Xasáuan Today Guide to the November 2012 California Propositions

Unlimited political spending for corporations, while unions are silenced? Vote NO on Prop.  32

We’re feeling a bit soured on politics at the moment and hadn’t planned to do this, but do it once, it seems, and you’re committed to doing it again. And we do appreciate that so many of you have asked for it!

So here we go – better late than never? – for all you last minute voters out there – the official Xasáuan Today Guide to the 2012 California Propositions:

Prop. 30 Jerry Brown’s Temporary Tax Increase – YES

“First World” amenities, like decent schools, well-maintained parks, modern infrastructure, and fire and police protection cost money. With Prop. 13 allowing so much California real estate (especially commercial real estate) to avoid paying its fair share of these costs, infrastructure and services have been declining for years and, with the economic downturn, the state is now in a full-blown budget crisis. The state budget has been slashed to the bone and $8 billion in still more painful cuts are coming (even if this Proposition passes). Yet, that will still leave a $6 billion gap to be closed.

This Proposition would close that gap by raising income taxes on individuals making more than $250,000 per year, and couples making more than $500,000 per year (people whose overall tax rates are currently the lowest they’ve been in decades) for seven years; AND by raising the sales tax a quarter of a cent for four years. If neither this Proposition nor Prop. 38 (the other temporary tax increase measure) pass, the consequences will be dire. If you yearn for a life in a libertarian paradise, like Somalia, feel free to vote no. But if you don’t like things like deteriorating roads, cutbacks in fire and police protection, schools that rank 47th in the nation in per-student spending, special fire protection fees for people living in rural areas, etc., you should probably vote yes.

Prop. 31 Budget Reform Grab Bag – NO

A bunch of seemingly unrelated measures that have in common only that they relate, in some way or other, to the budget process. Some of it good (a two-year budget cycle) and some of it bad (pay-as-you-go spending limits with so many loopholes and exceptions it’s almost impossible to keep track of them all). Doesn’t seem to be gaining any traction with the voters, and probably a good thing.

Prop. 32 Prohibiting Political Contributions from Payroll Deductions – NO

Apparently, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, removing corporate political spending limits, wasn’t enough for some business leaders. They also want to silence unions, the only significant non-corporate voice left in the political process. Considering the immense financial advantage they already have over the unions, this is really pretty disgusting. Fortunately, polls indicate it is likely to lose.

Not that it really matters to the corporations backing Prop. 32. Just by running it they’ve forced the unions to spend most of their money on defending themselves in this election, rather than on fighting for policies that would benefit working people. Mission Accomplished!

Prop. 33 Auto Insurance Rip-Off – NO

If at first you don’t succeed …

Mercury Insurance Co. spent $16 million trying to pass a similar measure in 2010. The voters rejected it. So they’ve tweaked it slightly and brought it back again. Why do they want it so badly? Because it would allow them to add a hefty surcharge to the monthly payments of anyone with a 3-month gap in coverage over the past five years (including young people getting insurance for the first time). It’s all about denying coverage to lower income people, who are the most likely to have missed some payments over the past 5 years, and socking it to new drivers, and those, like college students and people who’ve been out of the country, who might have suspended their insurance because they simply weren’t driving for awhile.

Making it more difficult for new drivers and low-income people to afford auto insurance may be good for Mercury’s bottom line, but increasing the number of uninsured drivers on the road isn’t going to be good for anyone else.

Auto insurance rates in California are currently based on directly relevant factors like age, yearly miles driven, driving record, etc. Let’s keep it that way.

Prop. 34 End Death Penalty – YES

It’s ineffective as a deterrent, we can’t afford it (see Prop. 30), it’s imposed in a discriminatory fashion (just look at the stats), our justice system is nowhere near perfect enough to ensure that innocent people are not executed (genetic analysis has resulted in the exoneration of how many dozens of convicted prisoners nationwide?), and we’ve got enough trouble with violence in our society without the state officially endorsing the idea that violence is a legitimate way of resolving problems.

Passing this Proposition would save $200 million per year without compromising public safety in the slightest (death sentences would be converted to life without parole). And, let’s face it, fewer than two dozen nations on earth, mostly highly repressive regimes, still impose the death penalty. It’s time to part company with that medieval group and grow up.

Prop. 35 Increase Penalties for Human Trafficking – NO

Human trafficking is obviously a horrible thing. That’s why it’s already an extremely serious state and federal crime. If there were any need, or if anyone simply wanted, to make the penalties harsher, getting the legislature to go along would be the easiest thing in the world. What politician would dare vote against it? So why, you may well ask, has someone gone to the much greater expense of putting it on the ballot?

Because the real issue is political career building. This is what’s known as a “vanity proposition.” Nearly all the money has been put up by Chris Kelly, a former Facebook executive who, apparently, wants to start a new career in politics. Obviously, it will pass easily. That’s the point. And Chris Kelly will now be known far and wide as an anti-human trafficking crusader who gets things done.™

That should give him all the bona fides he needs to start his new political career.

We’d say to vote no, as a protest against this self-aggrandizing abuse of the Initiative process, but why be spoil sports? After all, Mr. Kelly has spent millions of his own dollars to give the rest of us a chance to feel good about ourselves (and him) as we take a, largely symbolic, stand against a crime we all abhor. If only real work to prevent crime, or to assist actual crime victims, were as easy and satisfying.

Update: OK, we really are saying to vote NO now. After reading a few articles like this one, we see that this measure is worse than we thought.

Prop. 36 Modify Three Strikes Law – YES

We imprison a vastly larger percentage of our population than any other nation on earth and idiotic things, like a life sentence for stealing a slice of pizza, are part of the reason why. This measure revises the “three strikes” law to mandate that a life sentence for a “third strike” only be imposed when the third offense is serious or violent (instead of a life sentence, they’d get double the usual term). And there is still a major exception. If the prior offenses involved sex, drugs or guns, they’d still get life regardless of how trivial the third offense.

Allowing the punishment to fit the crime is never a bad idea. Could also save us as much as $150 million per year.

Prop. 37 Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food – YES

Should consumers have a right to know what’s in their food? Judging by the way the ag industry, led by Monsanto, are spending like drunken sailors to defeat this measure, it’s pretty clear they think consumers are disinclined to buy genetically engineered products. Since they can’t get any traction attacking the right to know, they’re focusing on the potential for lawsuits against retailers who fail to label food correctly. We don’t know how valid a concern this is, but we’re quite confident that whatever the reality, it’s being blown way, way out of proportion by the desperate campaign to defeat this measure.

We also note that more than 40 countries already have similar requirements and the world hasn’t come to an end.

Bottom line: Anything that Monsanto hates this badly is almost certainly a good thing.

Prop. 38 Molly Munger’s Temporary Tax Increase – YES

Another approach to closing the budget gap discussed above under Prop. 30.

This measure would increase income taxes on everyone except those in the very lowest tax bracket (making it less weighted toward the wealthy than Prop. 30) for 12 years (five years longer than Prop. 30). It would bring in a lot more money over a longer time (allowing the state to meaningfully address its structural deficit), but it sets up a lot more rules about how and where that money is to be spent (including setting up a billion dollar early childhood education program), making it less flexible and potentially less able to meet the state’s most pressing needs.

Since if both Prop. 30 and Prop. 38 pass, only the one receiving the most votes will take effect, and Prop. 30 is generally considered the better of the two, there has been a lot of encouragement to vote for Prop. 30 and against Prop. 38.

That, however, was when it still looked like they both might win. Now, it looks more like they both might lose. While Prop. 30 had been polling strongly all summer, its popularity suddenly dropped by around 9 points in mid-October. Now only about 46% of registered voters say they support it. Always less popular, Prop. 38’s popularity has also been declining in recent weeks and it now polls at around 39% support. We say vote for both in the off chance one of them somehow wins.

Prop. 39 Closing Multi-State Business Tax Loophole – YES

In 2008, major corporations exercised their influence over the California legislature to arrange a billion dollar gift for themselves in the form of a loophole giving out-of-state corporations a tax break if they keep their facilities and employees outside California (part of a trend that has seen corporate taxes fall from 15% to 11% of general fund revenues since 1980, while personal income tax has risen from providing 35% to furnishing fully 53% of general fund revenues). This worsens our budget deficit, hurts our economy, and gives an unfair competitive advantage to large out-of-state companies.

This measure would close the loophole and ensure that everyone calculates their tax based on sales in California. This would remove the disincentive to hire and locate facilities in California, and recapture the billion in revenue currently being lost to the loophole. Half of this money would be dedicated to clean energy for the next five years.

Prop. 40 Reaffirm New State Senate Districts – YES

Thanks to the voter-created Citizens Redistricting Commission, we now have the most sensible and least gerrymandered senate districts in living memory. Vote yes, to confirm these districts.

The measure was placed on the ballot by Republican hacks who hoped that a no vote would gain them political advantage. Subsequent court rulings against them have removed that possibility and left the Proposition with no serious opposition.

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One Response to Xasáuan Today Guide to the November 2012 California Propositions

  1. joshuacanyon says:

    Thanks as always, XT. We do have to vote earlier than this since we are a mail-only precinct, but it’s nice to see that we did okay on the confusing propositions!

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