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Special ED: Props 1E and 1D

by Mytheos Holt, published

As the circus of delusion surrounding California's special elections continues, the unrealistic optimism of those pushing the elections is only becoming more and more obvious, and more and more self-evidently counter-productive.

Now not only are politicians asking California's people to approve spending caps, tax increases and borrowing against the lottery, they're also asking them to publicly admit they were wrong last November.

The Los Angeles Times reports that "Citizens passed taxes to fund early childhood and mental health programs, specifically. Now lawmakers want the money for California's general fund instead." The two propositions involved - namely, Proposition 1E and Proposition 1D, would "yank more than $2 billion from a pair of popular programs that help some of the state's most vulnerable: young children and the mentally ill."

The only possible explanation for the existence of these Propositions is that they were drafted by the very group which they are intended to disadvantage - namely, metnally ill children. This is not because the idea behind the Propositions is so unreasonable - actually, it's rather advisable that Californians wise up to the insipid "save the children" style of campaigning that is all-too-common where spending is concerned, and which frequently leaves the "children" out in the cold while pampering liberal interest groups. However, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride, and the prospect of California's people approving challenges to liberal spending projects designed to tug at the heartstrings is only slightly less likely than the prospect of Californians voting for five million dollars to allow beggars to ride through the creation of a "Wish Horse Commission!"

Let's review the evidence from the last election. Of the 12 Propositions on the ballot, seven passed, including Proposition 1A (designed to build California a massive Toy Train), Proposition 3 (because imagine how wonderful it would be if we would just think of the children), and Proposition 12 (because we all know how Americans love to quarter troops). The only spending initiatives which did not pass were Propositions 7 and 10, and those only failed because California's people were terrified that somehow, somewhere, corporations might be making a buck.

We spend 40% of our budget on education, three times as much as Texas (a larger state) on prisons and frequently pass environmentalist rules and regulations which bog down the economy. In one of California's rare brushes with common sense, we also limit taxes, and to this day are by no means friendly to tax increases.

In short, as the Times put it, "the last 30 years have seen voters approve two dozen ballot measures telling lawmakers how to spend money. Gas taxes for transportation projects. Tobacco taxes for healthcare. Funding guarantees for education and after-school programs. Two of the hardest-fought measures of recent years now stand to be retro-engineered if voters approve Propositions 1D and 1E next month."

Yes, that's right. In the midst of a budget crisis, the governor is calling a special election to ask California's people to rescind two of the hardest-fought measures of recent years. This is a bit like asking a child to choose between selling his two favorite toys and eating dog biscuits. The choice, as well as the irrationality of the entity making it, is very clear.

Presumably, Governor Schwarzenegger is banking on the panic of California's people to propel these measures to victory. This would be an effective tactic, if his own party didn't keep undercutting him.

For instance, Darrell Steinberg, the Los Angeles Times's favorite Republican, has tried to put a game face on the measures by arguing "that sacrifices needed to be made on all fronts -- including his own pet program."

One supposes this is that "pragmatic conservatism" the Times finds so refreshing in Steinberg; no one but a "pragmatist" could possibly be noble enough to pass "pet projects" which the State can't afford and then try to sell his renunciation of his own profligacy as a gesture of sacrifice, right? The best one can say for Steinberg's proposal is "better late than never." But when one is staring into the void of budgetary collapse, lateness and platitudes showered on scared voters are insufficient. Decisive leadership is needed right now, not triangulation.

Although, if Schwarzenegger and Senator Steinberg are listening, I've got a pretty good name for their advertising strategy they could use: the D and E Advertising Directive. It's even got a nifty little acronym they could use - one which describes where we'll all be when the voters inevitably turn down these two propositions: DEAD.

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