Nurses, Teachers, Expose Secret Wealthy Donors to Anti-Prop.30 Campaign in Political Parody
If Proposition 30 passes, some of California’s wealthiest people might actually have to suffer the indignity of owning merely four yachts instead of five. That was the premise behind an event that registered nurses and teachers held Tuesday morning in San Francisco in front of the St. Francis Yacht Club to lampoon the mentality of a group of secretive, billionaire donors who are opposing the initiative.
Under the banner “Bungling Billionaires for Preserving Our Privilege,” nurses and teachers representatives dressed up in tuxedos, smoking jackets, and preppy sailing attire acted out the parts of John Cox, Floyd Kvanne, David Marquardt, and Mark Stevens – all mega-rich donors who in real life have formed a group called “Californians for Reforms and Jobs Not Taxes” to defeat Prop. 30.
“In these recessionary times, I’m down to four yachts in this harbor!” cried “Marquardt,” a Republican venture capitalist. They attempted to christen their new alliance with a bottle of champagne on a model sailboat before nurses and teachers used lifesaver rings to chase them away.
“These amateur multimillionaires are playing with our state's future like they play with their yachts and other toys,” said Malinda Markowitz, RN, and a co-president of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United. “Why are they funneling hordes of cash against a campaign to protect our schools, our healthcare safety net, and other vital California services simply to avoid paying a little more of their fair share?”
“We see life-and-death situations every day in our hospitals and, now, the life of our Golden State is on the line,” said Deborah Burger, a co president of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United, the country’s biggest union of registered nurses.
“We are 47th in per pupil spending in the richest state in the richest country,” said Sunny Dawn, a second-grade teacher at Cleveland Elementary School in San Francisco. “We’re here to make sure people pay their fair share and the best way to do that right now is Prop. 30.”
One of the most interesting counterpoints to the anti-Prop. 30 crowd came from Frank Jernigan, a retired San Francisco software engineer who made millions from his last job at Google and would be directly affected by the tax. Jernigan strongly supports Proposition 30 and views the small tax increase as a way for people like him, who can easily afford it, to help out his state in these tough financial times.
“I’m now in the 1 percent because I benefited from a lot of the services that society had to offer,” said Jernigan, pointing out that he went to public schools, graduated from a state-funded college, and made his fortune off the Internet, which was originally government-funded infrastructure. “It’s only fair. For me, an extra 2 or 3 percent in taxes is not going to make a bit of difference in how I live day to day.” But he said the revenue, up to $8 billion per year, could mean a world of difference for a student.
“Proposition 30 is an important first step to address the health impacts from our budget crisis. The nurses worked hard to elect Jerry Brown; now we will work harder to have him succeed as a governor who will fight for our communities,” said Burger.
Prop 30, endorsed by the California Nurses Association and the California Federation of Teachers, would raise $9 billion in the first year, and $6 billion every year for six years after that, mostly through a small increase in taxes for the top income brackets, starting at households making $500,000 or more per year, as well as a temporary one-quarter of a cent increase in the state sales tax. The revenue would go directly to education and public safety, while freeing up general fund dollars for healthcare, childcare, and other critical services.