The billionaire former CEO of eBay and Mitt Romney acolyte Meg Whitman wants to be Governor of California. One must wonder why given her heretofore lack of interest in public affairs. A review by the Sacramento Bee found billionaire Meg regularly skipped elections in California and several other states where she lived and worked. There's simply no trace of Meg in voter registration logs.
The review covered six states and a dozen counties, including towns and counties in Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, New Jersey, Rhode Island and California where public records indicated that billionaire Meg lived, worked or attended college.
Whitman, now 53, turned 18 and voting age in Suffolk County, N.Y., in 1974. Officials say they have no record of her registering or voting there.
She lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, from 1979 to 1981 after completing a master's degree in business administration at Harvard.
Neither Ohio state elections officials nor Hamilton County Board of Elections officials found a record of Whitman registering or voting there.
For much of the 1980s, she lived in San Francisco as a management consultant at an investment firm, Bain & Co.
The San Francisco County elections office no longer retains records prior to 1992, but said that had she been registered and voting, her registration information would have been transferred to the current system. They have no record of her registration.
Similarly, Los Angeles County has no record that she registered or voted between 1989 and 1992, when she worked for Walt Disney Corp. as a senior executive.
Whitman and her husband, Griffith Harsh, a neurologist, lived in Brookline, Mass., a suburb just outside Boston, for several years in the 1990s. She worked for Stride-Rite, FTD and Hasbro until 1997.
"We had her as a resident for a while, and she was captured by the census, but she was never registered and she never voted," said Patrick Ard, town clerk in Brookline.
Whitman returned to the Bay Area in 1998, when she was hired to be eBay's first chief executive officer and take the company public.
She told delegates at the convention that she had "been a registered 'decline-to-state' voter since 1998." The Bee was unable to find any public record of that registration.
The first registration record The Bee found, in San Mateo County, was dated Sept. 12, 2002.
At that time, she told San Mateo elections officials that she had been registered in San Francisco County, a county official said, after reviewing electronic records.
Yet San Francisco County officials, whose database records active registrations as far back as 1992, said they had no record of voter registration for Whitman at either of her two San Francisco addresses during the period.
Let's be clear what is driving billionaire Meg to the polls in 2010. Fear of her taxes going up. Up and down the length of the Golden State, billionaire Meg can only talk about the plight of her fellow billionaires. "We do not have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem of epic proportions," whines billionaire Meg. Her favorite statistic is that twenty-five percent of California's revenue comes from income taxes paid by the 144,000 richest taxpayers, so "if one of them leaves, it's a really bad thing." Gee Meg, you'd think you could afford a richer vocabulary.
The single largest stream of state revenue in California is the personal income tax which generates about 40% of state income. The income tax is progressive, which means that rates rise as income rises, from a low of 1.0% to a high of 10.55%. Because of the system's progressive tax structure and the distribution of income among taxpayers in California, the income tax system derives a disproportionate amount of its revenues from a small number of taxpayers. Over the past decade, on average, the top 1% have accounted for 50% of tax receipts in this category and for about one-fifth of the total state revenue from all sources.
Part of our problem here in California is the volatility of state tax receipts due in part to the tax behavior of the supra-wealthy who generate taxable income in ways where they have discretion about how and when they realize the income for tax purposes.
In pure tax theory, the volatility of the income tax, as Betty Yee, chair of the state Board of Equalization, points out, is a good thing. It goes up when incomes rise, and up very sharply when taxpayers benefit from capital gains and stock dividend windfalls, and down in bad times when they can't afford it. But such fluctuations require a state whose leaders - and, yes, its voters - are disciplined enough to put aside some of those gushes of revenue against rainy days when the resources are needed.
Furthermore, if California were taxing property at roughly the same rate as other states, which it did before the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, the income tax and its cyclical fluctuations would bear a much smaller burden in the state's overall revenue picture. But there's no trace of Meg talking about these issues. Sort of like her voting record.