California to Meathead: Stifle Yourself

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Like a lifetime achievement Oscar, the self-destruction of Rob Reiner is a reward you always knew you'd get if you just stuck around long enough. The artist formerly known as Mike Stivic is under pressure to resign his chairmanship of California's First 5 Commission following news that the commission used $23 million in public funds to campaign for Propostion 82, a universal-preschool tax that will be on the ballot in June. Democratic state Senate majority leader Gloria Romero says Reiner's commission "crossed the line," while Republican state Senator Dave Cox, dismissing Reiner's argument that he recused himself from the actual decision to spend money on Prop 82 (as he was working on Prop 82 itself), says Reiner must resign, and has asked Governor Schwarzenegger to replace him if he doesn't go willingly. The state legislature will audit First 5's books within the next few months.

Reiner claims he didn't know anything about the $23 million TV commercials, and in a raucous press conference yesterday, defended himself on several fronts: that he had recused himself from the campaign finance decision, that the $23 million ad campaign was legal, and that anyway he's going to be wasting at least this much money on Rumor Has It 2, so what's the big deal? Reason, which over the years has given Reiner more raspberries than Archie Bunker ever managed to do, has some answers: Before Prop 82 made it onto the ballot, Lisa Snell and Shikha Dalmia pointed out that an almost identical program has had devastating effects in the province of Quebec. Jacob Sullum tagged Reiner for opposing rival cigarette-tax measures that might threaten his dubious early-learning proposals. I marveled at the Hollywood triple threat's transformation from a public scold into a powerful political player (which is at the heart of his present troubles). And back in Old '98, Jacob ashed out Meathead's original plan to tax smokers for early child education.

Special bonus: HuffPost readers heckle Reiner mercilessly.

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  1. Nope, recusing himself from the decision to do the project (fund campaign ads) isn’t enough, if he was still serving on the Board at the time it was carrying out the program.

    Conflict of interest laws exist to protect public servants, as well as the public. Now, the initiative he hoped to shepherd through might lose just because opponents can point to this dispute, regardless of merits of their complaint. Great job, Meathead. Does the phrase “…appearance of impropriety…” ring a bell?

    I quit the Board of my local Habitat for Humanity chapter for just this reason when I took my new job. I knew Habitat might be coming to town to do a project, that they might be coming before boards I do staff work for, and there was no way I was going to let myself be responsible for getting their proposal killed, by giving some unhappy camper a hook on which to hang a charge that the fix was in.

  2. I went to that Reason Las Vegas weekend last November, and one of the things that stuck with me was Lisa Snell’s presentation about Proposition 82. 82 is remarkable in its pure, unflagging devotion to evil. Rarely do we see this scale of maleficence outside Saturday morning cartoons. I hope she’s working up an article for Reason on the subject.

    larry

  3. Prop 82 is “evil”? Are you a looney? What the hell is so evil about prop 82?

  4. Of course, the comments about what a budget-buster Prop 82 is are funny when coming from Republicans, given the previous H&R post about Bush’s Johnsonian expansion of government.

  5. I never thought I’d be grateful to Reiner for anything, but this was excellent! My silly state of California just might be spared this little boondoggle thanks to his perfidy.

  6. Man, you Californians sure are cheap and short-sighted.

    JMJ

  7. What the hell is so evil about prop 82?

    It raises taxes in the service of placing children under state control at a young age?

  8. It is evil to tax people for anything not absolutely necessary–truly life or death. Income tax is not just the taking of property, it is the taking of life, since a person must spend some of their finite life earning that income. The more you tax my income, the more you make me a slave. I’ll go so far as to say that people who don’t understand this are ignorant or evil.

  9. How about that evil spending of tax dollars to enforce eviction orders, settle property line disputes, and prosecute theft? Nothing life or death there.

  10. Yeah, these anti-tax loonies have a hard time with reality. Look, why complain? It’s a regressive sales tax – so, technically, it’s optional, right? What the hell are you cons complaining about? I thought you guys were all for regressive sales taxes!

    JMJ

  11. Only a true meathead would propose an idea where the same system which is apprently incapable of teaching 5-year olds, 6-year olds, 7-year olds, 8-year olds, etc. should be the basis for now teaching 4-year olds.

  12. joe,

    and there was no way I was going to let myself be responsible for getting their proposal killed, by giving some unhappy camper a hook on which to hang a charge that the fix was in.

    But if they know your history with the organization, can’t they hang that charge on you anyway?

  13. I suppose they could try, but with the resignation and disclosure, it would be less likely to stick.

    At this point, the charge would only be that I am supportive of what Habitat for Humanity does, which is absolutely true. I can be charged with allowing my philosophical support for what Habitat does to influence my recommendations as to what the Town should do. Well, yes, guilty as charged: I think Habitat is a great group, and the Town should cooperate with them. I am drawing on my experience to give the town the best advice I can. That’s what I’m paid for.

    Were I still on the board, I’d be “serving two masters,” and could be charged with advising the Town to cooperate not because I genuinely think it’s in the Town’s interest to do so, but because I am seeking to advance Habitat’s interests. Now, there is no reason to think I have any motive to advance Habitat’s interests, other than thinking that their proposal is the right thing.

    See the difference? One is about what I actually think is right, and the other is about advocating for a specific “client.”

  14. …says Reiner must resign, and has asked Governor Schwarzenegger to replace him if he doesn’t go willingly…

    President Eisenhower warned us of the PropositionSupporter-Actor Complex.

  15. Yeah, these anti-tax loonies have a hard time with reality. Look, why complain? It’s a regressive sales tax – so, technically, it’s optional, right? What the hell are you cons complaining about? I thought you guys were all for regressive sales taxes!

    Sorry to interrupt your conversation with yourself, but it’s not a sales tax at all. It’s a 1.7 percent income tax on individuals earning more than $400,000 a year.

  16. How about that evil spending of tax dollars to enforce eviction orders, settle property line disputes, and prosecute theft? Nothing life or death there.

    I was writing specifically about income taxes. Sorry I wasn’t clear. I have a much more favorable view of taxing wealth, particularly inherited wealth, since the person who earned the wealth is dead and the heir didn’t do jack shit–didn’t spend any of their finite life–to earn it.

    Enforcement of eviction orders s/b paid for by the property owner.

    Settling property line disputes s/b paid for by the disputers.

    Prosecuting theft can involve life or death issues. This would be especially true in libertopia, since there would be no welfare state to fall back on. But in this world, the life or death issue would likely concern the thieves. If the government won’t deal with the thieves, the property owners just might resort to vigilante justice.

  17. Real Bill, are you an anarchist?

    Do you really believe that property owners who can’t afford their own security force should have no recourse to the government when someone invades their land?

  18. Back on topic, the RR preschool for all initiative is little more than a thinly disguised job-creation act for the public employee’s union.

    nmg

  19. a thinly disguised job-creation act for the public employee’s union.

    Like the man said, evil.

  20. back off topic…

    particularly inherited wealth, since the person who earned the wealth is dead and the heir didn’t do jack shit–didn’t spend any of their finite life–to earn it

    So people should have to make do for themselves (enforce their own contracts, protect their own property), except they don’t get to dispose of their property as they see fit? What is this tax going to fund since apparently government does diddly? And maybe heirs involved in a family businesses did do something to increase the value of the estate they stand to inherit?

  21. joe,

    I don’t know about your part of the country, but in the county I’m originally from in northern California, you have to pay the sheriff to evict. So, the government has a part, but the property owner must pay for the service, not the taxpayers in general.

    No, I am not an anarchist.

  22. Property line disputes s/b taken to the county surveyor and a fee s/b paid for the services of the surveyor.

  23. Grummun,

    I’d like to see income taxation reduced and inheritance taxation increased irrespective of the level of government funding. I think that this would be a winning issue: “Don’t pay your taxes now; wait until your dead!”

  24. Rob Reiner, wasn’t he with that blond chick that got really fat?

  25. The scary thing about the Quebec daycare program is that had the Liberal party not lost the recent federal election, it would have been implemented accross Canada.

  26. what I find remarkable about the special insanity of prop 82 is the unfathomable need to meddle with a successful social institution. Why capture preschool in the grasp of public services when it already works so well? In fact, it works so fantastically well that is the REASON people want to make it “for all”, yet their plan on how to do it completely abandons every aspect of the institution that made it successful and re-implements all the worst aspects of the failing public school insitution.

    For god’s sake why? Are these people evil or simply stupid on an epic scale?

    nmg

  27. nmg,

    I think many can’t stand a successful school not run by the government. To them, it’s a threat. The rest are just stupid and/or evil.

    Also, I think it’s a back-door day-care bill. These people want socialized day care.

  28. Is it just me, or do others get a violent feeling in the gut every time they hear about the government trying to take more control over the lives of children? I really, really hate these people.

    Sometimes I feel like a sailor going down with a ship named Liberty.

  29. Oh, okay Tim, I get it now. An income tax! Well then go ahead and hate it! I love it!

    JMJ

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