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The Nurses Tactic Won't Work With Prop 30

A nurses' union has posed as being on the side of the underdog. But in backing Prop 30, the group is backing the powerful -- and the status quo.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The California Nurses Association has finally jumped the shark.

    The nurses union has a history of putting on successful political theater that has swayed the outcome of campaigns.

    That theater often targets the wealthy and powerful and depicts them as out of touch. This worked masterfully in the send-up of "Queen Meg" Whitman during her failed 2010 run for governor.

    But this year, CNA is reprising this theater in a way that doesn't make much sense. Indeed, there is a bit of bullying in the nurses approach.

    The intended target, according to a Sacramento Bee report, is any would-be opponent of Prop 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's temporary tax hike initiative. They're staging street theater to attack "bungling billionaires" who would give money to oppose an initiative that would raise taxes, temporarily, on sales taxes and on income above $250,000.

    There are two problems with this approach. First, the no campaign hasn't raised much money. The nurses union's own $1 million donation in support of Prop 30 dwarfs the fundraising for the no side.

    But the larger problem is that the case against Prop 30 really isn't about taxes. More progressive taxation, and higher rates on the rich, makes all the sense in the world, since the wealthy have received nearly all of the income gains in recent years. If that were the only thing in the measure, it would easily pass in California.

    But Prop 30 is a long and complicated measure. It locks into the constitution funding streams for local governments, and locks in austerity levels of funding for public services. And of course, it's part of a plan by a governor who has steadfastly refused to address the broken governance system in California.

    There are a host of better options -- to raise taxes permanently, to remake the tax system to produce more and more reliable revenues, to rebuild the budget process, to reform governance so the pieces of California's system work together.

    Prop 30 does none of this. It's narrow and small. There should be a big open debate about Prop 30 and about the broken system. But the nurses seem determined to restrict that debate, by going after anyone who might contribute against Prop 30.

    So in this case, the nurses have sided with the powerful, including the governor, and the wealthy who have mostly given in favor of this measure. It doesn't make sense for the union, at lea

    Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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    st in this case, to pose as being on the side of the underdog.