Sunday, November 14, 2004

Here's a true tale of a couple of idiots that's been bugging me for a couple of days now. On Friday I was eating my lunch at a fast food outlet and was forced to hear the conversation of the two guys at the table behind me as they discussed the election results.

After showing that they knew nothing about the Presidential candidates they moved on to the California ballot propositions. They came to a point of disagreement when they got to Prop 63, which would have added money to the state system for mental health services through raising the taxes on incomes over $1 million.

The first idiot said that he voted for it because, "I thought it would be fun to raise somebody else's taxes for a change with it effecting my own."

Idiot number two disagreed. "Well, I looked at it and said, 'What if I earn more than a million dollars someday?' so I voted against it."

Right there. That's the problem with how most people vote. There entire conversation was about how much anything would cost to them personally, and how to stick it to somebody else. They didn't say anything about mental health services, they each made their decision solely on the tax.

Am I the only one who looks at these things objectively? When I approach a proposition such as this, the first thing I look at is the actual program suggested. Is it needed? Can it realistically work to solve the problem identified? Are the services provided at the right level (county, city, state...)? How much of the program is eaten up in new bureaucracy?

Once I'm satisfied with the program, then I can move on to the funding mechanism. Does the money come from existing revenue? If so, what will be cut? Is it a new tax? Who or what will pay for it? Is it a bond issue? Will we be paying for the bonds longer than the life of the project? What is the relation between the funding source and the problem? Is one population (smokers, home-owners, etc.) being asked to pay for a problem that has nothing to do with them?

There were many good reasons to support proposition 63 (needed vital services). There were also reasons to question it (what's the connection between wealth and mental services?). Whether or not I might be in the group paying, or whether or not it would be "fun" to stick it to someone else never even entered my analysis.

Anyway, there was a piece in the SF Chronicle the other day (sorry, lost the link to the article) addressing the number of progressives who are seriously considering bailing on the U.S. The author had a more positive suggestion for those folks: Move to a swing state. Real estate is cheaper than the Bay Area, and you might be able to actually make a difference in the next election. Not a bad idea...

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