Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: October 11, 2010

California Ballot Propositions for 2010

Once again, it’s time to review the ballot propositions for the upcoming election in California.  While this may seem like an item of limited interest to many of you, you should remember that these propositions, in the fullness of time, often appear in other states once California has passed them.

Proposition 19: YES

A YES vote on this measure means: Individuals age 21 or older could, under state law, possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana for personal use. In addition, the state and local governments could authorize, regulate, and tax commercial marijuana-related activities under certain conditions. These activities would remain illegal under federal law.

Drug prohibition has failed.  Although, I guess that really depends on your definition of failed.  If you’re the head of drug cartel that’s made billions of dollars by supplying prohibited drugs at prices inflated artificially by government action, then I guess it’s been a rousing success.  All depends on your point of view, I suppose.

In any event, marijuana, despite being a Schedule I drug according to the Feds, is probably the least likely candidate for continued prohibition.  Perhaps there’ll be horrific outbreaks of Reefer Madness if this passes, but, you know, I’m willing to risk it.  Besides, as of last week, you can’t even get arrested for it any more in California, as possession of less 1 oz is now an infraction that’ll get you a $100 ticket.  Not even a court appearance.  So, it’s pretty clear that, in the big picture scheme of things, marijuana is pretty small potatoes.

Besides, it’ll set up a really nasty legal and political struggle between California and the Feds, which I think would be fun and instructive to watch.

Proposition 20: YES

Removes elected representatives from process of establishing congressional districts and transfers that authority to recently-authorized 14-member redistricting commission comprised of Democrats, Republicans, and representatives of neither party. A YES vote on this measure means: The responsibility to determine the boundaries of California’s districts in the U.S. House of Representatives would be moved to the Citizens Redistricting Commission, a commission established by Proposition 11 in 2008. (Proposition 27 on this ballot also concerns redistricting issues. If both Proposition 20 and Proposition 27 are approved by voters, the proposition receiving the greater number of “yes” votes would be the only one to go into effect.)

California’s redistricting plans have traditionally been made with a keen eye to preserving safe districts for the aging hippies that run the place.  With Prop 11 in 2008, and this proposition, elected politicians will be essentially removed from the redistricting process. One hopes this will result in more bipartisan redistricting that results in more competitive districts.  If not, it can’t be worse than what we’ve already got.

Proposition 21: NO

A YES vote on this measure means: An $18 annual surcharge would be added to the amount paid when a person registers a motor vehicle. The surcharge revenues would be used to provide funding for state park and wildlife conservation programs. Vehicles subject to the surcharge would have free admission and parking at all state parks.

A new tax–excuse me, “surcharge”–on one of the most highly taxed population in the country?  Uh…no. Raising taxes is always the politicians’ answer to fiscal problems.  Instead, let’s force them to cut spending–especially the unsustainable pension agreements for public workers, some of whom can retire at 50 with 85% of their salaries.  The state of California is already taking a huge chunk of money from the taxpayers, and their cry is always for more.  It’s past time for our cry to be , “Enough.”

Proposition 22: YES

A YES vote on this measure prohibits the state from borrowing or taking funds used for transportation, redevelopment, or local government projects and services.  The state’s authority to use or redirect state fuel tax and local property tax revenues would be significantly restricted.

California’s General Fund tramples on every type of revenue in the state.  Local property taxes? Right into the General Fund’s maw. Fuel taxes to pay for transportation and infrastructure? Right into the General Fund. That has to stop.  I note that the teachers and firefighters unions, etc., are against it, so I assume it must be a good thing.

Proposition 23: YES

A YES vote on this measure means: Certain existing and proposed regulations authorized under state law (“Assembly Bill 32″) to address global warming would be suspended. These regulations would remain suspended until the state unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent or lower for one year.

This proposition would, in effect, completely gut the global warming bill’s provisions.  Requiring an unemployment rate in California to remain at 5.5% for one year means that the bill will, as a practical matter, never be implemented.  So, the billions in costs for CO2 reduction, etc., will never be imposed.

Proposition 24: NO

A YES vote on this measure means: Three business tax provisions will return to what they were before 2008 and 2009 law changes. As a result: (1) a business will be less able to deduct losses in one year against income in other years, (2) a multistate business will have its California income determined by a calculation using three factors, and (3) a business will not be able to share tax credits with related businesses.

Another tax hike.  Go screw.

Proposition 25: NO

A YES vote on this measure means: The Legislature’s vote requirement to send the annual budget bill to the Governor would be lowered from two-thirds to a majority of each house of the Legislature.

I’m happy forcing a 2/3 majority for the budget, especially since California is a one-party state.  It’s really the only way to force bipartisanship on the legislature, and it gives the minority party a chance to do something besides getting run over roughshod.

Proposition 26: YES

A YES vote on this measure means: The definition of taxes would be broadened to include many payments currently considered to be fees or charges. As a result, more state and local proposals to increase revenues would require approval by two-thirds of each house of the Legislature or by local voters.

This makes it harder to raise fees or surcharges without explicit voter approval, or a supermajority in the legislature.  I have to live within a budget, let them try it for a while, instead of simply using my wallet to fill up the holes they create with overspending.

Proposition 27: NO

A YES vote on this measure means: The responsibility to determine the boundaries of State Legislature and Board of Equalization districts would be returned to the Legislature. The Citizens Redistricting Commission, established by Proposition 11 in 2008 to perform this function, would be eliminated. (Proposition 20 on this ballot also concerns redistricting issues. If both Proposition 27 and Proposition 20 are approved by voters, the proposition receiving the greater number of “yes” votes would be the only one to go into effect.)

Nope.  We already decided that we didn’t want politicians to create safe districts. Let’s keep this as a technical, bipartisan process.

Even the true-believers are losing faith

Mark Halperin has an interesting article in the current TIME.  He wonders how Obama got where he is and how he can change that.  It is interesting for some of language used.  It demonstrates a changing view, even among his supporters, that perhaps – just perhaps – this guy isn’t really up to the job … yet.   That last word that sentence is important. 

Many of us feel he has never been up to the job. We’ve pretty much been proven to be right.  Many have decided after the election that he’s not up to the job.  But there is one other category that will sort of, kind of admit he may not seem up to the job, however that’s just a temporary condition.  Once he finds his feet again, he’ll do fine.  And it that latter category that seems to best fit Halperin. 

But his opening two paragraphs are both brutal and true, whether Halperin really believes them totally or not:

Barack Obama is being politically crushed in a vise. From above, by elite opinion about his competence. From below, by mass anger and anxiety over unemployment. And it is too late for him to do anything about this predicament until after November’s elections.

With the exception of core Obama Administration loyalists, most politically engaged elites have reached the same conclusions: the White House is in over its head, isolated, insular, arrogant and clueless about how to get along with or persuade members of Congress, the media, the business community or working-class voters. This view is held by Fox News pundits, executives and anchors at the major old-media outlets, reporters who cover the White House, Democratic and Republican congressional leaders and governors, many Democratic business people and lawyers who raised big money for Obama in 2008, and even some members of the Administration just beyond the inner circle.

When you have “pundits” like Halperin (you know, the guy who feels compelled as he’s saying this to throw out the "Fox News pundits" bit out there as if they’re really the only pundits mouthing off) compelled to finally be somewhat honest about the man, then he’s in trouble.

A little further on Halperin engages in a little bit of defense for Obama:

Most of Obama’s private (and sometimes public) rebuttals to the voices slamming him on all sides are justified or spot on. He did inherit a lot of problems from the Bush Administration. He did act quickly in the initial weeks of his Administration to stave off a worldwide depression. His efforts at job creation have been obstructed by Republicans (even the proposals based on policies supported by the GOP in the past). His opponents haven’t put forth specifics of their own, nor offered genuine compromise, while the media have allowed the right’s activists and gabbers to run wild with criticism without furnishing legitimate alternative solutions.

Of course all of this depends on how you view what he’s supposedly “done”.  Unfortunately for him, the majority don’t agree that he’s earned the accolades Halperin and Obama think are due him.  And the continued nonsense about “Republican obstruction” when everyone knew he had uncontested Democratic majorities that didn’t require a single GOP vote for quite some time simply isn’t washing with the masses. 

Notice too Halperin’s attempt to spin the opposition.  They’re “allowed” to “run wild with criticism without furnishing legitimate alternative solutions.”

Really?  What rock has he been hiding under – there have been multitudes of alternative solutions offered.  It is just that Halperin and the left don’t want to admit to their legitimacy.  And just who are these organizations which have “allowed” these people to go “wild?”  The same organizations that routinely allowed that same sort of behavior during the last administration.  I guess you just don’t recognize it until it your ox being gored.

But you get a creeping sense as you read the article that Halperin, and most likely other true-  believers, really, deep down inside, understand their man doesn’t have what it takes to do the job in such a way that it will be defensible in 2012. It will be very tough to help someone who seems so bound and determined to do the wrong things politically. For instance, look at how he’s reacted to various political problems:

But Obama has exacerbated his political problems not just by failing to enact policies that would have actually turned the economy around, but also by authorizing a series of tactical moves intended to demonize Republicans and distract from the problems at hand. He has wasted time lambasting his foes when he should have been putting forth his agenda in a clear, optimistic fashion, defending the benefits of his key decisions during the past two years (health care and the Troubled Asset Relief Program, for example) and explaining what he would do with a re-elected Democratic majority to spur growth.

Shorter version: he’s on the defensive and has retreated to campaign mode, the only real success he’s ever had in his life – getting elected to some office.  He’s in his comfort zone.  How are they going to entice him back out of that to “govern”?  How does one get someone who is uncomfortable in the job and the role his election has garnered him to do what he’s supposed to do and not worry about what the critics say?  Apparently they don’t.  He’s abdicated his leadership position before and there’s no indication he’s really all that keen on the role.  Halperin and his side are beginning to see and understand what many of us have understood before he took office.

How lost is Obama, the guy once touted as having one of the most finely tuned political antennas in the world?

Throughout the year, we have been treated to Obama-led attacks on George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Congressman Joe Barton (for his odd apology to BP), John Boehner (for seeking the speakership — or was it something about an ant?) and Fox News (for everything). Suitable Democratic targets in some cases, perhaps, but not worth the time of a busy Commander in Chief. In the past few days, we have witnessed the spectacle of the President himself and his top advisers wading into allegations that Republicans are attempting to buy the election using foreign money laundered through the Chamber of Commerce, combining with Karl Rove and his wealthy backers to fund a flood of negative television commercials. Not only is this issue convoluted and far-fetched, but it also distracts from the issues voters care about, frustrating political insiders and alienating struggling citizens (not that many are following such an offbeat story line). Feinting and gibing can’t obscure those job numbers.

Pretty darn lost.  And I, frankly, don’t think much will change in the next few years.  The man is not a leader and he’s not going to learn it in time to help himself.  In fact, because he’s engaged in this battle with the Chamber of Commerce, I’d say he’s in even worse shape than previously imagined and seems to have some pretty bad advisers if they are enabling or encouraging the sort of behavior described above.

~McQ

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As configured Federal Government is not popular with majority population

One of the points I continue to try and make when talking about Democrats, Republicans and elections is that which ever side is on the winning side this time or that, it’s mostly because the populace is more disgusted with the other side than enamored with their side.

The trend in the “are we on the right or wrong track as a country” has been in the negative for many years.  People aren’t happy in general with the direction of the country or how it is being governed in general, regardless of the party in power.

Gallup points to one of primary “specifics” that relate to that feeling – perceptions about the federal government.  And it isn’t pretty reading if you’re a big government fan:

Overall, 72% of responses about the federal government are negative, touching on its inefficiency, size, corruption, and general incompetence, with the most common specific descriptions being "too big," "confused," and "corrupt."

In fact in another recent Gallup poll, the federal government ranked next to last (only above the oil and gas industry which it has constantly demonized) with only 26% of those surveyed seeing it in a positive light.

This is one of the reasons the Tea Parties exist – they are the small minority of activists which vocalize what much of the population feels and is doing its best via the ballot box to correct.  What the TP does is give the issue the visibility it needs.   A voice to the frustration.

What you see in much of Washington DC is a bunch of government “addicts” (i.e. politicians and bureaucrats) in denial. 

I could go on a riff about all of this for thousands of words, but you’ve all read it before.  It is like the 800 pound gorilla in the room that neither party really wants to acknowledge.  Such acknowledgment would mean a) they’d have to actually listen to the people and that means b) giving up the power they’ve accrued to this point.  And in reality, neither party really, honestly wants to do that (oh certainly there are some in each who might be amenable, but not as a whole, no matter what they say). 

The relatively good news is you can tell both parties are worried about this, but for different reasons.  Democrats realize they’re almost completely on the wrong side of this.  They are, at heart, a big government party.  They see government as the primary means of accomplishing what they visualize as a utopian egalitarian society overseen by a large (costly and intrusive) government.  What is beginning to bother them is realizing how few buy into that vision and want it. 

The Republicans, on the other hand, supposedly embody the principles that the frustrated populace mostly embrace.  The problem is performance.  They haven’t lived up to their principles for decades.  That is why you see insurgent candidates running against establishment candidates and doing well.  The insurgents may be colorful and for the most part, not the choice of the establishment, but that’s the point.  However flawed the insurgent candidates are personally, they represent a message to the establishment.  It is about a type of candidate – philosophically.   They’re essentially saying “you count seats, we count principles” and they’re further saying “we’d rather chance losing the seat that putting someone in there that doesn’t represent our needs” because doing otherwise simply hasn’t worked out in the past, has it?

That is,to me at least, one of the more fascinating aspects of what is going on out there.  And these polls that Gallup and others do indicate this isn’t something which is going to be easily or quickly remedied.  However, it should warn both sides that business as usual is not an option.  And while that may manifest itself somewhat in this election, it is the 2012 political season that is going the be one of the most interesting in decades to watch.

~McQ

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