Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Election Wrap Up 2010. . . Handcuffs for California. We're Nuts!

Well, it went about as poorly as expected. . . with some small bright spots. The house is lost to a new majority heavily influenced by an even more stridently reactionary anti-compromise Republican than those who sat on their hands - when not throwing rocks - for the past two years. These red baiting Tea Party adherents see the President and the opposition as the enemy, pure and simple. There is to be no compromise with this enemy and I take them at their word.

The economy, of course, will do more or less what it wants to in this legislative vacuum. Government mostly affects the economy in the realm of spending, everything else is more or less a side show. Aside from draconian regulation, deregulation, massive debt, distorting tax policy or confiscatory taxes. . . oh wait. . . we do have massive debt and distorting tax policy. Anyway, there's not likely to be any real progress on anything substantive until after the next electoral cycle. The Reps will sit on their hands screaming incoherently for another year or so in preparation for the effort to unseat the President and retake the Senate.

Obama's agenda is mostly dead in the water. We've got what we've got and holding it is about the best we can hope for. Even that may be iffy if Obama is given early retirement. Then, conceivably, the Reps can repeal the health care bill. I'm not one of those that thinks this is written in stone. Many of the important provisions don't take place until after the next election and some of those are the truly controversial parts, such as requiring people to purchase private health insurance.

Some small consolation in that we've held the Senate more strongly than predicted. That means there is some chance of getting Obama's list of judicial nominees through in the next couple of years. This is the single most important thing to accomplish during the remainder of his term. It will be his most lasting legacy if he is unseated in 2012. It will, arguably, have a more profound impact on our country than any other action he could take. The judiciary has always been crucial but is even more so now considering the rightward tilt caused by the Bush decade. It's not only our supreme court that's been infected with this self righteous strict constructionist garbage, right wing appointees throughout the judiciary have tilted things horribly. There needs to be a correction and the Republicans are fighting it tooth and nail, which is why they are blocking his nominations left and right:

(AP)  A determined Republican stall campaign in the Senate has sidetracked so many of the men and women nominated by President Barack Obama for judgeships that he has put fewer people on the bench than any U.S. president since Richard Nixon at a similar point in his first term 40 years ago.

The delaying tactics have proved so successful, despite the Democrats' substantial Senate majority, that fewer than half of Obama's nominees have been confirmed and 102 out of 854 judgeships are vacant.

Forty-seven of those vacancies have been labeled emergencies by the judiciary because of heavy caseloads.

Even some Republican senators have complained. Sen. Lamar Alexander took to the Senate floor in July to plead with his own leaders for a vote on an appeals court judge supported by Alexander and fellow Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker. 
Read more on that topic here:

So, that's enough about the nation. It's time for me to whine incessantly about my lovely but deranged home state of California. Boy, we're all OVER the map now, aren't we? Let's take a look:

We managed to stem the Republican tide all across the state in the major races. We went true blue at the state level, Senate, Governor, Lieutenant Gov and pretty much everything else. All well and good. I went to sleep feeling fairly happy about the way things had gone stateside until I woke this morning and took a close look at the propositions. My God, California, what have we done?

Prop 19, well, not much surprise there. It was a flawed measure and despite the overall trend and the goo arguments to be made for ending prohibition and putting a dent in our flailing war on drugs, there wasn't much compelling here. That's particularly true considering the well timed move by Arnold to decriminalize marijuana at the state level.

Prop 20. . . WHAT? Don't get me wrong. I voted for the redistricting commission in the last electoral cycle as a possible part of the fix to our broken system here in California. But people, that's a state issue confined to state politics and doesn't do anything to change the balance of power or California's position on the national stage. Now it's entirely possible that our congressional delegation will look very similar after redistricting under the new commission but I would dearly like to see how well they do on the state redistricting before handing them the states congressional redistricting. Also, I am against making our congressional redistricting non-partisan when the rest of the large states continue with partisan redistricting as usual. I'd have no problem with this if Florida and Texas were to do the same. There's no level playing field here and we've just risked a national political imbalance we can't foresee in the service of a noble principle that isn't yet proven.

Prop 21, well, I have to admit, while I voted for this, I wasn't that enthusiastic. I'm generally against propositions that attempt to create firewalls around budgetary items. If we elect representatives and expect them to create working budgets and fix things then we have to be willing to let them have the flexibility to do that. My rationalization for this measure was that the measure raised new funds for a worthy cause and gave a commensurate benefit directly back to those who paid. I might not have gotten my $18 worth out of the measure but I was willing to pay for it. Obviously, very few others were. Down in flames.

Prop 22, the first of two measures, only one of which is well intentioned, that place further handcuffs on our elected officials. We LOVE TO BITCH about how our legislature can't pass a damn budget, let alone a truly balanced one but we place horrendous restrictions on their ability to do so. This is another measure that I'm philosophically inclined towards. On the face of it, it sounds good to ensure that local funds are available for localities. Unfortunately, partially because of prop 13 - the grandaddy of all propositional handcuffs, that's not how California government finances work. Also, there's my bet noire of "transportation funds", shorthand for road building to the exclusion of all else. It's the same groups that have in the past supported making all funds or fees or taxes that have even tangential connections to "transportation" sacrosanct and safe from "repurposing" or "requisitioning" for other use. What those groups are really after is roads, roads, roads and continued reliance on cars and gasoline. I'll write about this another time in more detail and with the factual sources to back these claims up. For the moment, I'm just having my post election morning rant. Yes, local governments have a legitimate gripe and a fair claim to the funds they need to operate but this is draconian in it's nature and scope and affects far more than local funds. It's also precisely what we shouldn't be doing if we want to make Sacramento work at all. If we want this kind of restriction then we should elect legislators who will make it law rather than hobbling them in this way. Or, if we don't trust state government, we should just devolve into a collection of local duchies with no obligations to each other.

Prop 23, Yay California! No more to say. Well, maybe that it's nice when blatant corporate power grabs fail spectacularly.

Prop 24, my friends, both conservative and liberal, may be surprised to hear that I voted against this one but it really shouldn't surprise. I'm trying to be consistent about the concepts I elucidated, if you can call it that, above. I truly believe that we can't hobble our state government by micromanaging every decision they take or might take. There may be exceptions but this isn't one of them. If you don't like these tax breaks then write your representative about it. Personally, and here's the bigger surprise for those of you who don't know some things about me, I support most of the provisions of this bill, even if I think it might be ill timed considering our financial catastrophe in the state. As a small business person, I do believe that a company, or individual, should be able to average income and losses over multiple years. My only real complaint is that this doesn't apply to individuals. Writers and artists used to be able to average the gains of a good year agains the poor income of other years in which they primarily create, rather than sell. I still don't understand why this provision/loophole was removed from federal and state tax code. But that's just me.

Prop 25, Yay California. . . a step in the direction of budget sanity. . . but wait. . .
Prop 26 . . . um. . . huh? WTF California? How can you pas both of these? I'll leave aside the corporate maneuvering that is represented by this proposition for a moment, or until my next rant, but, again, WTF?? Prop 25 rightly returns us to the land of adults with a simple majority required to pass a budget. Though it doesn't go far enough in that direction, it's an important baby step. So, one might think we'd wait and see what our representatives in Sacramento handle this new found ability to try and solve issues and create a rational budget. It's not a cure all by any means but it would take away some of the minority party's ability to strangle the process and demand all sorts of little quid pro quos just to pass a basic budget. art of that would have involved some small increases of revenue through the leveraging of "fees" and other "non-tax" forms of income but. . . wait. Now we've completely killed that option and further distorted the entire process by adding this last unrestricted form of revenue to the long list of 2/3 majority restrictions that are killing this state as we voted. I'm flabbergasted, truly. I thought one or the other of these might have passed but BOTH? We are truly schizo! So, California, in thanks for placing this latest and most potent set of handcuffs on your elected representatives, you will have the pleasure of watching this S&M show we call California politics present you with a bewildering array of propositions on the next ballot for, say, the .03¢ per gallon surcharge on freon for industrial use to create a cleanup fund for environmental damage and to offset greenhouse gas emissions. No, that doesn't yet exist. It's the product of my feverish imagination. But it could and almost MUST exist now that we morons have asked for our elected officials to make us vote on each and every fee that isn't directly related to a service cost for the specific service rendered. So, you'll get fees passed alright but they'll only be the ones YOU have to pay for directly not for the ones used to regulate industry and their pollution or the costs of cleaning up after it, for example. Exhausted, can't go on.

Prop 27, well. . . at least this is consistent with the prop 20 vote. And, I voted with the majority on it as well. Now I wish it had failed since prop 20 passed.

All in all, another bi-polar year in California politics as we've condemned ourselves to more of the same gridlock on the state budget process where officials now can pass a farcical meaningless budget with a simple majority.


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