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As usual, most California ballot propositions should be defeated

Thinking it Through

Next month in this state, there will be 11 measures to vote on, including eight initiative statutes, two initiative constitutional amendments, and one referendum. Only the last was placed there by the legislature, the rest by voter signatures.

The reason most of these ideas deserve to be shot down at the polls is because they advance the Progressive agenda, which consists of higher and higher taxes and spending (30, 38 and 39), weaker criminal justice (34 and 36) or needless regulation (37). Only 32, 33 and 35 are grounded in sensible policy. I take no position on 31 and no one opposes 40.
The best known, of course, are 30, Gov. Brown’s measure to raise sales and income tax rates, and 38, Molly Munger’s plan to raise rates even more and direct them to public education. They are both based on the false notion that our problem in this state is a lack of tax revenue.

In fact, our state government’s budget has mushroomed to more than $100 billion annually while driving out business owners and other residents because of the Progressive agenda that simultaneously demonizes production while counting on it to save the government’s bacon.

Lesser known but equally reprehensible is 39, which proposes to rescind an agreement made only three years ago to give multi-state businesses the choice of paying taxes on either sales or income in an effort not to lose revenue altogether. But the Democrats are too much in love with spending to appreciate the fact that they are likely to lose much of that revenue.
That is precisely what the legislative analyst predicts regarding 30 and 38, but curiously does not foresee that result with 39. But the same principle is involved: raising tax rates in this recession is counterproductive.

Equally disastrous are measures to abolish the death penalty (34) and weaken the Three Strikes law (36). Both are based on wooly-headed notions about how to deal with violent criminals. Even though the death penalty is officially on the books, it is seldom enforced, leading to a growing number of convicted murderers waiting around for years while seemingly endless appeals are made on procedural or technical grounds.

Opponents of the death penalty have the audacity to argue that keeping the law is expensive because of all the appeals! Abolish the death penalty and save all those court costs, they say. But that overlooks the fact that those murderers will continue to be housed, fed and cared for the rest of their lives, hardly economical, while undermining the fundamental idea of our criminal law, which is to make the penalty fit the crime.

Regarding Three Strikes, judges have discretion under current law to mitigate sentences if circumstances justify it when the third felony conviction is reached, but the change proposed would rule that so-called minor felonies, such as drug possession or burglary, don’t amount to violent crimes and don’t deserve the penalty of 25 years to life in prison. In contrast, Prop. 35 doubles the penalties for forced sex and labor trafficking.

But it suffices to remember that gangster Al Capone got put away for income tax evasion — fortunate, as he managed to escape the law for his greater crimes. Hardened criminals who cannot avoid committing even “minor” felonies have shown their utter disregard for the rights of others and should be removed from society for life.

The nanny state would be advanced by 37, which proposes to require labeling “genetically engineered foods,” ostensibly in the interest of public information, but more likely to advance the interests of corporations that sell “natural foods.” But as the critics point out, the exceptions are massive and arbitrary, meanwhile burdening markets with the costs of labeling all their products just to please the food Nazis.

Good public policy comes with 32, which would end forced political contributions, and 33, which would permit us to keep our good driving history when we switch auto insurance policies. Reaction to the first has been fierce. But no one who has access to payrolls should be permitted to take money from anyone for political purposes without their consent. Unions are the worst offenders in this regard and, naturally, are yelling the loudest.

Less noticed but provoking an equally hostile reaction is 33. This is amazing as drivers would qualify for discounts rather than lose them when they change carriers. Even though this redounds to the benefit of consumers, opponents cannot find anything good to say about insurance companies.

Voters should vote against all Progressive (Democrat) candidates too!
Richard Reeb taught political science, philosophy and journalism at Barstow College from 1970 to 2003. He is the author of “ Taking Journalism Seriously: ‘Objectivity’ as a Partisan Cause”  (University Press of America, 1999). He can be contacted at

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