The folks behind Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101, the three tax-slashing ballot proposals that a wide array of opponents are fighting with a multi-million-dollar ad blitz, are pretty upset with the media. So upset that campaign coordinator Natalie Menten fired off a letter to "media members" blasting them for buying into the "utter nonsense" of the opponents, who predict losses of thousands of jobs if the measures pass. Luckily, Menten also sent along some peculiar cartoons to set the record straight.
"Sometimes, political ridicule is the best antidote to mass hysteria," Menten wrote. "We offer 20 campaign cartoons. Cartoonist Paul Snover grants free license to reprint any of them on paper, on websites, or on air. You will then see which side to laugh with, and which to laugh at."
Indeed. The cartoons are a pretty good clue to why the shadowy 60-61-101 campaign has had trouble getting its message across. On top of the campaign finance investigation and the reluctance of proponents to discuss the behind-the-scenes role of Douglas Bruce, Menten and company have put more energy into snapping at the motives of the special-interest groups allied against them ("Why hasn't your company reported that the person who invented the '73,000 jobs GONE' claim for TV is a campaign staffer who was paid $29,000 for his invisible report saying so?") than making a coherent case for the ballot measures.
Some of the cartoons make a point -- but not always a clear one. Here, for example, are the taxing entities of city, county and state portrayed as hopeless junkies:
But this is a little confusing. Is the issue that all taxes are like dope, and just get shot up the arms of bureaucrats, with no return to society? Isn't this supposed to be about excessive taxation?
Equally mysterious is a Chicken Little reference:
Our chicken friend is apparently startled by the sudden appearance of (good) eggs 60,61, and 101. But why would eggs in a nest make the dumb cluck think the sky is falling? Maybe the problem is that the eggs are not chicken eggs at all and are going to hatch into something loathesome -- snakes, perhaps. It's an awk!-ward image, in any case.
Better, at first glance, is this depiction of "government" as a slyly malevolent whale:
But wait. The whale is beached, yet somehow still threatening. If the blubber isn't cut, it's just going to stink anyway. Can the whale get back into the ocean, and if it can, how is the dissembling tax collector going to continue to feed it?
Other Snover originals depict the tax man as Dr. Taxmore (a vampire performing a "walletectomy") and a brute shaking the bucks out of some poor taxpayer's pocket. Citizens labor under a giant bag of debt, a cloud of taxes is prevented from raining on happy houses by the tax-limitation umbrella of protection that Amendment 60 will provide. But these somewhat elementary illustrations are followed by some real head-scratchers, including my favorite:
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Okay, so big government is a tree on the edge of a cliff. Politicians in dark suits are out on a limb, okay. But what is the significance of the tax revolt cloud? Will it offer some kind of lightning strike to the big tree, plunging the fat cats (and the rest of us, presumably) into a depression? If the dark-suited clowns' own weight snaps the branch and sends them into the abyss, should we care? If someone calls taxpayers "real extremists" and no one laughs, will a tree fall in the forest?
Whether any of this enhances the case of the tax slashers, I have no idea. But it does prove conclusively that effective editorial cartooning is no joke.