The Revolt of the Taxpayer: An Interview with the Elder Statesman of Today’s Tax Rebellion–Howard Jarvis
“We sat down in Jarvis’s comfortably cluttered Los Angeles office and began our conversation by talking about how angry taxpayers are, and why.”
Aspectre is haunting state and county bureaucracy,” the New York Times’ William Safire wrote early this year, “the spectre of tax revolt.” And there can be little doubt that he’s right. A 1977 Field Institute poll indicated that 70 percent of Americans consider their state taxes too high and 72 percent consider their city and county taxes too high. In Massachusetts, a group called Citizens for Limited Taxation is placing a proposal on the ballot to limit state taxes to nine percent of personal income. A group called National Taxpayers United of Illinois has organized a property tax strike in that state, and is demanding a state‐wide referendum on tax rates. Taxpayers are organizing, demonstrating, protesting, and refusing to pay in Maine, Oregon, and half‐a‐dozen other states. Truly, as the Christian Science Monitor reported in February, “discontent with the property tax is heating up all across the United States.”
The man who claims (and probably deserves) much of the credit for all this uproar is Howard Jarvis, the 75‐year‐old president of the Apartment House Association of Los Angeles, and cosponsor, with retired realtor Paul Gann, of Proposition 13 on the June ballot in California. Proposition 13 would amend the state constitution to impose a limit on the power of local and state government to tax property. If Proposition 13 is passed, property taxes in California will be limited to one percent of the assessed value of the property. (The current tax rate is closer to three percent.) In case politicians try increasing the assessed values, Proposition 13 also provides a limit of two percent a year on such increases. And in case they try to impose new taxes to replace the old revenue, Proposition 13 further provides that new state taxes may be raised only by an all‐but‐unprecedented two‐thirds vote of the legislature, and that new local taxes may be raised only by an all‐but‐impossible two‐thirds vote of the electorate.
Not surprisingly, Proposition 13 has politicians running scared. The official estimate is that passage of the measure would cost government around $7 billion a year. That loss, according to California State Assembly Speaker Leo McCarthy, would be “a disaster.” San Francisco Mayor George Moscone agrees. “No matter how you slice it,” he says, “our police, our libraries, our fire department and schools would be crippled.” And Democratic State Chairman Bert Coffee told the Los Angeles Timesin February that passage of Proposition 13 would mean “turning the state over to the current‐day anarchists.”
Somehow, though, that description doesn’t quite seem to fit either Howard Jarvis or his partner in Proposition 13, Paul Gann. Gann is 65 years old. Since retiring from the real estate business a few years ago, he’s been running a Northern California taxpayers’ organization called People’s Advocate, Inc. “In 1950,” he says, “there was one state employee for every 160 citizens. Now there is one for every 93.” He can also rattle off measurements of government growth in monetary terms: “In the last ten years,” he says, “the population has increased 14 percent, prices have gone up 68 percent, the state’s budget has gone up 161 percent, and the income tax collected has gone up 295 percent.”
Jarvis, too, seems an unlikely candidate for the term “anarchist.” Howard Jarvis has devoted the last 15 years of his life to fighting taxes—as a leader of the campaign for the Liberty Amendment (which would have repealed the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and with it the federal income tax), and as a tireless worker for state and local tax reduction in California.
Jarvis was born in Utah in 1903, one of the six children of an impecunious judge. He took to the law briefly himself, then went into, successively, the newspaper business, the ship hull demagnetizing business, the electric iron business, the gas heater business, and the garbage disposal business. And all along he was active in politics as well, mostly Republican Party politics. He headed a commission appointed by the governor to reform the tax laws of the State of Utah. He handled press relations for Herbert Hoover in the 1932 presidential campaign. He took Earl Warren’s advice and came west to California, where he worked for Eisenhower in ’52 and ’56 and for Nixon in ’60. In 1962, he ran for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate, came in third, and quit the party.
But Jarvis wasn’t through with politics. He began campaigning against L. A. area bond issues and circulating petitions to tack a permanent tax limitation amendment onto the state constitution. A few years later, up in Carmichael, California, Paul Gann hit on a similar idea, and the rest, as they say, is history. In 1976, when Americans were supposed to be celebrating the 200th anniversary of a tax rebellion‐turned‐revolution, Jarvis’s United Organization of Taxpayers and Gann’s People’s Advocate, Inc. each came within a hairsbreadth—a paltry few thousand signatures—of collecting the half‐million signatures necessary to qualify their rival propositions for the ballot. In 1977, they joined forces and qualified Proposition 13 for the June 6, 1978 ballot by collecting a phenomenal, record‐setting 1.5 million signatures. (300,000 of them arrived too late at the Secretary of State’s office to legally qualify—but what did that matter?) And there’s every indication the proposition with the unlucky number is very, very popular with middle‐income voters, some of whom have seen their property tax bills double and triple in the past few years—until, in more than a few cases, their tax payments are higher than their mortgage payments, and it is no longer possible to pay both.
When Jarvis and Gann debated Assembly Speaker Leo McCarthy in San Francisco in January, the encounter was televised, and viewers were invited to vote: Proposition 13, pro or con? The vote was ten to one in favor of Jarvis and Gann.
In early March, the New York Times’s Wallace Turner quoted an anonymous member of the California Legislature: “When I say I fear for the future of local government, the audiences break into smiles.”
Jarvis himself does more than smile. He positively looks forward to the prospect of 25,000 or 50,000 “public employees” being laid off. “Everybody knows,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Jerry Carroll in February, “public employees are the best educated, best trained, hardest working, most effective people we have in California.” His voice, as Carroll described it, dripped with sarcasm. “They’ll be able to get jobs in a minute.” Then, in case the sarcasm had been missed, to make sure the point got through, he laid it on the line: He hoped those public employees not only got laid off but also got denied unemployment compensation.
Obviously, millions of Californians agree, not only with Jarvis’s ideas about taxation, but also with his hatred of bureaucrats. As the San Francisco Examiner’s Reg Murphy puts (perhaps overputs) it, “The Jarvis initiative to make a dramatic cut in property taxes is not a tax measure at all; it is a way for voters to vent their spleen against a government that pays more than private enterprise can, that bungles and bumbles its way through problems in ten year hitches, that creates unbelievable bottlenecks and that promises more jobs than it can deliver.”
I went late in March to talk with Jarvis. After two weeks of busy signals, overloaded telephone circuits that terminated preliminary conversations in mid‐phrase, and simple old‐fashioned waiting, a day had arrived when the aged tax radical could spare an entire uninterrupted hour for a talk which would get past the surface of the Proposition 13 tax rebellion. We sat down in Jarvis’s comfortably cluttered Los Angeles office and began our conversation by talking about how angry taxpayers are, and why.
Milton Friedman on Jarvis‐Gann
“… I strongly support Jarvis‐Gann. It does cut taxes. It does raise obstacles to further increases in government spending. And it will not have the dire consequences its opponents threaten. The state government has a surplus of some $3 billion to offset the $7 billion revenue reduction. The remaining $4 billion is roughly 10 percent of the state and local spending now projected for the next fiscal year. Is there a taxpayer in California (even if he is a government employee) who can maintain with a straight face that there is not 10 percent fat that can be cut from government spending without reducing essential services?
“A letter to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle by Norman I. Arnold stated eloquently the view of many citizens of California:
“ ‘… We are saying that we know it [Proposition 13] will severely disrupt state and city governments. We are also saying that we want it to severely disrupt state and city governments. We are not anarchists, we are not radicals and we do not think we are irresponsible. We are simply fully sick and tired of having our pockets picked at every level of government.… We want an end to the countless layers of useless bureaucracies. We refuse to pay any longer for the parasites who are feathering their own nests directly out of our pockets.’ ”
“A Progress Report” Newsweek, April 10, 1978
LR: You’ve told a number of interviewers that voters are “fed up with politicians” and with the high tax bills they’ve imposed. If voters are so fed up, why haven’t they gone to the polls and replaced their legislators with politicians who won’t gouge them?
Jarvis: There are several reasons for that. For several years now, the voters generally have felt that it didn’t make any difference who they voted for. About a third of the voters have resigned from either the Republican or the Democratic Party and a lot of the rest of them say, “Why should I vote? It doesn’t make any difference anyway.”
The second thing that came about in the last couple or three years is a horrendous raise in property taxes. And then the other thing that I think is the reason for it is that there is a very severe, exploding, total disgust with politicians. The people don’t believe a word they say. They don’t care who it is. And I think what happened was that all these things sort of came together.
I got a call from I think it was the Associated Press, and the fellow asked me about the same question, and he said, “You must be a genius at timing.” My answer to him was that I know nothing about timing. Timing didn’t have anything to do with this amendment. What had to do with this amendment was the fact that we started on it 15 years ago. And I suppose I’ve done 5,000 interviews, 5,000 television interviews and radio, and 5,000 speeches and we’ve put out millions of pieces of stuff and I think, finally, the message started to get through. It takes a long time.
And as far as timing is concerned, it’s like: If I go fishing in the lake and I put some bait on the hook and I sit there for three weeks I’ll get a bite, but if I keep the hook out of the water I won’t get a bite. And I think we just happened to have the hook in the water when all of these things came together. That’s what I think happened in this country.
LR: Politicians too are commenting on this issue. They’re saying, “Yes, there’s evidence that people are unhappy about their tax bills; yes, there’s evidence that they’re unhappy with politicians in general; but we don’t see any drop in the continuing demand for government services.”
Jarvis: I think that whole issue of government services is a fake. The people who are demanding government services are the special interests that are already living off government. This is where the demand comes from. I would imagine that in 20 years you wouldn’t get 500 demands for more service from the average homeowners in this city. Ninety‐five percent of them never call a policeman or have a fire or anything of that nature. The people that are asking for lower taxes are not the people that are asking for more services. It is the special interest groups that are organized for the express purpose of getting more service from the government for nothing: the social workers, the welfare workers, the food stamp people, the employees’ unions, the whole passel of people that are feeding off the public trough. And then there’s the tax‐eating politician, who has become very voracious in this country and is rapidly destroying freedom. They’re rapidly trying to produce a government, of government, by government, and for government, instead of government of, by, and for people.
And people realize that we have a great system of government, but the people we have been electing for the last 40 years are destroying it rapidly. And I think that all of these things came together to produce what is really a miracle, because never in history has anybody got 1,500,000 signatures in California. And never in history has anybody got signatures from every county in the state. With other tax reduction proposals that I’ve been familiar with, it cost in the neighborhood of $800,000 to qualify them for the ballot. We qualified this one for about $28,500.
And now it’s going all over the United States. Tennessee has got it and passed it. Washington’s got it and passed it. In Oregon, it’s going before the voters. They’re going to introduce it in Iowa, in Maine, in New Hampshire, in Massachusetts, in Pennsylvania. And the other night I got an hour‐long call from the BBC. And the last thing the fellow said to me before he hung up was: “If I have any message to give to America, it’s for God’s sake clear this tax thing up now, and don’t do what we’re doing in England.”
So this is very widespread. It’s far bigger than we ever dreamed. There’s no way I could have ever believed it would go where it’s gone. It’s covered now by national television. Everytime I go out the door, or out the back door, I’m getting more publicity than the Mansons got. I get calls from every state in the nation. This damn thing is sweeping the country. The tremendous disappointment and disgust with Carter and with the Republicans. The disgust with the educational system, with the racketeering of the “prevailing wage” deal, with the phony behind‐the‐door deals, with the fact that everybody in the country works January, February, March, April, and May to the fifteenth just to pay his taxes. All of these things are coming together.
LR: When you say “it” is sweeping the country, and “it” is being adopted in Tennessee and New Hampshire, do you mean tax limitations like Proposition 13?
Jarvis: They’re pretty much like it. They’re not all exactly the same. They can’t be, really, because there are different situations. In the State of Oregon, they have no sales tax, so theirs limits property taxes to one‐and‐a‐half percent.
The purpose of the property tax is to pay for the services that are given property by government. And across this state, on the average, those services cost about $300 a year. And it’s the same whether it’s a $30,000 house or a $70,000 house: about $300 a year. And under our amendment, property owners will pay more than that. As it is now, elderly people with fixed incomes and Social Security are being forced out of their houses in droves. The middle class is being squeezed to beat hell. I’m 75 years old and middle class, and that’s where my sympathies lie. However, I’m realistic enough to know that what’s probably more important in the long run is that we’ve got a situation in which young people couldn’t build a house no matter what they did. And these are the people who are going to be running this country tomorrow. We’re not going to be here. And this to me is a key issue. I think, as one guy, I have the opportunity to do more good for more people in California than anybody else has ever done.
LR: Some say that what you’re doing is leading a tax revolt. Do you like that term?
Jarvis: Well, no, I don’t like that term. I think I would rather call it a … sad rebellion. A guy wrote me a letter … I wish to the devil I had it with me … he said he was old and had worked all his life and had always paid his taxes and contributed, and he said, “I thought I was being a great citizen and was fulfilling the American dream, and now I find that I wasn’t. I find now that my family is gone and my wife and I are alone that now we are going to be forced to give up our home. And I find that government doesn’t solve any problems. It is the problem.” His name was Wicks. Now I’ve never met the fellow. I don’t know who he is. We get thousands of letters. But that was an outstanding one.
I spoke recently at a place called the Mogen David Temple. They had about 700 or 800 people. They were from 50 up, and, for about half of them, their taxes this year had been raised $1500 a year. And none of them can pay it.
I went up to Santa Cruz and talked to a very bright assemblyman there, and he says he gets sacks of letters from people who are going without food to pay their property tax. Now, even in Russia they don’t do that to people. They don’t kick people out of homes, even though the government does own the homes.
In California, 70 percent of all the land and buildings belong to government. That leaves only 30 percent on which property taxes are supposed to be paid. A great percentage of those property owners don’t pay. They’re exempted for some political reason or another. And that leaves the whole tax load on a very small group of people. And the producers are contracting and the tax eaters are expanding. Ten years ago Los Angeles County had 42,000 employees. The population has gone up two percent. They now have 98,000 employees.
Tax revolt coming
“There already is a lessening of the sense of responsibility for the payment of taxes. Americans are patriots and want their country to do well, but they’re beginning to ask, ‘Am I being taken for a sucker?’ I have always pooh‐poohed talk of tax revolts, but I don’t feel that confident any more.”
—Mortimer Caplin former IRS chief
LR: Do you still oppose the federal income tax?
Jarvis: I never opposed the federal income tax, except that I worked on the Liberty Amendment, on the Board of Directors for a long time. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very active. I am convinced if we could get the government out of ownership of property, if they could sell it all, I do believe that we could get along without the federal income tax.
LR: You said earlier that 95 percent or better of all residential property owners never have any need of property‐related services like policemen and firemen. Could we get along without the property tax?
Jarvis: As a matter of fact, I think that one of these days we will do away with the property tax. There are several reasons. In the first place, it can’t possibly be administered. There is no way. In Los Angeles County, we’ve got two million pieces of property. We’ve got 1,800 employees in the Assessor’s Office. And until they started to get computers which turned out to be even worse, they could only assess one‐fifth of the county every year. And because they can’t assess it, they’ve created a fake formula called the Comparable Sales Ratio formula. It means if you have a house down the street from me and I have one up the street from you and your house is worth $50,000 and you sell it for $80,000, they raise my taxes to $80,000. The whole thing is a scam. It really is. Everybody that thinks about it or gets involved in it knows that it’s a scam. Now, in a business, you don’t pay any property taxes at all. You get all your taxes from the customer. The customer pays all the taxes of business, whether it‘s General Motors or Joe’s Shoe Store. They don’t pay any taxes. We have to restructure the tax system in California, first of all to make it fair so that it applies to all assets to be taxed. Second, we have to make it equal, so that if you have twice as much as me and I have half as much as you, you pay twice as much and I pay half as much. You can go all over this state today and find two houses just alike across the street from one another and the one has to pay $1200 more than the other guy. Third—and this is basic to any free country, including this one—no matter what tax is assessed, it’s got to be within the ability of the taxpayers to pay. And that is not the case in California. Thousands of people can’t pay their taxes. We’ve gone away from the principal reasons why this country was founded. And we’ve gone away from the other principal reason, which can be described in four rather simple words: “Government must be limited.” Today, we have unlimited government, unlimited taxation. It will lead, just like this chap from England said, either to bankruptcy or to a dictatorship.
LR: You’ve told more than one recent interviewer that “that government is best which governs least.” When Henry David Thoreau wrote that sentence in Civil Disobedience, he went on to say that “that government which governs least governs not at all.” What do you think of the proposition that we need no taxes, and no government?
The tax mess
“Uniformly, polls find majorities who think that their taxes are too high, too complicated and just plain unfair. Sixteen state legislatures are considering bills promising income‐tax relief, and fifteen more states have moves afoot to cut or put limits on property taxes.… [I]t’s plain that resentment and cynicism are growing—and that a system that rests on voluntary compliance is in some danger of losing its base.… Cracks are beginning to show in the consent of the governed.”
—Newsweek April 10, 1978
Jarvis: I don’t buy that at all. You can’t have a country with no government. My god—who is going to build a road?
LR: Can’t somebody be hired to build a road?
Jarvis: Well, the person that hired him would have to be the government.
LR: Why? Couldn’t it be the people who were going to use the road?
Jarvis: Well, I just can’t see no government at all. Look—if we have the right kind of government then we have the right kind of law. We have the wrong kind of government now, and it’s producing the wrong kind of law—and too much of it. In the State of California we have over 175,000 laws. In the last session of the legislature, they passed 1,004 new ones. And there’s never a law that’s been passed that doesn’t take freedom away from somebody. And we’ve gotten into a disastrous situation in which I suppose 80 percent of the people elected to office are lawyers. The chief justice of the Supreme Court the other day said for the second time—I heard him say it a year ago in Chicago—that more than half of the attorneys in the United States are not competent to represent anybody.
LR: Let’s get into some of the pros and cons of Proposition 13 specifically: First, what’s your reaction to the common charge that if Proposition 13 is passed it will necessitate a massive cutback in police, fire, garbage pickup service, public schools, those kinds of things?
Jarvis: My answer to that comment is that the most intelligent, nationally recognized tax and economic authority in the country is Neil Jacoby at UCLA. Dr. Jacoby teaches economics and business management. Harry Truman sent him to Korea to help that government set itself up. Eisenhower later sent him to Europe to help. He’s nationally recognized. He’s studied this very thoroughly and he says this: “A one percent limit will furnish revenue far above the amount necessary to pay for property‐related services.” And he specifies police, fire, streets, lights, garbage, and sewers, as property‐related services. I think he’s the best authority in the United States on that. And I think that anybody who says anything else doesn’t know what he’s talking about. One other thing I think is interesting is that Sam Yorty was asked on television just recently if this one percent limit would eliminate any essential city services. And he said, “Absolutely not.” Now he was the mayor of Los Angeles for 12 years. And none of these other people who are talking about it has been a tax expert or economist or a mayor. They’re just blowing off steam into the air, as far as I’m concerned.
LR: Some of the people who are talking about it have been in other positions of responsibility, however. The board members and trustees of the Los Angeles Unified School District and the L.A. Community College District are all talking about massive cutbacks.
Jarvis: I would say that you couldn’t find in ten years and a thousand miles of traveling any group of people who are less competent, more inefficient, and more uneducated than the majority of the board members of the Los Angeles Unified School District. I personally think they’re the biggest bunch of boobs in history. The results of the Los Angeles Unified School District prove it every day. And these people are spending something like $3 billion a year. If they were put in charge of any business in the world, it would be bankrupt in 20 minutes. We don’t have any education in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The L.A. County Grand Jury recently investigated, I think, six affluent schools and found that among high school graduates, 63 percent are functionally illiterate. That’s what I think of the school board.
LR: What do you think of the L.A. Community College District?
Jarvis: I talked this morning to a professor at the community colleges. He tells me they buy all‐new furniture, typewriters and everything, and then at the end of the year when it comes to budget time, they junk it all so that they can justify buying new equipment to justify the big budget they had. “Every year,” he says, “they tell us to throw everything away and get new to justify an increased budget.” And I know that’s widespread.
But the thing that bothers me mostly is that a lot of people, adults, go to the community colleges for 20 years. And the colleges use those students to justify their budgets. I know women and men personally who have been going for ten or 15 years to the community colleges at night because they don’t have anything else to do, and nothing ever comes out of it that’s worth much.
You’ve got some very incompetent people in the community colleges. You’ve got people who don’t produce anything, and whose main idea is to stay there long enough to get a pension and then to fly the coop. And the community college system is way overextended. They started out to be good. They started out to be cheaper than a two‐year college course, right? In other words, they set these community colleges up to operate more cheaply than private colleges, and now they don’t. They operate more expensively than private colleges. Now, I’m not an expert on the community college system; but I do know from long years of experience, how many hundreds of people go to the community colleges year after year after year and knit and sew and knit and sew, and it’s a babysitter for them, and I don’t think that taxpayers ought to be losing their homes to pay money for babysitting.
LR: What about the charge that Proposition 13 favors landlords and businessmen rather than individual homeowners?
Jarvis: Well, of course, this is probably the biggest lie that they are trying to tell. For a hundred years the constitution of the State of California has required that all residential property and all business and commercial property be appraised and taxed and assessed on the same basis. Now, for that they were collecting, say, three and one‐half percent. This amendment of mine doesn’t change that ratio at all. It only limits collections to one percent. So the politicians who are saying such things are actually saying that for a hundred years they’ve been sitting there in Sacramento giving a big break to business, and they didn’t know about it. Of course it’s a monumental lie.
And no business pays any taxes anyway. When you raise the taxes on a business, the businessman raises the price on what he sells. But this is a good ploy for politicians. They do something to raise the cost of doing business at the May Company, and when the shopper goes in to buy a pair of shoes and it’s fifty cents higher, the politician says, “The May Company did it; I didn’t.” He’s generally a monumental liar. But this is an old scheme in politics. It’s a very clever scheme in politics. A couple of good illustrations that are easy to understand: If you go buy a gallon of gas for 70 cents, and the federal tax is 11 cents and the state tax is eight cents, what do you suppose the oil company does with that 11 and eight cents? In two weeks they send it to Uncle Sam. I bought a new Thunderbird for $8,000. And because I’m interested in taxes I wrote to the Vehicle Foundation in New York, and asked them how much tax is levied on that car from the time they dig the ore out of the ground until I pay the $8,000. And the answer is four thousand, five‐hundred bucks.
Jarvis‐Gann: An endorsement
“There has been a lot of misguided debate in the libertarian movement about abolitionism versus gradualism. The Jarvis‐Gann initiative is my kind of ‘gradualism,’ a gradualism that is exciting and radical and really makes a visible dent in rolling back state power. And here is the crucial point; for why should anyone work up excitement, and devote energy, to an amendment that would merely limit the future rate of increase of taxation? The glory of Jarvis‐Gann is that here is a measure that means something, that forces a two‐third reduction in property taxes and then seals the hatch by requiring a two‐thirds vote of the legislature for imposing any new taxes to make up the loss.
“It is also highly instructive to see the forces lined up on both sides of Jarvis‐Gann. For it: a real grass‐roots movement, made up of masses of angry taxpayers with virtually no political or economic clout. Against it: a raft of government employees and vested interests, such as investors in government bonds, who are living off the taxpayer. The lines are truly drawn.”
—Murray N. Rothbard
Governments in the State of California now take in $40 billion a year. That’s $1,650 for every man, woman and child of the 22 million people that live here. Taking Ed Roybal’s [U.S. Congressman, California] figure that we’re going to cut $7 billion of that, which is wrong—but I’m not going to contend that it’s wrong because it doesn’t do me any good, it’s actually about $5 billion—but taking his figure, you take seven billion from 40 billion, and where I went to school you’ve got 33 billion left. And that’s 33 thousand million dollars. And then every man, woman, and child in California will only be paying $1,500 a year. This amount of money will float this state in $50 bills. What is the matter is that they take this fabulous amount of money and they blow most of it. And they blow it because they’re incompetent, selfish, greedy people with two bits worth of political power.
LR: Though some say businessmen will reap the biggest profits from Proposition 13, a number of large businesses have come out against you. Bank of America, for example, which is the third largest taxpayer in San Francisco County and stands to gain 61 percent reduction of its property taxes, has come out against you.
Jarvis: You know, Leo McCarthy (speaker of the California Assembly) and Miller of the School Board (Howard Miller of The L.A. Unified School District’s Board of Education) have been peddling that story around that our amendment is a big boon to business, a big windfall. And then all of a sudden, all of the businesses that are going to be helped so much come out against us. Now somebody is a liar. The fact is Leo McCarthy called them all together and told them if they didn’t put up $3 million to come out against this amendment, the legislature would kick the hell out of them from now on. He put it together. He put the arm on them. And because business people generally are cowardly, it isn’t hard to do—for that little two‐bit speaker to do that.
LR: You’ve sometimes argued that the cost of government could be reduced by putting an end to federal‐state fund matching. Can you elaborate on that?
Jarvis: The League of California Cities and the State Association of Boards of Supervisors have testified for years that 96 percent of all of their costs are federally or state mandated, and that’s why local government is in trouble, they say. Just as an illustration, the federal government says, “if you put up a million, we’ll put up a million,” and then they do, and the federal government comes out the next year and leaves them two million dollars. Now the reason the locals go for this, they say, is, “Well, it’s federal money, it doesn’t cost anybody anything. If we don’t do it here, they’ll give the money someplace else.” But the federal dollar comes from the California taxpayer. The California taxpayer gets less out of his dollar than the guy from South Dakota, I can tell you that. I got on the plane one time with Karl Mundt the senator from South Dakota, and I said, “Gee, Karl, I’m glad to see that they’ve passed federal aid to education, and South Dakota will now be pouring money into California.” He said, “What the hell are you talking about?” I said, “California needs it worse than South Dakota.” He said, “Are you nuts? We’re going to get our dough from California, buster.” He was right.
LR: Will Proposition 13 win?
Jarvis: At least five to one. We had a poll yesterday in Oceanside with a hell of a lot of people, I would guess about 1800. They voted “for 13” and “against 13” and we won by 82 percent. Now I don’t think we’ve ever had a politician win with 82 percent. If I were running for governor and I had 82 percent in my pocket already, I’d just go fishing in Jackson Hole, because I’d win in a walk.
LR: Do you think you could win the governorship right now?
Jarvis: I could win any office in the State of California right now.
LR: Do you want one?
Jarvis: Hell no. Somebody called my wife, Estelle, the other day, and said, “We’ve got a group of people here, and we’re all going to put 50 bucks up for Howard to run for governor.” And Estelle said, “This conversation is ended.” And, by God, it was ended. I wouldn’t run if it had not been ended. I wouldn’t have the governor’s job if you gave it to me. If you get into politics you’ve got to be a liar. I’d be one honest guy in a den of thieves and they’d outnumber me, and I’d be in a hell of a mess right away.