Monday, October 29, 2012

How I'm voting.

Election day is right around the corner, so I guess it's time I wrote about my positions on the issues.

For president:

I'm pretty firmly in blue camp, and I don't think it's a close decision at all. I agree with Obama on 90% of all major issues, and the other 10% are issues where the two candidates agree with each other. Conversely, I disagree with Romney on more or less his entire platform. I've also been very satisfied with Obama's first term, and I'm willing to put a lot of trust in him as a leader.

Plus, he has the dreamiest baritone.

Of course, California is already as done a deal for the dems as it's gonna get, so meh.

For senate:

Honestly, I haven't been following this race at all. I don't know who the candidates are. I assume it's the current senator up for re-election? Feinstein? Yes? Okay. Sure. I'm just voting along party lines here because I like President Obama and I expect a blue congress to follow his lead. I guess Feinstein is, uh...fine.

Proposition 30:

I support 30. The state has a budget to balance, and the only way to do that, realistically, is to raise taxes. Prop 30 does that, and it has a trigger to automatically slash education spending if it doesn't pass. As a student, those "education spending" cuts are essentially coming right out of my pocket anyway, so, uh, yeah. That would suck.

I know a lot of Republicans in the state legislature are all like, "No, we should never raise taxes, never!" But it's kind of naive to expect to deal with the deficit that way. I mean seriously.

Proposition 31:

Um, okay, so this is the one about reforming California's budget process. I support reforming the budget process, so that's cool.

It does a few things.
  • It mandates that all bills be made public at least three days before the legislature votes on them. Which is fine, I guess? But why is it part of this proposition? Does it have anything to do with the budget...?
  • It forces any new thing that would cost the state $25 million or more to be offset by an equal amount of spending cuts or new taxes. I'm fine with that.
  • It establishes some sort of performance review system for state programs and stuff. guess, sure?
  • It allows the governor to declare a fiscal emergency, in which case he or she would gain the power to unilaterally cut spending until the budget is balanced, unless the legislature intervenes with their own plan within 45 days. So that's quite a bit of power the governor gets there. Am I comfortable with this? Uh...maybe? I'm not sure...
  • It changes the budget to once per two years instead of once per year. Is this good? It seems good.
  • It adds some extra statements of intent, projections, and such and such to the budgets. Okay.
  • It lets local governments enact "Action Plans" that allow them to deviate from state plans, unless folks from the state work with them to, like, not, or whatever. I don't get what this is supposed to accomplish. It seems like it adds a lot of extra bureaucracy and basically lets local governments flaunt state regulations. And how does this help the budget?
Did I miss anything? So okay, there's a lot of stuff in this bill, and as far as I can tell, I, uh, don't understand what sort of impact it will have on anything.

So, as is standard procedure on things I am confused about, I'm just not going to vote on it. Unless someone convinces me one way or another.

Proposition 32:

So this is apparently part of some political battle between unions and corporations. It would limit campaign donations from unions, or something. And apparently it interacts in weird loopholey ways with the laws regarding Super PACs, I don't even know.

To be honest, that groups donate to political campaigns doesn't bother me much, and I just can't get worked up about this measure. So I'm not going to vote here either.

Proposition 33:

Car insurance? What? I don't care about this one. Next, please.

Proposition 34:

Ending the death penalty. This is an issue that has been well-trodden. A "Yes" vote is to eliminate the death penalty in California. A "No" vote is to keep it.

I'm voting Yes. It doesn't make fiscal sense to spend millions of extra dollars executing a prisoner instead of just issuing a life sentence without parole. A death sentence isn't any more effective than life in prison as far as preventing recidivism, since obviously they'll be locked up and removed from society. So let's be honest, the only reason for the death penalty comes from a punitive and misguided sense of "justice". And that's bullshit. So, Yes on 34.

Proposition 35:

This proposition would increase the penalties for sex trafficking (including registering traffickers as "sex offenders"), and would divert more resources towards fighting it. It would also add some legal protections for victims of sex trafficking, and would force sex offenders to release information about their internet activities.

I have two problems with this proposition. First is that I don't really understand the context around it. I don't really know anything about the human trafficking situation in California. How big a problem is it? How effective are our existing methods of dealing with it? Etc.

And the second problem is that I'm betting the rest of the voter population doesn't know that stuff either. So why is this being done by popular vote? The campaign on this issue isn't about effective solutions and good policy, it's about "Human trafficking is bad! Vote Yes because human trafficking is bad!"

This isn't an issue that should be on the ballot at all. It should be handled by the state legislature. So I'm against it as what feels like an abuse of the initiative system.

Proposition 36:

This is basically reforming the "Three Strikes" Law. Okay, I know I just railed on using ballot initiatives for criminal law, but I have to support 36 because of how absurd the whole idea of the "Three Strikes" Law is in the first place. I mean, when I first learned about it, I laughed because I thought it was a joke. But no, you can get a life sentence for shoplifting. What?

Anyway, with this measure, the "Three Strikes" rule would only apply to serious or violent crimes. Petty crimes could still get increased sentences, but not life sentences. That's much more reasonable.

Proposition 37:

This is the one that requires labeling of genetically modified food. And I think it's stupid.

Look, I get that some people like their food to be homegrown and organic and 100% "natural" or whatever, but there's no evidence that GMOs are harmful in any way. And what, exactly, are you hoping to accomplish? Say GMOs really are harmful. Is labeling them supposed to make them safe?

It all boils down to fear and paranoia, and I'm not buying into it. It imposes additional costs for food producers--which would then be passed down to the consumers, making food more expensive--and it does so for no good reason.

Remember those guys who fought against free wi-fi in Sebastopol because they were afraid it would melt their brains? Don't be those guys.

Proposition 38:

This one would raise taxes and allocate most of the revenue toward education.

Okay, I mean, I'm all for education, but I'm really uncomfortable having measures like this on the ballot. Budgeting decisions like this really shouldn't be made through the ballot initiative system.

I support 30, but it's on there because the state is required by law to run it past the voters before they can pass it, so it's different. Also, 30 doesn't earmark its revenue towards a specific program, which is a practice that really messes up our budgets.

Oh, and the San Francisco Chronicle makes a very compelling argument:
An analysis by the left-leaning California Budget Project concluded that the measure "may not increase total school spending by as much as some estimate because the Legislature could reduce other state education spending." One point for voters to consider: Public colleges and universities do not get anything from Prop. 38 - and could bear the brunt of resulting budget cuts.

So, No on 38.

Proposition 39:

It would remove a tax loophole for corporations and allocate about half the new revenue to clean energy projects.

I don't support this proposition. Yes, closing tax loopholes is great, but again, we shouldn't be using ballot measures to earmark money toward specific programs like this. Why would we lock ourselves into spending that money on clean energy when we could spend it on schools, hospitals, parks, research grants, or any number of other worthy things?

The problem with "ballot-box budgeting" is that everyone is always like "Look! The money is going to [program X]! You like [program X], don't you?" But money that goes to [program X] is also not going to [program Y] or [program Z]. Would you vote for a bill that takes $550 million away from education funding and puts it toward clean energy? Because that's exactly what Prop 39 does. Opportunity cost.

Okay, yeah, close the loopholes, but we shouldn't have to lock into new spending every time we do that. Just raise the taxes and put it towards one of the many struggling programs we already have. No on 39.

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