Thursday, October 02, 2014

California proposition recommendations for November 3, 2014

Voter pamphlet here.

As is so often the case with California propositions, it’s the details that’ll get you. Even where the general principle of a prop is good, their authors often throw in a poison pill. Sometimes it’s distasteful enough to make me unable to vote for it. I’ve explained my logic below, see if you agree.

Proposition 1: Jerry Brown’s water bonds.  I am opposed to bonds, all bonds, 1) on pragmatic grounds because they’re an expensive form of funding, and the interest paid on them is money just flushed down the toilet, 2) on fairness grounds because they are regressive, allowing bond purchasers undeserved tax deductions, and 3) on principled grounds because they place tax obligations on the future generations that have to pay them off, which amounts to taxation without representation.  Also, I have no way of knowing – and neither do you, admit it – if these water projects are the right water projects to be funding – are they the most effective use of the money? do they overly favor agribusiness? are all those dams bad for the environment?  No on 1.

Proposition 2: “Rainy day” budgeting.  The idea is to put aside money in good years so that budgets aren’t cut in bad economic times when the need is greatest.  But this version of that idea seems more concerned with paying down debts than with preserving services.  The real goal seems to be, as the LA Times is quoted in the Yes argument, “to promote a culture of savings in Sacramento.”  In other words, it’s a way to impose an institutional straitjacket on the Legislature’s ability to make choices, to put in place budgetary policies for which conservatives could not get a mandate at legislative elections.  No on 2.

Proposition 45: Regulating health insurance rates, giving the insurance commissioner the power to determine if insurance company claims about why they need to raise rates are actually true.  The only good argument against this is that it gives too much responsibility to one person, but, again, in a democracy we have elections to keep the commissioner honest.  And it’s kind of worked – the insurance companies haven’t been able to buy a commissioner election since Chuck Quackenbush was forced to resign, narrowly escaping corruption charges.  Dude thought he was going to be the next governor, wound up forced to leave the state entirely and start a new career as a cop in Florida.  No candidate for the office since then has dared to take insurance company money.  Yes on 45, insurance companies need someone in government looking over their shoulder.

Proposition 46:  Drug testing of doctors, controlling controlled substances, malpractice suits.  The No side complains that the drug testing thing is a Trojan horse for raising pain and suffering awards in malpractice cases.  They’re right, but the motivation of the backers is irrelevant to the question of whether the prop. is any good.  The maximum pain & suffering award has been stuck at a measly $250,000 for 40 years.  Which might be all the victim gets – you don’t get compensation for lost wages, for example, if you’re six.  And the awards are now so low that decent lawyers won’t bother taking malpractice cases.  It needs to be raised (to $1.1 million, with increases matching inflation in the future) not just to properly compensate victims and survivors of bad doctoring but also to prevent malpractice in the first place.  I’m actually a little dubious (though not a lot dubious) about the drug testing provision, which only applies to doctors affiliated with hospitals and would be paid for by the doctors themselves, who could be harassed with frequent tests by administrators who don’t like them.  And the provision disproportionately affects doctors who deal with difficult cases – perform open-heart surgery on a 75-year-old who dies, pee into a cup.  Actually, as I write I'm getting more annoyed at the drug-testing provision. The third provision, having doctors prescribing addictive narcotics check to see that patients don’t already have prescriptions from other doctors, seems like something they should be doing anyway.  And that database already exists, so the worries the No side raises about data security aren't affected by 46 one way or the other.  Yes on 46.

Proposition 47: Drug offenses and minor property crimes treated as misdemeanors rather than felonies.  And if they’d just left it at that, I’d have voted for it, happily.  But they had to keep those crimes as felonies for people with past convictions for violent or sex crimes.  What does a previous criminal history have to do with whether you should go to prison for drug possession, shoplifting or check-kiting?  Nothing, but they wrote 47 the way they did so there wouldn’t be alarmist ads from the No side about letting rapists and murderers roam our streets.  I wish they’d written a better proposition, but there’s a fairness issue here, a matter of principle: all potheads should be equal before the law.  So I’m going to have to say No on 47.

Proposition 48: Indian gambling.  Is a slot machine really a “game,” by the way?  The ballot book doesn’t use the word “gambling” even once.  Honestly, I couldn’t care less about this, except for two things: 1) It costs the state a fair amount of money to administer a proposition, and I resent that being spent to ratify a deal between the state and two Indian tribes (one of which is called the Mono Indians – just saying), 2) The projects are exempted from California environmental laws in ways which are not explained.  Which is enough for me to say No.

Berkeley and San Francisco voters: Remember how smug and condescending Chris Christie sounded when he said that the nurse he had quarantined for non-existent Ebola would thank him for it if she just thought about it a bit more? Picture yourself standing in the soda aisle of Safeway saying the same thing to customers who will have to pay the sugary beverages tax. Democracy does not mean that our diets are subject to a vote of the people, even if it is "for our own good."

Elsewhere in the voter pamphlet, I notice that none of the candidates for governor or lite guv bothered to pay for candidate statements this year.  Kind of tacky, guys.

The candidate statement for the Republican candidate for insurance commissioner says he’s “been the ultimate consumer advocate for more than 30 years.”  He’s an insurance salesman.

The Republican running for District 1 of the Board of Equalization seems to think that not properly taxing the underground economy promotes human trafficking.  The R in District 2 wants you to know “I drive a pickup truck to work each day”.

Comments, rebuttals, and lame jokes about water bonds & rainy day budgets are welcome in comments.

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1 comment:

  1. Is there a way to put forth a proposition that the arguments and rebuttals are banned from using ALL CAPS for emphasis FOR THE CHILDREN. Better would be having to cite references for bullshit claims, but I know that's a pipe dream.

    It's bad enough that people won't read the propositions themselves, but the purpose of the arguments/rebuttals in a pamphlet form is to present a biased but hopefully logical argument for or against the proposition. Even CNN doesn't randomly capitalize in this way. From Prop 2 for: PAY DOWN DEBTS, PROTECT SCHOOLS. I'm surprised that it doesn't throw in a REDUCE BABY SLAUGHTER.

    Also, WTF with the pro and against leading with 'Both Democrats and Republicans support/oppose Prop 2'. This is the problem with the 1 party system - it's all bullshit to where thought is abandoned and the only arguments put forth by "either side" are inane and don't actually educate the voting populous.

    *sigh* As a life long resident of a very blue state that has a terrible government I'm still glad we're not CA.