What do Twitter, the PPIC, and Jerry Brown have in common? Answer: they have all played a part this week in the one of the most jaded political ploys in recent memory.

To see the connection, first consider this nominee for Tweet of the Year, courtesy of Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association:

@joncoupal So 65% of CA voters support tax hikes? Really? I guess PPIC stands for Push Polling In California.

Rarely have 140 characters so fully captured the collective cynicism of California’s political community.

It should come as no surprise that there are forces at work trying desperately to convince the public that the tables have suddenly turned and voters would now openly welcome higher taxes to “fix” California’s budget crisis. Who can blame the cynics for scoffing at this news after looking at how, and more importantly, when the PPIC poll results were released?

Let’s break down the question in question:

“Governor Brown has proposed a plan to help close the state’s budget deficit over the next five years. The plan, which would be put before voters in November, would raise $7 billion annually through a temporary four-year half cent sales tax increase and a temporary five year income tax increase on those earning more than $250,000. Do you favor or oppose this proposal?”

The very first sentence provides an important clue as to where the PPIC poll was headed. Note how the question is framed in terms of deficit reduction, even though real world experience shows that there’s no correlation between raising taxes and reducing the deficit, or else California certainly would have no deficit by now.

The plan, which would be put before voters in November, would raise $7 billion annually

It’s also interesting that the PPIC stated as fact that the Governor’s plan will, for certain, produce $7 billion in new tax revenue each year, even though again, real world experience shows that tax increases rarely, if ever, produce the revenue its predicted they will.

Later, in the second sentence, notice how the tax increases are described as “temporary,” while also noting their sunset dates.  Is it really necessary for a pollster to underline that four-year and five-year tax increases are “temporary?”  Or has there been an upgrade in the PPIC’s Department of Redundancy Department?

…through a temporary four-year half cent sales tax increase and a temporary five year income tax increase on those earning more than $250,000. Do you favor or oppose this proposal?”

Notice that the question mentions the sales tax first, then ends with tax increase on top earners, so that the “tax the rich” element is emphasized at the end of the sentence, right before the poll goes to the money question? That kind of contortion belongs in the Cirque du Soleil, not in a political poll.

You can also question the timing of the PPIC’s poll, released the very same day that the Governor and the Department of Finance announced their budget trigger cuts to the media. It all smells of conspiracy, whether or not any collusion between Brown and the PPIC actually exists.

What cannot be denied is that there is an air of insecurity wafting through the corridors of the Capitol. Otherwise, why the push (poll)? If the Governor was really confident that his tax hike proposal would pass, he wouldn’t have piggy backed the bad budget news on the PPIC poll results, let alone use Twitter to sneak his announcement of the initiative past the press last week.

What would the poll results have been if the PPIC had asked the question in a more direct and honest way?

“Despite having the highest tax and regulatory burden in country, Jerry Brown would like to raise your taxes to pay for an expansion of government. Do you favor or oppose this proposal?”  

I’m guessing that the numbers would have been similar, if not more profoundly opposed, to the last seven attempts to force budget fixes on the backs of taxpayers. Voters wisely have demanded honesty as well as accountability in government and they will certainly see through manipulated polling to turn down another ill-advised tax hike by Jerry Brown.