Special ED: Props 1E and 1D

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.