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California Focus: GOP gas-tax bluster a load of hot air

Hypocrisy is nothing new in politics – or anywhere else in human activity, for that matter. But it’s become a lot more visible lately as women expose more and more sexual harassment episodes in the pasts of prominent men.

There’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, now exposed as a groper and a purveyor of unfunny innuendo in his former career as a comedian, who’s also been a champion of women’s rights and a prominent accuser of Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore,

There’s President Trump blasting Franken, despite bragging about serial groping in a video released during his 2016 campaign and despite at least a dozen harassment accusations. There’s also his daughter and adviser Ivanka, who insisted “there’s a special place in hell” for men like Moore, who reportedly often got involved with high school girls in past decades. Ms. Trump, of course, said nothing about her daddy’s alleged past.

But sex and sexual imbroglios are far from the only subjects for hypocrisy in politics today. There are also taxes.

Among the great majority of California Republican congressmen, inconsistent words and behavior can be less obvious than in the current wave of newly exposed sexual predators.

Eleven of the 14 Republicans in California’s House delegation just voted for the GOP’s tax “reform” bill (one person’s reform can often be disastrous for others). Add the fact that every prominent California Republican now inveighs against the state’s new 12-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax, which the GOP holds responsible for pump price increases averaging almost 30 cents per gallon over the last month. Republicans have yet to address the other 18 cents, the majority of the price rise, but consumer advocates maintain it’s from oil company price gouging timed to coincide with the tax increase.

Very soon, every Republican member of Congress from California will have endorsed a proposed proposition (now in the signature-gathering stage) to overturn the gas tax increase. GOP Assemblyman Travis Allen of Orange County makes that planned measure the centerpiece of his run for governor.

The state GOP organization sends out fundraising pitches asking voters to “condemn the Democrats for their massive gas tax increase!” “We need to hold Democrats responsible,” the emails add, never mentioning that the tax could not have passed without votes from a few Republican legislators.

While they and their party blast the gas tax, though, the vast majority of California Republicans in Congress voted for the GOP tax bill that, if it becomes law, will trigger an annual tax hike of about $114 billion on Californians – compared with a yearly tab of about $5.2 billion for the gas tax hike. The exceptions in this vote were Placer County’s Tom McClintock, Orange County’s Dana Rohrabacher and Darrell Issa, whose district covers parts of both San Diego Orange counties. Rohrabacher and Issa are both among national Democrats’ top 2018 targets.

Had the other 11 California Republicans voted to nix the tax bill, which passed by a 227-206 margin, it could have been defeated by one vote, 217-216.

The proposed measure would cost 6 million Californians who deduct from their federal taxes what they pay in state and local levies at least $101 billion yearly, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That deduction would disappear. So would deductions for property taxes over $10,000 and writeoffs for mortgage interest, which together now save Californians about $2 billion. Student loan interest would also no longer be deductible, adding about $1.1 billion to the tab, and the medical expense deduction would disappear too, the average beneficiary now writing off $9,951, or about $10 billion total.

Not even a higher standard deduction and tweaked tax brackets can approach making up for these huge losses.

In short California’s 11 GOP yes voters vehemently oppose a $5.2 billion gasoline tax for long-overdue road and bridge repairs, but back a “reform” that would cost Californians 22 times as much.

That’s the very definition of hypocrisy, especially coming from folks subscribing to the GOP’s “no new taxes” mantra. Some of the yes voters tried to excuse themselves by saying the bill will change before it passes. That’s a little like sexual predators saying they never meant to harm anyone.

The joke here is on anyone who continues to believe these are principled politicians.

Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com.