Thursday, July 9, 2009

How Jamie Lee Curtis Destroyed California, Once Again

This is another one of those things where you'll just have to take my word for it. Back when The New Common Sense was hosted by Typepad, and before I deleted the whole damn thing and moved to this free service, I wrote an article called How Jamie Lee Curtis Destroyed California. I've been moved to rewrite, and expand, on that post for a couple of reasons. The first is that California has become even more of a failed state than it was six months ago when I wrote my original post. The second reason is the appearance of Robert J. Elisberg's HoPo article condemning the California initiative system. He closes his article with the line, "There is only one proposition worthy of having on the ballot and voting for. A proposition that would get rid of the California proposition system." I closed mine by noting that the only proposition that I would vote for is one getting rid of propositions. No, I'm not charging plagiarism, just a coincidence. The fact is, the damage done by our many propositions is so obvious, that I'm sure others must have voiced the same sentiment before I did. So, let's see how good my memory is.

In the last presidential election, actress Jamie Lee Curtis appeared in a commercial for proposition 3, a ballot initiative to provide funding for children's hospitals in California. I don't know whether Curtis was a true believer or a paid spokesperson, but she was effective enough that the prop. 3 passed easily. The ad started with Curtis leading a children's choir in a rendition of John Lennon's Imagine. She then went into a brief bit about the necessity of passing Prop. 3. In the last shot of the commercial, Jamie Lee Curtis turned to the camera and said, "Remember, Proposition 3 has no new taxes."

Yes, Proposition 3 had no new taxes. In that, she was 100% honest. What was left out of the ad was the eventual cost to the California state treasury. By the time all the interest is paid, and all the incidentals are taken care of, the total bill will be closing in on two billion dollars. Maybe we'll get lucky, and when it's time to pay things out, the state will be swimming in cash, and it won't matter. Highly unlikely. The facts are, the people of California have used the initiative system to cut taxes, make it almost impossible to re-raise them, while passing one expensive, and unfunded, bond measure after another.

We've also passed expensive social experiments, one of the best examples being the three strikes law. Playing on a, mostly, unfounded fear of crime, we the people, bypassed the state legislature and passed an initiative that greatly expanded the states inmate population with no way to pay for the new prisons, guard salaries, utilities, food, clothes, and medical care needed to house all those extra prisoners.

The fact is, every initiative that's put before the electorate comes as a singular thing, with no thought that paying for one proposition takes money away from other state programs and obligations. An informed legislature that works on budgets for everything at once, can see how an increase in the education budget, with no new revenue streams to pay for it, means a decrease in, let's say, the parks budget, or more debt. And since the park's budget may, in fact, have built in restrictions passed by the voters, the only choice may be to pass another bond to paper over that years budget short fall.

Of course, we don't' really have an informed legislature anymore. We the people decided we were offended by the idea of professional politicians in Sacramento. So what did we do? Why, we passed term limits. Now, just when someone in the state assembly finally learns how the system works, and just as importantly, doesn't work, they're out, only to be replaced by another amateur. I have nothing against assembly speaker Karen Bass. I'm willing to accept, without reservation, that she's the best we have to offer, but she's only been in the assembly for four or five years, and in one or two years, she'll be term limited out. In other words, she hasn't been around long enough to really understand the system, and she'll be gone before she has a chance to master the process. What a waste.

Direct democracy may work in a very small town, where the electorate is a couple of hundred people, but in a state as large as California, it has proved to be a disaster. California is a failed state. Not failed in the way that Somalia is, but a failed state nevertheless. Probably the one hope for our salvation is a state constitutional convention that could dump the current mess, and replace it with something simpler, and more workable. And as far as propositions go, the only one I'm interested in voting for, is a proposition to get rid of propositions.

So there it is, from memory, a rewrite of a deleted post from six months ago. Of course it's not the same, my memory isn't perfect, but it does convey my thoughts on the ongoing destruction of California, helped along by the smiling and effective spokesperson, Jamie Lee Curtis.

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