California's message to Sacramento

It’s no surprise California voters rejected all the budget ballot measures save one – the restriction on legislators’ raises during times of fiscal crisis. Beyond the general problem of asking voters to make decisions on issues they have neither the expertise to interpret effectively nor the time to research thoroughly, these were lousy measures. 1A had uncertain fiscal effects according to the legislative analyst. 1B’s effects depended on how the constitution would be interpreted – a structural ambiguity that is very worrying. 1C borrowed against theoretical future lottery earnings – a gamble that those earnings would, in fact, materialize. 1D and 1E were convoluted shell games that maybe screwed over children and the mentally ill or maybe not. Who knows? The point is that despite the apocalyptic warnings that not voting for these bad measures was worse than approving, there would still be a major deficit ($15 billion vs. $21 billion) and it was uncertain whether would sacrifice the long-term in favour of a quick fix. The message from voters to Sacramento is, essentially: quit fucking around.

If the legislature were serious, they would immediately put forth an amendment to get rid of the supermajority since clearly the high requirement isn’t helping to achieve consensus. I’ve been receiving eMails from various campaigns pushing for that. When neither rock nor hard place will budge, deadlock after deadlock and delay after delay is inevitable and one of the world’s largest economics just can’t take the strain. I don’t like getting rid of the supermajority requirement, but at least there is still some accountability in the form of the general election. Next, there has to be the acceptance that getting out of this hole is going to be painful. Either we cut spending or increase revenues. It’s time to take some radical, long overdue measures:
  • Decriminalize pot and other drugs, as well as prostitution. Enforce health standards and establish taxation guidelines.
  • Diminish the prison population, and thus the cost of maintaining said population, by reducing/removing prison terms for non-violent offenders.
  • Allow the hemp industry to flourish.
  • Expand gambling. (Note to self: find out if Larry Flynt still wants to be governor.)
These aren’t new ideas. I’m certainly not the first to put them out there. And there’s nothing revolutionary about pointing out that unless the State is willing to take innovative steps towards addressing the budget crisis instead of hiding behind the Republican cut-all-taxes cookie cutter or the Democratic money-tree growth formula. But perhaps the prospect of a total meltdown will finally get things moving in the right direction. Unless, of course, Naomi Klein’s shock doctrine applies and the PTBs use this “opportunity” to bend the middle and lowers classes over again and have their way.

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