When Rich People Attack

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I'll admit it: One of my favorite things about California politics is the sheer hilarity of watching rich people make populist attacks on other rich people for the sin of being rich. If this kind of disingenuousness were taxable, this state would have a budget surplus.

With the Poizner-Whitman Multimillionaire vs. Billionaire battle unfortunately over (oh how I miss all that spending on TV commercials to promise us that Steve or Meg will be the one to finally get tough on spending), the general election has given us the wonderful gift of the California Nurses Assn. vs. Meg Whitman.

In case you missed, the CNA, a big and well-funded nurses union, is protesting Whitman events with a bit of street theater that represents the GOP nominee as "Queen Meg." The Whitman campaign has counter-attacked by going after the CNA's executive director, Rose Ann DeMoro, for among other things collecting a salary of more than $293,000, according to federal disclosure forms.

Both these attacks hit the mark in a way. Whitman is a billionaire who treats the press, at least, with a certain imperiousness. And while DeMoro's salary isn't out of line among leaders of important national unions (maybe it should be out of line, but that's another story), she is obviously quite rich -- richer than 99 percent of Californians.

The thing that make these attacks so ridiculous is who is making them. The lead consultant on the Whitman campaign makes more in a month than most Californians make in a year -- and is far richer by every publicly available measure I can find than DeMoro. And DeMoro certainly makes more than enough to live like a queen. Meanwhile, the Democratic nominee, Jerry Brown, who is running a campaign on populist economic themes, is coming under fire for living in a $1.8 million home in Oakland.

All of this is good sport, but it's meaningless. If you want to get mad about rich people, think about this. Whitman, DeMoro and Brown pay -- or should be paying, since we haven't seen their taxes yet --  essentially same base tax rate, before deductions, as a Californian who make $50,000 a year.

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