Return with us to those thrilling days of yesteryear, June 6, 1978, when voters approved Proposition 13in California by a landslide 65-35 percent. Proposition 13 is a constitutional amendment that limits property taxes to 1 percent of a property’s market value based on sale price and limits increases to 2 percent a year.
Proposition 13 was opposed by the political, economic, social, and educational establishments. A partial list of naysayers included the AFL-CIO, the California Teachers Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the California State Employees Association, County and Municipal Employees, Bank of America, Atlantic Richfield, Standard Oil, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, the California PTA, the League of California Cities, the Democrat Party, every major newspaper except the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, the vast majority of state legislators, the 58 county boards of supervisors, most city councils, most school board members, Governor Jerry Brown, and two Republican candidates for Governor, Pete Wilson and Ken Maddy. Opponents massively outspent supporters.
Opponents ran a campaign of fear against Proposition 13. Radio advertisements repeated that seven past presidents of the American Economic Association and 450 economists teaching in California’s universities, colleges and community colleges warned that cutting $7 billion from property taxes would savage state services and thousands of public servants would lose their jobs.
Pollsters and analysts rushed to explain Proposition 13’s unexpected victory. It was simple.
Even a majority of policemen and firefighters voted for the measure despite being warned that they would likely be the first to lose their jobs. Many told reporters that while they might lose their jobs, they were sure to lose their homes to skyrocketing property taxes unless something was done to halt government greed.
The parallel with Trump is clear. A large number of Americans are fed up with the establishment and its threats. The election of 2016 could well turn out to be a reprise of Proposition 13.