Monday, October 22, 2012

Prop Joe

I've been trying to avoid the inevitable...election season.  In elections past, I've either opened up a debate open thread or offered my thoughts on California propositions.  In this one, I'd like to do both.  Feel free to offer your pre-, post-, or then-existing debate thoughts.  As a reminder, today's the last day to register to vote in the November 6 election and you can do so here.

Final (Debate) Countdown

As a self-described degenerate gambler (I'm just kidding Dear Future Background Checker), here are my prop bets on tonight's debate (and the payoff odds).

1.  Obama wears blue tie.  (even money).

2.  Both candidates "work the ref."  (-1200 [which means very likely to happen]).

3.  Substantive discussion on the legality (or lack thereof) of continued and expanded drone strikes (or some other foreign policy issue not amenable to 3 second talking point).  (+10,000).

California Propositions

As a default, my rule is to vote no on any proposition.  For long time followers of California history and politics, it's a simple fact that the propositions are choking this state, in particular by removing the Legislature's discretion to cut / add spending.  

Prop 30 -- Yes.  Increase in sales tax and income tax for high earners to pay for the budget gap.  I benefited from much lower fees at both UCLA and Boalt.  More than happy to pay my higher share in taxes to help prevent further increases on students and others.  Also, I dislike Prop 38 because it suffers from the fatal flaw of other propositions that mandate how the money is to be spent.  That's a flaw, not a virtue. 

Prop 31 -- No.  Something about amending the constitution to change budget cycle and something about local governments blah blah blah.  I read the title and realized I'm not persuaded to vote yes.  So, gets a no by default.  This is again one of those instances where it sounds fine on paper to allow local governments to have spending discretion, but let's say the state allocates $50 million on contraceptives, and some crazy right wing director of health in say Barstow thinks this is the Devil's plan.  Why should the Legislature have to veto her actions just to make sure someone is spending the money as intended?  This is ridiculous and another one of those propositions that wrecks the system more than solving anything. 

Prop 32 -- No.  Basically your average "red state" anti-union political contributions bill.  Very strange that in certain states union political activism is evil, but corporate political activism is free speech / personhood. 

Prop 33 --  No.  This changes the law to allow auto insurers to base pricing decisions in part on history of insurance coverage.  For example, currently your rate is based on your age, driving history, type of vehicle, etc.  So if you've had insurance with any insurer, you get a discount, but the uninsured guy trying to buy insurance has to pay more.  And that is why I'm voting no.  I want MORE people to carry insurance.  I don't want to give them added incentive not to carry insurance.  Sure, I might be giving up a buck or two in some illusory discount, but I think that's a small price to pay. 

Prop 34 -- Yes.  Overturn the death penalty.  Amazing what we as Californians are willing to pay in bad economic times but this category of wasteful spending seems to survive.

Prop 35 -- No.  Increase penalty for human traffickers, etc.  I'm not pro human trafficking or anything, but this state has a terrible history of passing "tough on crime" propositions that result in absurdities.  Why is this necessary?  Is the pro-human trafficking lobby strongly opposed to increasing punishments through the Legislature? 

Prop 36 -- YES.  A resounding yes for this proposition that modifies California's ridiculous three strikes law after nearly two decades of failure.  For those too young to remember, in the early to mid 90s, a Petaluma girl named Polly Klaas was kidnapped from her home by a felon with multiple convictions.  This naturally led to all sorts of hysteria in the suburbs about felons walking among us, so California passed a law mandating a sentence of 20 years to life for anyone convicted of a third felony.  What could possibly go wrong?  A lot actually.  This finally modifies the law to require that the third felony be serious or violent, with certain exceptions.  Net savings?  $70 to $90 million annually.  Yes and yes. 

Prop 37 -- Undecided.  This is the proposition that would require labeling of genetically engineered ("GE") foods for the undecided.  I honestly still don't know which way I lean on this one.  Here is my thinking.  Con:  The proponents seem to be putting a lot of stock in junk science.  Even if the article is a bit of a hit job, we can all certainly agreed that there is certainly no consensus in the scientific community on the effects of genetically modified foods in the way that there is for tobacco.  Also, if someone is currently interested in buying non-GE food, they can shop at Whole Foods or whatever.  Why create an unnecessary panic?  Pro:  We're all capable of deciding how much sugar we should eat, but that's required to be on a food label.  Why not GE information?  Why can't we trust people to make their own decisions with information and as far as I can see this does not restrict the sale of GE foods. 

Prop 38 -- See above.

Prop 39 and 40 -- declining to comment.  This means you shouldn't ask, "Why can't you comment?" 

Opine away.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you even read Prop 37? It's worse than Prop 65, a plaintiff's lawyer's wet dream. How many hundreds of millions in settlements and attorneys' fees is your precious labeling worth? What's worse, the morons who wrote the thing made multiple drafting errors. The most idiotic of them is the ban on promoting any food as "natural" if it's processed in any way, i.e. canned milled etc. They couldn't just leave it at that too. They banned "imply"ing that they were natural. WTF does that even mean? The most amusing error is where they screwed up the citation to a prior section in their own bill. You're blind, or banging some seriously hot enviro chicks if you can't see what a stupid law this is.


OK I'm done.

10/22/2012 11:36 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Did you even read Prop 37?

I'm an American voter. No, of course not. Are you kidding me? Why did YOU read it? Who reads propositions? Since when is internal inconsistency a disqualification for a California proposition? It's more like a badge of honor.

As for the sexual tension in the rest of your post, let me just be on the record that my wife and I have yet to successfully barter sex and politics with each other. And a "plaintiff's lawyer's wet dream" is generally a defense lawyer's wet dream as well. It's only politicians who think that describing something as a "plaintiff's lawyer's wet dream" is a bad thing.

10/22/2012 11:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is it idiotic for companies to have to label their foods accurately? Why is it bullshit for "natural" to be used in a way decided by voters and not marketing departments in huge corporations? Transparency is a good thing and corporations that sell food should have to be more transparent.

10/23/2012 11:29 AM  
Blogger Milan Moravec said...

Einstein on Prop. 30, Prop. 38 – “Spending more money on doing what has been done in the past and hoping for a better outcome is insanity”.
Have the innovative, thoughtful, insightful, creative teachers and faculty create methodologies to increase learning with significantly reduced resources $. Be American do more with less!
No on 30, No on 38 and No on 32

10/23/2012 7:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whenever anyone tells you to "be American" by doing x it's usually to obscure the fact that x probably isn't in the interest of most Americans.

10/23/2012 9:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

+1 on Props 30, 32 and 34!

I especially appreciate your words on how dictating how money is spent is a flaw not a virtue. Especially in CA. It has destroyed the budgeting process about as much as other stupid ideas we have here, like voter initiatives in the first place. I pay the representatives I elect quite good money to do this work, and I would like them to do it, not elect them, pay them and then give myself all the work of decision-making. If we really can't trust them to decide on this stuff, can we at least be honest with ourselves and quit pretending we are a republic?

10/23/2012 11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No on Prop 38. It undermines Prop 30 which is critical for the reasons you stated. Also it doesn't help the UCs just K-12.

10/24/2012 11:07 PM  
Blogger James said...

Here's my guide:

Prop 30 – I recommend Yes. The proposition raises income tax on top earners and raises sales tax for everyone by a quarter of a percent in order to fund public education in California. Did you go to a California public school? University? Community College? If so, you took advantage of CA tax payer money to further yourself. I shouldn’t have to go on and on about why education access is extremely important and this measure is incredibly important for CA’s public education. 89% of the money raised will go directly to K-12 and community college education in California. There are two competing school tax plans on the ballot – this one was proposed by Jerry Brown and California Democrats and is meant to make changes in a measured, controlled way.

Prop 31 – I recommend No. One of the less talked about propositions, this one will change the way the budget works. It creates a two year budget cycle and frees up around $200M for special county programs. This money will come out of general state funds. This proposition will also allow governors to make budget cuts without legislative oversight during “fiscal emergencies.” Proponents of the bill claim it will add “sanity” to the budgeting process, but instead it will make it easier for the governor to act unilaterally to make whatever cuts he or she pleases (like a mid-year cut to education) and it will allow local governments ways to try and get around state and federal environmental regulation. It’s being marketed as a way to solve CA’s budget problems, but is instead a partisan band-aid that makes unilateral cutting by the executive easier and also provides ways for counties to avoid environmental regulations.

Prop 32 – I recommend No. This proposition is meant to decrease the power of unions politically in California. While this might be something people agree with, it does not meaningfully decrease corporate power in California, creating a pro-Republican, pro-business advantage. The proposition has been billed at stopping both corporate and union money, but it only prohibits payroll deductions by corporations to finance campaigns. This is not how corporations give to election campaigns, with the money instead coming from general revenue. Union dues, however, are collected from paychecks. The bill effectively hamstrings unions while giving carte blanche to corporations. Even the relatively conservative San Jose Mercury is against it: “It actually tilts the political playing field in favor of the wealthy and corporations.”

Prop 33 – I recommend No. This proposition sounds simple – it’s written to allow insurance companies to lower rates based on whether or not a driver has had insurance before. The flipside, however, is that it allows insurers to jack up rates for new drivers or drivers who have not had insurance in the last 90 days. This would mean that if you didn’t have a car for the last two years, but always had insurance when you had a car, you would still get jacked up rates despite doing nothing wrong. This proposition demonstrates what’s wrong with the CA prop system. The insurance industry has completely funded it and it has misleading wording. If this proposition was really going to save Californians money on car insurance, why would a billionaire insurance magnate have put $32M into it? And why would it be opposed by basically every community group and labor union in the state aside from chambers of commerce? Again, from the relatively conservative San Jose Mercury: “Voters should once again see through Mercury's longstanding attempts to change state insurance law in a way that would not only discourage some motorists from buying auto polices, but would also encourage them to drive without any coverage, which costs the rest of us."

10/29/2012 12:30 PM  
Blogger James said...

Part 2:

Prop 34 – I recommend Yes. While it shouldn’t be a big surprise that this is my recommendation, I would encourage those of you on the fence to think about California’s death penalty system. Since it was re-instated in 1978, it has cost Californians billions of dollars and has only resulted in 13 executions. There are 725 people on death row and there have been no executions since 2006 (nor are there any currently scheduled). Opponents of this prop say these statistics exist because the appeals system is broken, takes too long, etc. Take it from me – death penalty appeals in California meet the minimum Constitutional standards. There is simply no more room to cut due process and so every person sentenced to death will have the ability to take part in a lengthy appeals process, whether you think they should have this access or not. We are wasting money that could be going to our schools, our police and back in our pockets on a system that simply does not work. All 725 of these inmates will have their sentences changed to life without parole, which means they have no ability to get out of prison (unless they’re found innocent via appeals). From the conservative San Bernardino Sun: "California's death penalty, for all practical purposes, is not a death penalty. It is a costly sentence that sucks up millions of dollars in public funds to support a special class of inmates who are more likely to die of old age than from lethal injection. It does not provide justice in any form."

Prop 35 – I recommend No. Prop 35 raises penalties on sex traffickers and changes sex offender registration laws. Who could be against such a thing? Well, our sex offender laws are some of the strongest in the country as it stands. This bill will expand the definition of trafficker in bizarre ways – an adult child living with an alleged pimp could be required to register based on this law because the adult lives in the same apartment as the “pimp.” The legislature doesn’t shy away from passing harsh sentencing laws for sex offenders and so we should be wary of an independent proposition meant to increase already harsh penalties. Chris Kelly wrote this bill. He was FB’s general counsel and ran for Attorney General on a moderate, pro-business platform in 2010. He is super rich and uses his money on political stuff, like this proposition (he’s put over $2.5M into it). This is undoubtedly meant to springboard his next election campaign. (I also used to hang out with the guy and he’s exactly what the stereotype of a rich Silicon Valley lawyer who wants to buy his way into political power suggests). The definition of sex trafficker is so nebulous that these charges could be brought against a wide variety of people. This also increases the ability for counties to seize assets, which is often abused in order to get funds for county police operations and cities. The sex workers unions are against it, as is the moderate Los Angeles Times: "If reducing sex trafficking and forced labor were as simple as adopting a ballot measure that promised to deal with those predatory practices, there would be every reason to vote for the popular Proposition 35. But the initiative system doesn't work that way. Voters must ask more than whether they would like to see those cruelties come to an end. They must be satisfied that the particular, far-reaching and inflexible penalties and procedures that would be enacted by this measure would help; that they are the best approach to solving an actual problem; and that actual progress would dwarf any unintended consequences. Proposition 35 fails those tests."

10/29/2012 12:30 PM  
Blogger James said...

Part 3:

Prop 36 – I recommend Yes. This proposition would modify California’s harsh three strikes law. Currently, if one gets three strikes, one can be sentenced to 25 years to life (which basically means life, as fewer that 1% of lifers are paroled every year in California). Currently, the first two strikes can only be sentenced if an individual commits a violent or serious felony. These terms encompass a wide variety of crimes, one of which is the simple crime of residential burglary (entering a house to commit a felony, any felony). The third strike can be any felony. This means that stealing $400 worth of merchandise from Mervyn’s can land you in jail for 25 years to life. This proposition proposes to change that rule. Instead, a third strike can only be sentenced based on another serious or violent felony. We would stop putting petty criminals in jail for life (wasting resources and punishing the person unjustly) and the system that punishes dangerous, recidivist criminals is kept in place. Fixing this law will also save between $150M to $200M a year. Basically every big newspaper in CA is behind Yes on 36.

Prop 37 – I recommend Yes. Transparency in food labeling is what this proposition is about. The proposition would force food made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be labeled as such. The proposition would also redefine the marketing term “natural” to be stricter and better defined. Corporations would no longer be able to market things as “natural” when they’re produced in shady ways and would now have to indicate whether or not GMOs are being used in their products. This impacts a ton of major food companies, like Pepsi, who make a ton of shit using GMO corn. That’s why they’re pumping millions of dollars into the “no” campaign. Are GMOs harmful? The science is still out. Should people be able to know what they’re eating? I think so. This is a proposition meant to enforce transparency on the multinational corporations that make most of our food. This transparency comes at no provable cost. The campaigns against prop 37 say it “could” or “might” raise costs. No one has pointed to any hard data showing that this will actually happen. I think he San Francisco Bay Guardian sums it up well: "Prop. 37 doesn't seek regulations or limits in any way. It just mandates that GMO food be labeled — the way it is in at least 50 countries worldwide, including all of the European Union, China, Japan and Russia."

Prop 38 – I recommend No. This proposition is competing with Prop 30 – whichever gets more votes (and gets a majority of votes) is presumed to prevail. Prop 38 gives no money to community colleges and instead focuses on paying down debt and K-12 education. It does this by raising personal income tax on everyone, including low income earners. Low income earners will see the smallest increase, but the range is only .4% to 2.2%. (Meaning a millionaire gets a 2.2% increase and someone making $17,000 a year gets a .4% increase). The lowest increase is still almost double the sales tax increase in Prop 30, which means low income individuals will be more negatively impacted by prop 38 than by prop 30. This is one very wealthy individual’s attempt to fix the state budget problem. It’s laudable in that it increases taxes and helps schools. However, if you are going to vote yes on either prop 30 or prop 38, prop 30 is better written, impacts the rich more than the poor and is much more inflexible than prop 30. Most papers recommend 30 over 38 for these reasons.

10/29/2012 12:31 PM  
Blogger James said...

Part 4:

Prop 39 – I recommend Yes. Currently, out-of-state businesses can reduce their California income taxes by not locating facilities or employees within the state. If passed, Proposition 39 would add possibly $1 billion to the state’s revenue and create approximately 40,000 construction and clean energy jobs, according to the non-partisan California Legislative Analyst's Office. Basically, out of state business exploit tax loopholes and don’t have to pay their fair share of tax in CA. CA is the nation’s largest economy and one of the world’s largest economies, so increasing these sorts of taxes won’t cause business to stop serving our market. Instead, it will eliminate some of the differences between out of state tax rates and CA rates, which will actually eliminate one of the reasons why business don’t move to CA. The measure would raise about $1B a year and fund some clean energy stuff as well as help balance the budget. The San Jose Mercury endorsed Proposition 39, writing, "State lawmakers have so far refused to correct the mistake they made in 2009 when, in a late-night budget session, they created a tax incentive for companies to locate outside California. Voters will be able to fix it for them Nov. 6 by voting yes on Proposition 39."

Prop 40 – I recommend Yes. Basically, an independent group of non-partisan individuals redrew California’s electoral districts. A group of Republicans got together and decided they wanted to redraw them the old way, allowing both parties to draw “safe” districts where neither side would ever lose seats. Instead, this independent panel drew maps that are pretty fair. Voting yes would keep these maps in place. Voting no would get rid of the new districts and let the California legislature have a shot (which is what they’ve been doing until now). Prop 40’s opposition is not currently funding an opposition any more, so even the people who got the prop on the ballot are no longer campaigning against it (it had to go on the ballot as a yes for technical reasons – meaning its sponsors to put it on the ballot are also its opponents). The redistricting is a step towards a California with less partisan gridlock and with fair election districts. Even the conservative Orange County register stated: “There is no doubt that there were some valid concerns about the new citizens redistricting panel, including that some interests succeeded in packing the panel with their supporters. Still, the citizens panel is preferable to again having lawmakers draw their own districts, in essence, picking their own voters.”

10/29/2012 12:36 PM  
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