November 6, 2008

Initiatives

Every year in California, we get to vote on about a dozen initiatives, most of which we voters are completely clueless about. I'm not talking about the much publicized gay marriage one -- everybody is entitled to an opinion on that. It's all the bond issues. Shall we issue $10 billion in bonds for a supertrain from LA to SF? How about $7 billion to removes asbestos from LA schools? (I think they both passed. I'm too depressed to look them up.)

Sure, why not? They're bonds, right, not taxes? So we won't have to pay them. I guess, theoretically, we're supposed to pay them sometime, but no doubt we'll just flip the state to a greater fool before that happens.

Obviously, the initiative system is broken. The state is completely broke, with a predicted illegal shortfall of $25 billion next year in the state budget. Yet voters are continuing to take on debt with no idea how it will be paid. This is the state that sank the world economy. We're too childish to have that kind of spending power.

The way to fix it is to put a dollar limit on spending mandates for initiatives, such as $100 million, say. Then you could still have initiatives about important issues such as racial preferences or redistricting, but big ticket items would have to be hashed out as part of the budget process by the legislature.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

27 comments:

Publius said...

Looks like Steve Sailer let slip that he supports gay marriage.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

Any comments on this:
http://www.nypost.com/seven/11022008/news/nationalnews/scientist_slam_fbi_thrax_probe_in_bid_to_136476.htm

Looks like the case against Bruce Ivins was not so open and shut after all.

c23 said...

The way to fix it will probably be to collapse the system. Eventually taxes will have to be raised so high that (more) people will leave the state, and investors won't buy California bonds anymore. Then California won't be able to meet payroll; problem solved. California doesn't have its own fiat currency so they can't just print their way out of this.

Of course, the federal government will probably bail California out, so ignore everything I said.

Anonymous said...

There's a very similar situation in Britain.
Mrs Thatcher (and the Labour Callaghan administration before her), made a very strenuous effor to cut the public sector pay-roll as far as humasnly possible, due to the obvious and incontestable fact (of course many people will quibble with the 'obvious and incontestable fact'), that by definition public sector workers are non-productive (in the sense that they do not actually produce tradeable wealth in goods or services)and that a bloated public sector inevitably means poorer living standards for the productive sector as a whole.
Actually, for all heer efforts and sound and fury she achieved very little towards this end.
Now, 30 years later along comes New Labour - and the past Thatccherite orthodoxy (where it rerally matters) is totally ignored and forgotten and a bloated public sector is the main driver of new employment.
Perhaps the most worthless and useless of all New labour's new workers are the 'POlice Community Support Officers' or 'the plastic police' as they are generally known.
To a man and woman they are usually second-rate, unfit street bashers who are handsomely paid to walk the streets - but have very little actual police powers.

Anonymous said...

Steve,
I live in NJ but I was looking at the California High Speed Rail website last week and it said California was projected to have a population of over 55 million by 2030 (I believe that was the correct year). Does Gavin Newsome and his ilk really believe that a high speed rail is going to ameliorate any sort of over population crisis? I do believe rail transit can be useful in certain areas of the country but a high speed rail is not going to do much for California when its population (mostly uneducated foreigners) reaches that ridiculous number. Oh, the joys of democracy.

Anonymous said...

Steve,
One thing you may want to comment on is the public's continuing approval of open space and land preservation initiatives. According to the Trust for Public Land, voters approved $8.4 billion in financing during 2008. My home state of NJ continued to approve most measures, even with our ridiculous property tax burden. I don't think this is too irrational. Citizens don't want to see every forest knocked down as our population increases to 440 million by 2050 (all due to immigration). However, these meansures do certainly restrict land supply, resulting in large increases in home prices. Here is the link: http://www.tpl.org/tier3_cd.cfm?content_item_id=22600&folder_id=186

David Davenport said...

Steve, it's necessary to burn the village down before it can be saved.

The only hope for political and cultural change in CA is for CA to go BK.

David Davenport said...

Steve, the only hope for big change in CA is for CA to go BK.

Cal said...

The state has been broken since term limits went into effect. It is depressing, though, to see that list. I vote against all initiatives as a rule. And it's worth remembering that most initiatives in recent years have failed.

rightsaidfred said...

>>>>The way to fix it is to put a dollar limit

I suggest a down payment method: if you vote for it, you have to stuff a non refundable $20 in a box next to the voting booth. Complete end of problem.

This also illustrates what I call the "Jaycee problem": at a group meeting, someone proposes to pick up trash. It passes on a 60% - 40% vote, yet on the day of the event only the 40% who voted against the proposal show up to do the work.

rightsaidfred said...

To refine my earlier "down payment" suggestion, to even get a ballot to vote on a bond issue, a voter has to stuff $20 in a box. That way we can easily keep the vote secret and the bond issue issue disappears.

Toadal said...

This is the economic outcome short-sighted, politically correct, neocons and liberals fail to grasp, innumerate and illiterate voters are EXPENSIVE voters.

albertosaurus said...

The cops will run down the street after you if you try to run a little three card monte business on the sidewalk. Yet T. Boone Pickens is praised for running his windmill alternate energy scam.

One difference of course is the scale of the scheme. You might lose ten dollars at three card monte but the Pickens scam would have cost ten billion.

Albania lost only a little more than a billion dollars a decade ago in Ponzi scams and that brought down the government. How much could California afford?

Last year a well financed public media campaign by Archer Daniels Midland got Americans to support burning food. Thousands around the world starved while ADM grew rich. This may have been Pickens' inspiration.

The airwaves this past summer were filled with ads by Pickens where he said:

- America has only 3% of the world's oil. That's true if you mean light sweet crude. But if you include kerogen (shale oil) America has most of the world's oil.

- He says that Natural Gas is abundant. In fact Natural Gas is found near conventional oil deposits so the US also has about 3% of the world's Natural Gas. Most of the big NG resorces are in the same countries that have most of th world's remaining LSC oil - Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia.

- He promotes windmills as a long term solution. He neglects to mention that Denmark and Germany, the world leaders in wind power are cutting back on windmills not building more. Wind power alone is a very poor energy source because its availability does not correspond well to electricity demand cycles. It must be supplemented with turbines that run on Natural Gas. To promote wind power is a ploy to promote Natural Gas.

- He advocates Natural Gas as a cheaper automobile fuel. One reason NG is cheaper today is because it is not taxed as gasoline is. That would soon change if NG was adopted widely.

Pickens sums up his argument with the line about Natural Gas "It's cheap, it's abundant, and it's ours". He sould say "It's cheap, it's abundant, and it's MINE".

Garland said...

Yes, they both passed. Most of the spending passed. In fact, I think the only spending that didnt was the police funding one, which for some reason got slaughtered. Wonderful priorities. I'm glad redistricting passed but almost everything else was awful.

madison said...

I've come to the same conclusion. There should be a fairly open initiative and referendum process, but no initiative that makes any appropriation, or levies any tax, should be allowed. Taxes and appropriates should be the exclusive responsibility of the elected legislature (I would go further and say only the lower house of the legislature).

The main reason for this is that you can only make taxes and appropriates in the context of an overall budget, which can be blown by the voters decide to appropriate $4 billion to find lost puppies or something. Also, giving the voters the budgetary power raises the possibility of half the electorate deciding to hijak the budget for something that benefits, well, only half the electorate. This is an area where you need the compromises that prevail in the legislature.

On the other hand, people can be expected to be decent judges about whether they should go to jail for something, which is basically the other half of the legislative power.

Chief Seattle said...

I actually think the initiative process is pretty cool as-is. The problem is when most voters see themselves as getting benefits but not paying appreciably more taxes as a result. Which describes CA to a T. Maybe they should require subtantial property ownership to vote :-)

Matt Parrott said...

California is too big to fail, and will require a massive federal "investment" in its infrastructure. Why would Californians deliberately decline the opportunity to spend beyond their means then charge the difference to the other 49 states?

Dutch Boy said...

My 18 yr old son was a first-time voter and my advice to him about the California Propositions was not to vote for any more bonded indebtedness (the state being broke).He is not notably reasonable but even he was forced to admit the sagacity of my advice. Too bad the people of California don't see things that way (then again, we have elected a new people, haven't we!).

Evil Sandmich said...

Umm, who are they going to sell those bonds to? They can't even find a sucker to sell their regular debt to.

James said...

Right and my decision to vote on one bond issue was contigent on whether the others would pass and vice versa. You can't do budgets piecemeal.

Argent Paladin said...

Make the interest high enough and everyone will buy it. And it will bankrupt California that much faster.

Reg C├Žsar said...

Here's my proposal for an initiative: Raise the minimum wage for non-citizens to at least double that of citizens.

It's perfectly constitutional. States already set minimums higher than the Feds, and already discriminate in favor of citizens (e.g., voting, tuition fees).

If A is constitutional, and B is constitutional, how can A+B or AB not be?

Of course, this doesn't fill the hole; but it does stop the digging.

kurt9 said...

The bonds are sold like tax-free municipal bonds. I think that CALPERS has been buying many of these state bonds in recent years. I think its likely that other state and local government employee pension funds are buying these bonds as well.

If so, CA state employees (and others) are in for a nasty surprise when CA finally goes bust (as it well sooner or later).

Of course, there will be a federal bailout of both the CA state government and CALPERS when CA finally goes bust. However, the bailout will not cover 100% of the losses.

Blode said...

"Looks like Steve Sailer let slip that he supports gay marriage."

Enoch Powell, incidentally, was also mostly favorable to gay rights. Does Steve like Virgil?

testing99 said...

Most neocons I know voted against all bond measures. We can't afford it.

In fact, social spending dwarfs the money we spend in Iraq and Afghanistan,combined. It's the big driver of the deficit, and Bush's biggest failure was not confronting social spending.

Anonymous said...

At least in California the voters get a say. The finance commission in North Carolina (where I live) are experts on issuing debt without putting it to a public vote first. They get around such barriers by issuing unsecured debt such as certificates of participation and recently found a loophole in the Constitution that allows them to issue general obligation bonds without voter approval.

Ronduck said...

but big ticket items would have to be hashed out as part of the budget process by the legislature.

I can't see them doing all that much better. The biggest ticket item of all, subsidized immigration, has the complete support of the state legislature. The people on the other hand usually only vote for lost puppies and light rail lines, not personal and racial destruction.