Wednesday, October 18, 2006

California Propositions

I figured it's about time for me to post my opinions on the various ballot propositions. But before I get into specifics, let me state my first principle of ballot propositions: Vote "no" by default. In general, a proposition means another law, and probably another set of bonds. Almost universally, new laws are unnecessary, and more public debt is just plain wrong. If you don't know how you're going to vote, do yourself a favor and show up just to vote "no" on every single proposition... yes, that includes the ones I intend to vote "yes" on. Generally, it is more important for a bad proposition to be voted down than for a good one to be voted in. If it's really that important, that fact will be more evident next year, or the legislature will get themselves in gear and do their job, or some entrepreneur will solve the problem before anyone even has a chance to re-float the proposition.

So if you don't want to even think about this, just go and vote "no," and preserve your own freedom. That said, let me move onto the individual propositions.

Propositions 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E, and 84:

These, collectively, shall be known as the "Taxation of Your Children Initiatives" or the "Direct Wealth Transfer from Middle Class to Rich Acts". I don't care what wonderful things the authors claim will be accomplished by these acts. First off, whether or not these things will actually occur is a crapshot; the language could well contain loopholes that allow bueraeucrats to divert spending to other purposes--most particularly to the financial backers of the proposition. Secondly, even if the language is bullet proof, we still have the issue of potentially incompetant bueraeucrats misspending the money. Either way, it's most likely a waste.

Still it may--or may not--be a good use of money. However, one thing it is guaranteed to do is bolster the continuing program of transfering wealth from the middle class and working poor to the upper class. Here's how it works. The government offers bonds for sale on the market. People who already have lots of money buy these bonds... instead of buying stock or lending money to people who are actually trying to improve our quality of life through the production of goods and services. Once they have them, our government is obligated to pay them interest on those bonds, and do you know where the money to pay that interest comes from? Tax revenues, that's where, and the majority of tax revenues come from the middle class. So, in authorizing bonds, what you're really doing is authorizing a regressive wealth transfer.

Personally, I think the ending of public debt would go much further to restore equality in this country than all the progressive taxes in the world.

Again, if something is really that important, the state legislature should set aside money from existing tax revenues... not set up an annuity for the country's wealthiest.

Proposition 1A: Maybe = No

At first glance, I thought I'd be voting in favor of this proposition. On its face, the notion that the purpose of gas taxes is to fund transportation infrastructure seems good, and--even better--the notion of hobbling the state government sounds good to me, as well.

On further reflection, I realized that I don't really believe in funding infrastructure with gas taxes. If we really want a just funding of infrastructure, a far better idea would be to charge people directly for road use in congested areas at certain times of the day. I would go so far as to charge as much as we possibly could charge while still keeping the roads at full usage--if the road usage goes down, obviously, too much is being charged. In addition to being a more justly direct charge for the use of public roads, it would have the effect of reducing congestion at certain times of the day, as well as providing a certain measure of where more infrastructure is needed: wherever the most money is brought in, that is where more infrastructure is needed (and building it would drive down the price). Of course, if we're going to go that far to mimic market incentives, I don't see why we shouldn't go all the way... but I'm just saying.

In addition, there is a second, better justification for gas taxes (if there be justification for any taxes): a charge, not for the disproportionate use of public roads, but the disproportionate use of public air. That there is currently a "tragedy of the commons" under way where the use of oxygen for combustion and the use of airspace as a dumping ground for byproducts is concerned cannot be denied... whether or not Global Warming is real. While, if we're going to go that route, I would prefer a tax that hits all fossil fuels based upon pollutant content (this much for carbon, this much for mercury, etc.) charged at the point where it enters the economy (ports of entry, wellheads, mineshafts, etc.). As a matter of fact, I'd love to see that replace some more universally applied tax, to cut down on the bureaucratic costs and invasions of privacy associated with other taxes.

Basically, the arguments in favor at least balance with arguments against, and when in doubt, I vote no.

Proposition 83: No

If there's one issue where people are more likely to vote with their emotions rather than their brains, this is it. There is truly nothing more vile than a sexual predator. There may be others that are worse; people who deliberately profit from the extermination of hundreds of thousands come to mind. But the deaths of hundreds of thousands is a statistic; the violation of a single child is a tragedy.

However, I do not believe Proposition 83 is the answer to the problem. I believe the opponents of this proposition when they say the GPS monitoring would be a waste of money, that the blanket coverage of misdemeanor offenders would be both unjust and wasteful, and that the residency requirments, applied to so many people, would have undesirable unintended consequences. We already have laws against the truly vile offenders... laws that already failed to protect Jessica Lunsford. I fail to see how tightening the law will stop people who are going to ignore the law anyway. Perhaps lifelong GPS monitoring would be good for felony offendors... but not misdemeanor offenders.

Personally, I think we should just brand them. When I saw "brand," I am referring to the procedure of heating an iron with a distinctive design upon it until it is red hot, then applying that iron to the skin of the offender--no anestheisa. Apply it to their cheek and their off hand. It'd be much cheaper, and people could detect the mark at a glance without the aid of expensive equipment... not to mention the procedure is painful. Children could be trained to run screaming from (or hurl eggs at) people who bear the mark. Threaten any doctor who surgically removes the scarring with a similar branding, and I think we'd pretty well have it covered: viscerally satisfying protection from sexual predators, on the cheap!

Other propositions will be covered at a later date.

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