Ballot Proposition Recommendations
by J.B. Reynolds, May 6, 2009
A few years ago when our state budget problems became a little too spiny to sweep under the rug even when the television cameras weren't on, Governor Meatbag decided to hold a costly "Special Election" to give California voters the opportunity to endorse his solutions to our financial woes, namely the traditional, time-proven plutocratic techniques known as Union-Busting and the "temporary" assumption of Dictatorial Powers. Shockingly, even though these measures have long enjoyed popular favor in his native Austria, the whole thing blew up in Arnie's face and he was obliged to resort to the tiresome pre-Anschluss tactics of having to actually listen to his various elected underlings and let them duke it out in the State Legislature, a Technik otherwise known as Representative Democracy.
The back-and-forth between the "two parties" (otherwise known as the Left Sleeve and the Right Sleeve of the same coat, the one made entirely of MONEY) has been sparky, acrimonious, and although entertaining, inconclusive. And so now, since the budget's in worse shape than ever, the man who once described his joy at winning muscle-boy trophies as "Coming — like you have sex with a woman and come, in front of ten thousand people," well, he's back on the Debt Solution Runway again, so you folks in the front rows, have your umbrellas ready!
1A — STATE BUDGET. CHANGES CALIFORNIA BUDGET PROCESS. LIMITS STATE SPENDING. INCREASES "RAINY DAY" BUDGET STABILIZATION FUND.
The idea of saving funds in case of the proverbial "rainy day" is obviously a good one — depending, of course, on where one saves those funds (ask any broker and he'll tell you how there's unlimited wealth to be made in the Stock Market!...but we won't go there) — so what's not to like about this Proposition? Besides its fantastically complicated new math, there are two items which make the reader wary: 1) the Governor is again asking for "special new authority to reduce certain types of spending without legislative approval," and 2) as usual, the funds to be saved will come out of poor people's pockets.
Saving money by spending less on "equipment purchases" or "capital outlay" (whatever that is) might fly, but that "special new authority" will eliminate Cost-Of-Living-Adjustments for everything — except the salaries of the boys and girls running things in government. And as we know, they, like feckless office-holding pencil-pushers everywhere, are too busy "pursuing excellence" to get by on less than a measly hundred grand (or more, plus perqs) a year, whereas commonplace uninsured mortals who have to work for a living can muddle by on about half that. Or less. If only we were excellent, too; a fellah could use that kind of scratch, eh?
You'd think it would be obvious that to generate funds through taxes, you tax the people who actually HAVE THE FUNDS to start with. But no, California's megawealthy may rest easy (as if they were worried to begin with) since 1A will almost double Vehicle License Fees and increase Personal Income Taxes (superbly abbreviated into "PIT") by the same flat percentage for everybody, while reducing dependent child credits. Once again the folks who can afford it the least will do the paying.
1B — EDUCATION FUNDING. PAYMENT PLAN.
We might call 1B the "Moot Prop," since if 1A doesn't pass, this one turns back into a pumpkin at midnight. Or, we might think of it as The Kiss We Get After Being Raped, as its first intent is to make the state pay back all the money gutted from education funding a few months ago — but only if the Big Guy In The G-String gets his "special new authority" to squeeze the poor.
Reading about 1B is, at least, illuminating. It seems that whatever California pays its schools every year is decided by any of three "Tests," and which one to use apparently is chosen by...well, they don't exactly say how it's chosen, though we might conclude that since the advent of avian flu, Hepatomancy is no longer in vogue. This leaves: guessing, blindfolding Education Supe Jack O'Connell and then spinning him in circles, playing "Eenie-meenie-miney-moe," or just choosing which "Test" works out cheapest this year. Too, Sacramento admits it is "unknown" how much they'll actually pay, and it's "unclear" just how they'll pay it. Or, if.
Glad we cleared that up.
1C — LOTTERY MODERNIZATION ACT.
For sheer unadulterated loopiness, this proposition could hardly be improved upon. It beggars belief. Insulting enough it might have been back in 1984 that California floated a State Lottery to "save our schools" — garnering education a whopping 1% of its yearly budget by siphoning money from the pockets of the dim, the stupid and the credulous — but now they want to "save our state" by borrowing a fortune against those all-but-certain future Lotto profits! And how will that massive debt be paid back? I quote: "Lottery profits now dedicated to schools and colleges would be used to pay back the borrowing." This is a flim-flam scheme that can only make three-card-monte dealers in alleys worldwide gape in admiration. Yet it will find its backers, because as Shaw observed, "A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend upon the support of Paul."
And the Lottery has always had its weird appeal, particularly to the dim, the stupid and the credulous. Even in 1899, novelist Frank Norris observed: "[The agent] told of his experiences, the legends and myths that had grown up around the history of the lottery; he told of the poor newsboy with a dying mother to support who had drawn a prize of fifteen thousand...of the little milliner who for ten years had played the lottery without success and who had one day declared that she would buy but one more ticket and then give up trying, and of how this last ticket had brought her a fortune upon which she could retire...of criminals, driven to vice by poverty, and who had reformed after winning competencies...invariably it was the needy who won; the destitute and starving woke to wealth and plenty, the virtuous toiler suddenly found his reward in a ticket bought at a hazard; the lottery was a great charity, the friend of the people, a vast beneficent machine that recognized neither rank nor wealth nor station." (McTeague, pg. 113)
Further delicious insults abound, within. "Modernizing" the lottery — by which is meant plastering countless ads on every conceivable surface in the state in order to dupe even greater droves of fools to play — "modernizing" rises to assume serious moral responsibility for its lunacy by promising to throw nearly half a thimbleful (0.02% — that's two one-hundredths of one percent!) of their colossal debt to the state's Office of Problem Gambling. Any more, of course, and it might measurably lessen Problem Gambling...which is going to save our state.
VOTE NO, NO, NO!
1D — PROTECTS CHILDREN'S SERVICES FUNDING. HELPS BALANCE STATE BUDGET.
"Robbing little kids" doesn't sound at all nice, so this time it's refashioned into "protecting" them with "greater flexibility in funding." Eleven years ago voters approved a measure to start programs for needy children aged 1-5, paid for by tobacco tax money. And now this Prop-1D scam boldly percolates $1.7 billion (with a 'b') dollars from the fund, and in a masterstroke of logic they announce this cut will "protect vulnerable children" AND "protect against future cuts." The last time I was in a bank and somebody with a ski mask and a gun presented the teller with a note, it didn't read "Please protect this bank by putting 608 million bucks into the satchel marked SWAG."
1E — MENTAL HEALTH SERVICE FUNDING. TEMPORARY REALLOCATION. HELPS BALANCE STATE BUDGET.
"Hmm," muses Governor Steroid, "Ve go after ze poor, ze icknorant, ze krap-shooterz, ze childrenz...zo who ist left viz any moneys to snetch?" (He ignores everybody pointing at him and his wallet plus its accompanying hand-truck.) "Ach! I haff it! Ve go after der Dummkopfs!"
In a rare ebullience, voters enacted a Millionaire's Tax five years ago to fund Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act. It didn't exactly clear Berkeley's streets as we'd hoped, but whatever it does do will be cast to the wind if this disgusting proposition sees daylight.
1F — ELECTED OFFICIALS' SALARIES. PREVENTS PAY INCREASES DURING BUDGET DEFICIT YEARS.
Since giving themselves pay hikes is the one thing elected officials county-wide, state-wide and nation-wide can actually accomplish without any trouble other than effectively hiding it on the public agenda, it's surprising a proposition like this one isn't on every ballot in every election. Ah, but don't be childish!, advises grinning professional pundit Pete Stahl. Not allowing pay raises for marginal incompetents is just plain silly! Why, if we don't throw more money (that we don't have) at them, how can they "pursue excellence"? And at the same time we are assured that these are "deeply caring, diligent, patriotic people" who clearly aren't doing this for the money anyhow — it's for love! So clearly, while the state flounders in hopeless debt, they have to have more money. Obviously. Any idiot could see that! $170 grand (plus per diem payments for lodging, meals, miscellaneous expenses, plus health insurance, plus numerous other benefits) is a TERRIFIC BARGAIN for a Treasurer responsible for an empty treasury, especially when you compare it to a (doomed, bankrupt) company like Ford who pays its execs millions. And, 1F will hurt "innocent bystanders" like our noble Insurance Commissioner, who still hasn't implemented the rate cuts mandated by law decades ago.
Yo, Pete — take note of the fine print: this "petty, vindictive, childish, ludicrous, naive" (to borrow your terms) proposition was put on the ballot by the Legislature, and by a rare 100% unanimous vote in both the Senate and the Assembly. Honor them! "After all, they're clearly not in this for the money." They're doing it for love!