Fixing California's budget, governing and tax systems is awfully complicated. So here's a cause that everyone can understand:
Release Kim Kardashian's state tax returns.
The Courage Campaign, a network of progressives, has received some attention -- and drawn some criticism -- with the above web ad, which argues that the reality TV star/sex symbol can afford to pay a little more in state taxes. The ad -- in service of a possible initiative to raise taxes on the rich next year -- notes that, based on her income of $12 million, her California state income tax rate is only one percentage point higher, at 10.3 percent, than the rate of a middle-class Californian who makes $47,000 a year (9.3 percent).
But how do we really know? Courage and everyone else is guessing at what she really pays in taxes. Kardashian could be using deductions or other tax avoidance strategies to pay even less. If so, she wouldn't be the first. Frank and Jamie McCourt, the departing owners of the Dodgers, paid no state income taxes in the years 2004-2009, even though they had income of more than $100 million, according to news reports.
So c'mon, Courage. It's time to take the next step, to mobilize your network and demand that Kardashian -- perhaps the state's leading public figure in these deranged times -- come forward and show us her assets. And her tax returns.
Yes, she may refuse. But what argument could she possibly employ? That she prefers to be modest about her lifestyle? That releasing her taxes would be an insult to her dignity? That she values her privacy?
We've seen everything else. So let's see the taxes.
Such a release would be very good for the public, and not just for nosy bloggers and progressive networks throwing Kardashian's name into the conversation in a cynical bid for web hits (such bloggers should be ashamed of themselves).
A Kardashian state tax release might force Californians who don't pay attention to confront the reality of taxation -- and discuss not merely slightly higher taxes on the wealthy (which will be the debate) but broader tax reform that could include the elimination of loopholes.