be completely the opposite as human nature asserts itself. As word of such programs spreads, L.A. County may find itself the destination of choice for homeless folks now living in other areas who then hit the road to come here, increasing our homeless population, a classic example of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Then there’s the idea that this is such a “cheap” solution. Well, as I’ve just pointed out, it’s not a “solution” at all. And as we consider the money aspect, is it really even “cheap”?

The statewide sales tax rate is 7.25 percent, but here in L.A. County it’s currently 8.75 percent, which is 1.5 percent higher than the rest of the state.

That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s 20 percent more than the basic state sales tax rate. Twenty percent higher already!

This proposal would add yet another quarter-cent sales tax to the current rate, raising the county’s sales tax rate to 9.0 percent. That would place us second only to Alameda for having the highest county sales tax rate. (

How did we get to this position? Simple. By repeatedly passing feel-good tax increase propositions like this one.

Just in the last election we passed Measure M, which continued an already extant one-half cent sales tax, as well as adding another half a percent. Which means that if Measure H passes we’ll have added, for all intents and purposes, a 1.25 percent sales tax hike in less than one year.

None of this even takes into account the constant bombardment of other taxes we’re repeatedly being hit with, such as gas tax increases, school bonds (yes, bonds are a de facto tax), “usage fees” and every other gimmick the do-gooders and social engineers in government can come up with to euchre us out of our hard-earned money – at least those of us who are actually still “earning” any.

When is enough going to be enough? Because let’s face it; when this program ends up not actually “preventing” homelessness, which is exactly how things will turn out, what do you think is going to happen?

They’re going to come back to the well for another drink. Yet another tax increase in some form or another will be put on the table. The very personification of “creeping socialism.”

Let’s put a stop to this right now. Vote “no” on Measure H.

Brian Baker is a Saugus resident.

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