Under the Perfect Sun

In the Midst of this Disastrous Failure of Public Policy – ‘There Should Be Shame’

March 30, 2020 by Jim Miller

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is Right

By Jim Miller

Last week in the lead up to the passage of the massive stimulus bill by Congress, I argued that “Whichever package emerges today from the Congress will not be nearly enough to help the majority of Americans weather this crisis. Trump’s hesitance to use the tools of government to take more effective collective action is a predictable product of thirty years of rightwing ideological assault against not just ‘big government,’ but the government period.”

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Enter the Disaster Capitalists

March 23, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

We’ve seen this before: crisis as opportunity. Whether it be the ways the right-wing and corporate America took advantage of 9/11 to shape economic policy and the political landscape in their favor, the shameless opportunism in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, or the host of other ways that American society has been transformed for the worse by the power elite over the last few decades.

Here we go again.

As Naomi Klein commented last week :

Look, we know this script. In 2008, the last time we had a global financial meltdown, the same kinds of bad ideas for no-strings-attached corporate bailouts carried the day, and regular people around the world paid the price. And even that was entirely predictable.

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American Fecklessness in the Time of Pandemic

March 16, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

After waiting a week for California’s and San Diego’s glacial election returns, I had planned to write a post-election column. Then the COVID-19 pandemic got real and everything changed. As a professor at San Diego City College and as the father of a high school student, I was thrust into the chaos that “social distancing” brings to educational institutions and family.

In between planning for teaching virtually for three weeks (or perhaps the rest of the semester) and dealing with the contradictory stew of confusion, panic, fear, hostility, sadness, as well as with the personal courage, compassion, and community solidarity that arose all around me, I talked to friends and family who were slow to respond and watched their retirement and/or college funds collapse before they had time to act as the stock market went on its manic roller coaster ride.

Poof! the markets were gutted. Would they come back in time? Nobody knows.

As for my working-class students, mostly of color, the scary thing was not the stock market, but their lack of healthcare and their need to work

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‘Reclaiming Our Stories 2’: City Works Press Presents More Voices From Southeast San Diego

March 9, 2020 by Jim Miller

San Diego City College Release Events: Tuesday 3/10 at 12:45 in MS 140 and Wednesday 3/18 at 11:10 in MS 162

San Diego City Works Press is proud to announce the release of Reclaiming Our Stories 2.

Reclaiming Our Stories 2 is the sequel to San Diego City Works Press’s wildly successful Reclaiming Our Stories: Narratives of Identity, Resilience and Empowerment that went through multiple print runs. As editors Khalid (Paul) Alexander, Manuel Paul López, Darius Spearman, and Ebony Tyree put it in the introduction to this anthology, Reclaiming Our Stories 2 is in –

the tradition of a literature—beginning with the slave narrative—that counters hegemony and white supremacy. These stories offer a glimpse into the lives of real people in their own words; they put a human face to members of our communities who have been marginalized, labeled as criminals, and discarded by our society.

Most of the authors are first-generation college students who have all survived and continue their struggle to overcome the constant challenges of being Black, Brown, and poor in San Diego.

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3 Most Key Votes for San Diego’s Primary: Yes on ‘A’, Georgette Gomez and Bernie Sanders

March 2, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

March 3rd is primary day, and if you’ve been too busy to pay much attention, here, in my estimation, are the three most important things progressive San Diegans can do in tomorrow’s election:

Vote Against Sprawl and for Development that Will Help us Fight Climate Change in San Diego County, Vote Yes on A

As I wrote last fall about this measure, despite all the developer money and political muscle against it:

This much-needed measure will prevent sprawl by giving San Diego County residents a voice in how and where development happens in our region. If passed, it would require voter approval of changes to San Diego’s General Plan that would increase housing density in rural and semi-rural areas.

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Facts We Hate

February 24, 2020 by Jim Miller

In Our Moment of Profound Ecological Crisis and Historic Economic Inequality, Sanders is Our Best Hope for a Just and Sustainable Future

By Jim Miller

Last week in the midst of Trump’s revanchist frenzy and the “centrist” anxiety attack in progress that is the Democratic Presidential primary race, a small story in the Guardian noted the release of a statement by 23 former foreign ministers calling for urgent action on the climate crisis and the dramatic loss of biodiversity now in progress.

In advance of a meeting in Rome to begin negotiations on a Paris-style agreement on preserving the natural world, these international leaders starkly observed that, “Humanity sits on the precipice of irreversible loss of biodiversity and a climate crisis that imperils the future for our grandchildren and generations to come. The world must act boldly, and it must act now.”

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Will Georgette Gomez Cut through the Wall of Sara Jacobs’ Paid Ads or Will Jacobs Buy Her Way into Congress?

February 17, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Will Sara Jacobs Be Able to Buy Her Way into Congress or Will Georgette Gomez Cut through the Wall of Paid Advertisements?

If it seems like you can’t keep up with the depressing news about American politics or even try to escape it by watching something else without seeing a Sara Jacobs for Congress commercial, you aren’t crazy.

By this point in the election cycle, I find myself wanting to throw my shoe at the TV every time it tells me that teachers love Jacobs (even though they have endorsed Georgette Gomez) or that she wants to work across the aisle to solve problems (centrist pablum alert). It’s just that pervasive — so much so that the other candidates in the race are practically invisible.

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Bloomberg Isn’t Here to Save Our Democracy, He’s Part of What’s Wrong with It

February 10, 2020 by Jim Miller

by Jim Miller

After the Iowa debacle ended with an embarrassing mess that left Sanders and Buttigieg on top of the wreckage with Joe Biden struggling for air underneath it, a good number of corporate media pundits and panicked Democrats have been learning to love Mike Bloomberg.

Their lack of confidence in the inexperience of Mayor Pete, whose polling plummets once the primaries move to states with people who aren’t white, combined with their fear of a Democratic Socialist frontrunner has them pining for a billionaire savior.

With Trump riding high on his post-impeachment acquittal and the Democratic party not looking ready for prime time, many in establishment circles as well as fearful liberals terrified of the prospect of Trump’s re-election are finding solace in Bloomberg …

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Impeachment, the Centrist Delusion, and the Democratic Primary

February 3, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

If there is one thing the impeachment trial has taught us, it’s that anyone who thought there would be enough fair-minded Republicans to even allow witnesses to testify was painfully naïve. This whole thing was over before it started.

What are the lessons? Newsflash: the contemporary Republican party doesn’t care about bipartisanship or even truth or basic decency. If you are not on team Trump, their mission is defame and defeat you, pure and simple. In sum, reasonable NPR listening Democrats, your friends across the aisle mean you ill.

And none of this should come as even the slightest bit of a surprise as the hard-right, dark money forces that own the Republican party have been playing for keeps and winning for years.

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Union Density Continues to Decline: What Does this Mean for American Democracy?

January 27, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

If you’ve been paying attention to the news about labor over the last year or so, you’d think we were in an era of a resurgent union movement. We’ve seen a wave of inspiring, militant teachers’ strikes from West Virginia to Los Angeles along with a successful autoworkers’ strike against General Motors and lots of other signs of life from grocery workers’ actions to pushes for minimum wage increases across America. Unfortunately, the latest numbers on union membership paint a more disappointing picture.

As the Washington Post reported last week:

Union membership in the American workforce was down to 10.3 percent from 10.5 percent in 2018, according to statistics released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The continued slide shows how energy and momentum around the labor movement is not translating into equivalent growth for unions, whose memberships have fallen sharply as a percentage of the U.S. workforce over the past roughly 40 years. In 1983, unions represented about 1 out of 5 workers; now it’s 1 in 10 workers.

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This Martin Luther King Jr. Day Is Not a Day to Celebrate.

January 20, 2020 by Jim Miller

The United States at Present is an Affront to the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

By Jim Miller

With the election of Barack Obama, many hoped that the United States had finally taken a decisive step away from its racist past and was perhaps on the road to more fully embodying Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a truly democratic and racially and economically just America.

Sadly, only a few years after the end of Obama’s tenure, it’s clear that nothing could be further from the truth. Rather than bending the arc of history toward justice, it seems that the first black president’s two terms, politically moderate as they turned out to be, ironically did much to fuel the fire of white backlash and emboldened reactionary plutocrats to roll back the clock in a myriad of other ways as well.

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Looking Backwards: Taking Stock of the 10 Key Moments and Trends of the Last Decade

January 13, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

I took a week off from my soapbox for some holiday traveling and came home to a world on the brink of spiraling into a dangerous new global conflict. It wasn’t surprising.

In fact, crisis-all-the-time is our new normal, the zeitgeist of our era. While it would be easy to point to Trump as the central player in our increasingly overwrought national drama, the fact is that many of the trends that helped to shape the present preceded his presidency.

Thus, as we head into a new decade with the future on the line like it never has been before, it might be useful to consider some of the key moments of the last ten years along with the social, political, and economic forces that fostered them.

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Censored 2019: The Top 5 Most Under-Reported Stories of the Year

December 30, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Annually, Project Censored releases a list of the most under-reported stories of the year. In the past, their endeavor sometimes got pushback from defenders of the corporate media who claimed that their version of “censorship” was too loose or that it implied a corporate conspiracy that doesn’t exist. As I wrote in this space before, both of those criticisms fall flat.

Why?

Project Censored’s definition of censorship is a nuanced one:

We define Modern Censorship as the subtle yet constant and sophisticated manipulation of reality in our mass media outlets. On a daily basis, censorship refers to the intentional non-inclusion of a news story – or piece of a news story – based on anything other than a desire to tell the truth.

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Three Literary Stocking Gifts for Year Three of the Trump Era: Reading for Dark Times

December 23, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

If you just can’t bring yourself to give up on the sordid consumer frenzy and go all in for a Buy Nothing Christmas , then perhaps getting your loved ones a few good books (from local bookstores) to help them navigate our dark times is the next best thing.

Here are three notable political books of 2019 that flew further under the radar than they should have:

Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America
by Christopher Leonard.

Building on the excellent work done by Jane Mayer in Dark Money and Nancy MacLean in Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, Christopher Leonard outlines seven years of research into how the Kochtopus was born and grew into a nightmare for American democracy.

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It’s Not Time to Vote for the Rich or their Apologists, It’s Time to Tax Them

December 16, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

There’s been a wave of pushback of late against progressive calls for big structural change. Corporate media pundits and neoliberal Democrats alike have been raising the alarm that America is not ready for bold policy when it comes to economics, healthcare, the environment, or anything else.

At the heart of much of this is the contention that it’s all too expensive and the Republicans will scare suburbanites into voting for Trump with cries of socialism and high taxes. Whatever we do, the argument goes, we need to beat back Warren and Sanders so Mayor Pete, Joe Biden, or maybe even Michael Bloomberg can come in and save the day with a healthy dose of “centrism.”

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Underneath Impeachment: 25 Random Headlines from Last Week

December 9, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Her Heart Stopped for 6 hours. Now She’s Ready to go Back to Work

Fractured Forests Are Endangering Wildlife, Scientists Find

Killer Heat: US Cities’ Plans for Coming Heatwaves Fail to Protect the Vulnerable

Eight-Year-Old Girl Strip-Searched Before Visiting Father at Prison

No Sex in the Bunkbeds!: Tales from the Most Intimate Sharing Economy Start Up Yet

Google’s Anti-Worker Actions Evoke IBM’s Racist Past

This Has Been the Warmest Decade in Earth’s History

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After Black Friday

December 2, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Nowhere to go, nothing to acquire. That’s the endgame.

As is the tradition in my house, we spent Black Friday in the desert wandering in search of Nothing. It’s been both a way to escape the toxic insanity of the soul-crushing consumer frenzy that defines what we call the holidays and how we teach our kid that life is about people and experiences, not buying more shit.

This idea is by no means original to us but comes out of the post-Situationist ethos of folks like those who founded Adbusters and other proponents of Buy Nothing Day, the international protest against over-consumption that encourages us all to enjoy what they call:

[A] day where you challenge yourself, your family and friends to switch off from shopping and tune into life. The rules are simple, for 24 hours you will detox from shopping and anyone can take part provided they spend a day without spending!

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Thanksgiving and American Mythology

November 25, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

As we head into the holiday season in the midst of one of the most divisive cultural and political moments in U.S. history, many people might be looking to the long American tradition of Thanksgiving as a moment of solace that evokes national unity.

Unfortunately, just like the wholesome fantasies of the Golden Era of bipartisanship that never existed being sold in some political quarters, the story of the first Thanksgiving is equally mythological. It’s not just that tales of the first Thanksgiving that many of us learned in school or around our family dinner tables are largely inaccurate,

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Bashing the Sixties in the Trump Era?

November 18, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Mike Wise hates the Sixties.

Last week in an odd, contextless opinion piece in the Washington Post , Wise let loose his word hoard in a strange screed bemoaning what he sees as a wave of naïve nostalgia about the much maligned and romanticized decade. In sum, the piece is his chance to “tell everyone to stop the revisionist history and shut the hell up.”

What seems to have set him off was a Janis Joplin revival and a 60 Minutes feature on research into psychedelics. A sample:

Interest in hallucinogenic drugs has rarely been stronger. The Oct. 13 episode of “60 Minutes” featured Johns Hopkins University’s ongoing psilocybin research studies.

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The Toll of Endless War on American Veterans

November 11, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

As America’s endless wars grind on, largely out of view, we have become good at bombastic displays of patriotism at ballgames and other public venues, but underneath our ritualized nods to the service of our veterans the unseen psychic toll suffered by those who fight our wars remains mostly invisible.

In fact, in the age of the all-volunteer military, most of us don’t really need to think that much about it.

Still the suffering is deep and pervasive, like it or not. Many of us don’t know that one out of ten homeless people on the street is a veteran (with some estimates putting it much higher). Thus, despite our official love of veterans, as a society we are clearly quite comfortable treating them like disposable people. Think about that the next time you see somebody sleeping in a storefront doorway: perhaps that person risked their life for your country.

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Building a New World Out of the Ashes of the Old

November 4, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

One day last week, I was sitting at a table in a public space in San Diego doing political advocacy around education funding. And while the young activists I was with had a productive day and talked to a good number of engaged citizens, the thing that stood out to them the most, the thing we joked about, was the “zombie walk.”

This was the blank-faced, numb carriage of the majority of people closed off by ear buds or zoned out on their phones who couldn’t be bothered to even grant us (or anyone else for that matter) human recognition.

We were dead to them as they were to themselves.

That’s what you notice if you spend a lot of time watching people in public. It’s not that folks are angry or even alienated; they’re beyond alienation.

Of course, in the virtual world on our screens and on social media, we are full of animation, thrilled at our representations of ourselves or angry, very angry about the latest outrage usually committed by those outside of our self-selected silos.

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As We Watch California Burn Yet Again It’s Time to Say Yes to ‘Save Our San Diego Countryside’

October 28, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

California’s burning (again) with Governor Newsom declaring a state of emergency for Los Angeles and Sonoma Counties in the wake of twelve fires raging across the state. Smoke swept throughout the Bay Area and parts north and delayed flights into San Francisco. Schools were closed in the affected regions, and close to two million people suffered through pre-emptive power shut-offs to try avoiding yet more blazes.

In Los Angeles, residents agonized through hellishly hot fall temperatures and respiratory problems while blazes in San Diego county broke out in Valley View and Ramona, reviving traumatic memories of apocalyptic fires past for many. In San Diego county, the damage has been minor so far, but the hot, dry, windy conditions ensure that another firestorm is always just around the corner.

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The Season of the Angry Moderate

October 21, 2019 by Jim Miller

National Democrats: Angry Moderates Attack Solidarity in Defense of Status Quo

By Jim Miller

It appears to the be the season of the angry moderate.

At least that’s what it looked like at last week’s Democratic presidential debate, as usually smug neoliberals like Joe Biden, Mayor Pete, and Amy Klobuchar took aim at Elizabeth Warren’s and Bernie Sanders’ support of Medicare for All, with Klobuchar calling it a “pipe dream” while both Buttigieg and Biden waved the red flag of higher taxes that some Americans might be asked to pay in order to assure that everyone of us has free healthcare.

Of course, part of this is political, with Biden seemingly on the wane and Buttigieg and Klobuchar seeing an opening in the unapologetically moderate (read neoliberal) lane of the primary race. But the larger issue shouldn’t get lost under the political noise.

What the neoliberals’ attack on Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, the wealth tax and other proposals for bold structural changes reveals is the true nature of the National Democratic Party leadership.

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Labor, Community and Environmental Activists Need to Find Common Ground for a Green New Deal

October 14, 2019 by Jim Miller

Labor and the Environment Panel – Wednesday, October 16th

By Jim Miller

In Naomi Klein’s new book, On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal, she outlines precisely how challenging it will be to respond to the climate crisis in the urgent fashion called for in the last UN IPCC report:

Pulling off this high-speed pollution phaseout, the report establishes, is not possible with singular technocratic approaches like carbon taxes, though those tools must be a part. Rather it requires deliberately and immediately changing how our societies produce energy, how we grow our food, how we move ourselves around, and how our buildings are constructed.

What is needed, the report’s summary states in its first sentence, is “rapid, far reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.

In the face of this daunting task, the answer to the question “What can I do as an individual?” is, Klein tells us, “nothing.”

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American Inequality is Still Surging Along, Now is the Time to Finally Address It.

October 7, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Back in June I noted in this space that despite the mainstream media chorus about our “good economy” things weren’t so great for the average American worker when –

“4 in 10 Americans couldn’t put together $400 in cash to meet an emergency expense, 6 in 10 couldn’t meet 3 months of expenses if they lost their jobs, only 36% of workers are on track with their retirement savings, and a quarter of Americans have skipped some kind of medical treatment in the past year because of finances.”

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An Enduring Progressive Majority in San Diego is Possible

September 30, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

As we move into yet another election cycle, perhaps it might be useful to start with a little perspective. Back in 2003 in the introduction to Under the Perfect Sun, Mike Davis, Kelly Mayhew, and I summarized the political landscape of San Diego as such:

War, tourist spectacle, endangered dissent: these are the perennial axes of modern San Diego history. Here, where illusion is a civic virtue, reality has always nestled inside spectacle like a set of Russian nesting dolls.

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Student Voices from the San Diego Climate Walkout

September 23, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Last Friday – Sept.20 – , students in San Diego joined millions of people across the world and participated in the youth-led Global Climate Strike. In the face of condescending calls from many adult “leaders” for gradualist political “realism” to address the threat of mass extinction, young people are standing up to demand solutions commensurate with the problem we face.

What stands out to me about the message these young people are delivering is how clearly they see what far too many of their elders fail to recognize: that the responsibility for the climate crisis does not just fall on “all of us” equally but is disproportionately being driven by the global elite. Along with that, young people see that what we need is “systemic change” not incrementalism. Their clear-eyed analysis and urgency should inspire us all to wake up and stop failing future generations with yet more political cowardice.

Inside are two local voices

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Corporate Mea Culpas, Corrupt New Democrats, and Progressive Populists

September 9, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

This just in: our corporate overlords have turned over a new leaf. At least that’s what they were saying publicly quite recently. As the New York Times reported :

Nearly 200 chief executives, including the leaders of Apple, Pepsi and Walmart, tried on Monday to redefine the role of business in society — and how companies are perceived by an increasingly skeptical public.

Breaking with decades of long-held corporate orthodoxy, the Business Roundtable issued a statement on “the purpose of a corporation,” arguing that companies should no longer advance only the interests of shareholders. Instead, the group said, they must also invest in their employees, protect the environment and deal fairly and ethically with their suppliers.

What to make of this development? Not too much, most likely.

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Labor Day 2019: Unions Weather the Storm and Look to Build a Brighter Future

September 2, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

These last few years have been particularly challenging times for the American Labor movement as we’ve faced everything from a host of anti-labor policies coming from Washington to a Supreme Court decision designed to gut public sector unions. The good news is that despite all of that, the union movement has persevered and the number of Americans who support unions and say they would like the opportunity to join one is the highest it has been in decades.

Of course, the difficulties that unions face aren’t just the product of the politics of the present. They are, as labor writer Steven Greenhouse observes, the product of what he calls an American “anti-worker exceptionalism” that makes us stand out in comparison to most other developed nations with our lack of things like national laws guaranteeing maternity leave, paid sick days, or vacation time.

The United States also has one of the lowest minimum wages

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Much Needed Prop 13 Reform Is on It’s Way with ‘Schools and Communities First’ Ballot Measure

August 26, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

There is a movement afoot to reform Proposition 13, with community organizations aligned with labor promoting the Schools and Communities First ballot measure. Why would anyone want to touch the third rail of California politics? The answer is simple: we can keep its central benefit to homeowners while closing an unnecessary corporate loophole that will help our schools, cities, and counties across California.

Ever since its passage in 1978, Proposition 13 has starved California’s schools and local governments of funding. While the measure was pitched as a way to keep individual homeowners from being buried by taxes, the real beneficiaries of Prop. 13 were not elderly folks or other vulnerable groups struggling to hang on to their homes, but super rich corporate property holders.

What most voters don’t know about Proposition 13 is that it gave huge commercial property owners like Disneyland the same tax break as your grandmother.

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