Saturday, May 30, 2009


no, not the CD by Red Hot Chili Peppers nor the show on Showtime...

I'm just really frustrated by this state... again...

Our state budget is in the toilet and essential services are being impacted in a serious way. Cuts to education are particularly troubling to me. And there is no need for it. California is a rich state. If it was a country, its economy would be something like the 9th largest in the world. We have everything from agriculture all over the state that feeds the world to Silicon Valley that shapes the way the world shares information. There is no reason our tax base should be unable to provide the basic services we need and pay for the government...

Well, no good reason. There is a reason. Propositions. I've written about this dysfunctional way of doing government before but it has hit the fan now. If you can get a relatively small number of people to sign a petition, you can get a proposition on the ballot. If you have enough money to do some serious advertising, you can get it passed. Once it is passed, the only way it can be changed is by another proposition. The legislature cannot touch any laws enacted by proposition. You've noticed that there are no requirements that the proposition be well written, aware of collateral consequences, or even helpful. You only have to sell it and then it is law.

So, what typically happens is that some special interest passes a law requiring funding for their cause. It may e a good cause. It may even be a great cause... but rarely does the proposition include provisions for a funding stream (that would look too much like a tax). It passes and codifies a program which takes away money from the general budget. Then another proposition is introduced to cut or cap taxes (prop 13 is the grand daddy of all of these). So the income shrinks but the outflow cannot. It is codified. And the legislature cannot address the issue without a proposition. As Bill Maher said in New Rules last week, you end up with a fantasy land where people vote for wonderful programs while also voting to get them essentially for free. And you can see the problem.

FWIW, Paul Krugman had a great column on the issue this week.

Prop 8 showed the other problem with propositions. After the court ruled that the prop 8 stands, there were lots of folk in the media commenting that the people had spoken and the role of government was to honor the wishes of the majority. Frankly, I'm glad that hasn't been the policy in the past. Segregation would not have ended in the south as the majority would clearly have voted to keep the races separate. The list of examples is long. Part of the role of government is to stand against the tyranny of the majority and to ensure the rights of those outside of the mainstream. Regardless of how one feels about this issue, this was not the way to address it.

I don't see any way to get rid of the proposition process... but I sure would like to see it happen.

1 comment:

That Baptist Ain't Right said...

All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate which would be oppression.
---Thomas Jefferson, "First Inaugural Address," March 4, 1801; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 364.