Howard Jarvis’ crusade against runaway property taxes may have altered U.S. politics for years to come, but it hasn’t changed Howard the Lionhearted. “I’ve still got the same number of suits ,” growls the crusty Californian, “and I still eat bread and milk for dinner three times a week.” But if the septuagenarian shepherd of public indignation hasn’t dropped the habits of a spartan life, he is nonetheless relishing the spoils of his victory. Following landslide approval of his Proposition 13 by California voters last June, Jarvis has been (a) hailed as a grass-roots guru by followers and antagonists alike, (b) wooed by candidates of both political parties, and (c) enriched handsomely. Says Jarvis simply: “I enjoy what’s happening to me.”
And why not? After 16 years as a political loser, advancing a cause whose time had not come, he is riding the crest. In the past year and a half he has spoken in every state but Alaska and Hawaii, and was scheduled to meet this month with conservative leaders in Paris and London. He has logged some 200,000 air miles, spoken live to nearly 250,000 people, and reached another 80 million on television. Jarvis commands an average $4,000 per speech at conventions and business meetings and has netted $150,000-plus since September—”more than I’ve ever made before. I’ve also got my own column which appears in nearly 50 newspapers,” he notes, “I’ve signed a contract for a book, and negotiations are under way for a movie.” The erstwhile Last Angry Man is now represented by the William Morris agency.
Fame and prosperity have not dampened Jarvis’ fervor, he insists—nor that of his critics. Columnist Jack Anderson has accused him of profiting from fraudulent fund raising, and his Proposition 13 coauthor, Paul Gann, claims his former colleague suffers from “diarrhea of the mouth.” Jarvis says he still speaks free of charge to taxpayers’ groups and is carrying on the good fight against government spending. Though Proposition 13 may seem like a hard act to follow, he promises: “I’m going to be at the opening of the next Congress and push for a bill that will cut federal expenditures over four years by $100 billion.” Washington’s resistance, he believes, can be broken. “Politicians are basically cowardly,” Jarvis declares. “They go with the wind.”