Friday, November 03, 2006

California Propositions: Continued

Sorry about the lateness of this post. I've been extremely busy lately, and the closer the election gets, the less and less I want to think about politics.

Proposition 85: NO.

I could almost vote in favor of Proposition 85. My instinct is generally to favor parental authority over child liberty. But I prefer for that authority take shape in a state of political and economic freedom for both parties, the natural result of a child's dependence on his parents, and not the result of government mandate.

Another problem is that this proposition furthers the bueraeucratic regulatory model in which the assumption is made that professionals are guilty until proven innocent. I can understand requiring a doctor to notify the parents. I can understand futher the notion that this requirement can be delayed until after the abortion if the doctor notes in her records that to delay would be life threatening. But the doctor would also have to submit notice to a state regulatory board of any and all abortions performed on minors.

Why? What purpose does this serve? If a doctor is going to fudge his records in order to hide an illegal abortion, he's hardly going to submit the paperwork. No, this is nothing more than the continuation of our society's shift from a judicial model in which people are presumed innocent until proven guilty, to a bueraeucratic model in which people are presumed guilty until proven innocent. It would be sufficient to allow parents to take the doctor to court, and each party can provide whatever evidence they have. There is no need to subject the medical community to yet more pointless paperwork.

I sincerely doubt we are in the midst of any kind of minor abortion "crisis" as a result of the absence of this particular law (except insofar as one might consider permitting any abortions whatsoever a crisis). This being the case, I cannot recommend voting in favor of this proposition.

Proposition 86: NO.

This proposition is wrong on many levels.

First off, it would benefit organized crime enormously. Organized crime and terrorist organizations already benefit enormously from the opportunity to smuggle cigarettes across state lines. This proposition would raise cigarette prices by $2.16 a pack. That raises the price by over a third, assuming $4.00 a pack is a good estimate of the current price. That is a massive smuggling opportunity.

In other words, instead of honest businessmen profiting off the few people who don't care about the widely known health risks of smoking, we have cutthroats and killers profitting off this. Very likely, any gains made through the funding of hospitals and clinics would be at least offset by the extra that would have to be spent on law enforcement, not to mention the midnight gunshot wound in the emergency room. And lets not forget terrorists... you know, those guys that want to blow us up just to make a point? (Yes, for those of you who follow this blog, I do believe the exist. I just happen to believe current policies, such as this one, empower them further.)

It is also morally wrong. It amounts to the targeting of an unpopular minority as a revenue tap.

I really don't want to see this one pass.

Proposition 87: NO

As I have said earlier, I am not generally opposed to excise taxes on fossil fuels. I happen to think this the best way to reduce both the consumption of fossil fules (and thefore the production of fossil fuel wastes), as well as potentially the levels of other taxes. However, this proposition does much more than just tax fuel and throw the proceeds into the general fund. It immediately turns around to spend it, potentially in a manner counterproductive to its stated goals.

The basic idea is that the money will be funneled into a bueraucracy that will attempt to encourage the development of alternative energy sources. Now, I'm all for alternative energy sources (indeed, I can be quite enthusiastic), but I happen to think the public funding of the development of such things is ultimately counterproductive. At best, it subverts the process by favoring political connections, rather than technologies. The two can coincide, but there is hardly a guarantee of this.

At worst, it could be used by the oil industry to stifle the development of alternative energy technologies. It is political appointees who would make the decisions regarding who gets funded and who doesn't, and while elected officials make the ultimate decisons as to who get appointements, well funded lobbies exert great influence over the process... particularly in this heavily gerrymandered state. Such lobbies include the oil industry. Given that oil producers would have great interest in the activities of such an authority, it can be expected that they would seek to influence this authority. If they are successful enough, then when it wasn't sponsoring the efforts of the oil companies themselves, it could well be funding the least promising technologies.

All in all, this initiative is yet another extremely bad idea. I'm not even sure it's well intentioned, though I'm sure the intentions of many of the dupes that will vote for this on election day are good.

Proposition 88: NO

Unfortunately, I don't have too much to say about this measure I think will appeal to many. Sure, there is the issue regarding the imposition of a statewide property tax (property taxes traditionally being the purview of counties), and I don't like having more than one level of government tax anything... it can only undermine the lower level, in the long run. Then there is the matter of how the funding would probably go more to bueraucracy than to actual education... but that's a given where public education is concerned. No, my opposition to this measure is rooted in my opposition to public education in general. Such a discussion goes beyond the scope of this ramble, thus I will leave it for another time.

Proposition 89: NO

Campaign funding is such a huge, messy topic I am tempted to throw up my hands on this one and just say I'm voting no by default. There are, however, a few things I would like to say about this.

First off, for those of you thinking this is a great way to get third party cantidates a large war chest, remember that nothing comes without a cost. This proposition is a Trojan Horse. Sure, it'll start out as just a grant of money to a cantidate for public office, but money given never stays that way. Remember that the main way the federal government violates the separation of powers between itself and state governments is by way of funding specific programs. It always starts out as funding for a particular purpose, and then the rules start piling on. The danger is the same.

Secondly, do you really want a cantidate that can't raise enough money from his own supporters to have a huge amount granted by the government? I sure don't. I'm sure the sorts of campaigns we'd see would result in an outcry for new rules and regulations as to what cantidates can do with the money. Imagine if a porn star got the Libertarian nomination, for example.

Finally, all the new regulations as to who can give what to who in what form and all that would accomplish nothing. I am convinced that attempting to patch a basic flaw in our political system doesn't fix it, it merely covers it up. Shady election practices would still exist, they'd just be driven further underground, even more hidden than before. Meanwhile, perfectly legitimate interests would be prevented from having their say.

The new taxes, of course, strike at the worst possible point. Corporate taxes reduce employment. Heck, I don't even know how big a corporation would have to be in order to qualify for the increased tax rate. I know for a fact that higher taxes assessed against the company I work for would probably reduce my chances at getting a raise.

If we really want more competative elections, the thing to do is to require that election districts conform to community boundaries as much as possible. The influence of "special interests" would be much less if our districts were formed on the basis of community, and not on the basis of what's "safe" for the incumbants.

Proposition 90: NO!

I am extremely disappointed that the good version of eminant domain protection did not make the ballot. It's not surprising, though; it didn't have anything in there that would act as a payout to anyone who already has money, so it couldn't possibly get the necessary support. This one, however, does. It has a truly massive payout for its financial backers.

Basically, in addition to outlawing takings for transfer to private parties for whatver reason, it also makes it possible to sue the state for any change in regulation that a property owner can make a case that the regulation damaged the market value of the property. For example, if a zoning change reduces the value of a parcel of land, the owner could sue. If we did away with ag subsidies (something I am very much in favor of), farmers all over the state could sue on the basis of a lower market value for farmland. If a new environmental regulation made it more difficult to do business, the owner could sue. Any change in the tax code could trigger a lawsuit.

Basically, this legislation made the ballot precisely because it is broken. Either developers get a new class of lawsuit that specifically favors them, or the legislation gets rejected. It's a win-win situation, for them. Hopefully, this issue won't just die. This initiative must be rejected, but we can't just forget that eminent domain reform is needed.

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