It’s presidential election season again, which means it’s time for us to discuss college transcripts and bimodal distibutions. It also means that it’s time for me to publish my official endorsements for the Presidential Election, for California initiatives, and for Los Angeles County offices.
I expect the people and measures I vote for to make things work better, not worse. While in general I prefer a free-market solution to a government one, I believe that a poorly-working government perverts the free-market and, paradoxically, prevents efficient and effective markets and private entities from appearing to take on the burden of government (I’m happy to provide examples to prove this). I demand that:
- Political philosophies are consistent
- Large plans are coherent, complete, and actually deal with the whole of the problem with which they claim to deal
- Budgets add up
And, by default, my vote on any initiative amendment or statute is “no,” since we got into such a screwed-up state by voting “yes” on a lot of dumb ideas that seemed smart since we didn’t actually have to think through them.
With those general guidelines, let’s get into the endorsements! (As always, if you live in the Bay Area or are generally Progressive, I recommend you check out Auros’s endorsements)
District Attorney — Jackie Lacey
Boy, we’ve been lucky to have Steve Cooley as our DA for the past two terms. He’s improved the office on every metric and delivered wins on major cases. Putting his top deputy in seems like an awesome way to continue on this great path.
US Representative in Congress, 37th District — Karen Bass (D)
Bass has been an effective Representative in Congress. Osborne, in contrast, has refused to comment publicly on his campaign, and has not submitted a bio for the voter guide. The Republican party has a weak bench in this part of California, and I say this as a guy who grew up in 90-some-percent-registered-Democrat Baltimore.
California State Assembly, 54th District — Holly Mitchell (D)
Holly Mitchell has done a perfectly fine job. Her opponent, Keith McCowen, seems like a nice guy who is active in the community… but, again, this is the weak GOP bench. If you want to go to Sacramento, your role in government beforehand should probably have been something more than bus driver.
Los Angeles County Measure A — No
I may have mentioned earlier how our County Assessor, John Noguez, is apparently quite the criminal — he’s allegedly been giving backers favorable tax assessment treatments. Let me first note for the record here that, if you’d listened to me, you would’ve voted for somebody else.
Second, even if we did elect a crook, that isn’t a good reason to make this position unelected. The County Board of Supervisors in LA is simply too powerful, and we don’t need to give them more. Let’s just, you know, not elect a crook next time.
Los Angeles County Measure B — No
I’m extremely conflicted on this one. The assertion by the “yes” faction that we would regulate any other job in which individuals were regularly exposed to dangerous substances — for instance, regulations around hard hats and respirators in construction — is a reasonable and apt comparison. Unfortunately, the City is already unable to enforce even requirements for filming permits with the companies in the bottom half of the market. If the County did somehow manage to enforce this, productions could easily move to one of the neighboring counties — goodness knows that San Bernardino or something like that would probably love the business.
So, from a practical point of view, passing this law would probably not have a significant effect on porn performers. Instead, I’d like to see two things:
* Access to easier permitting procedures for producers who agree to operate as condom-only
* Third-party performer health and rights certification, a la organic food certification, that consumers can use to select the porn product they think best
Los Angeles County Measure J — Yes
J continues a half-cent sales tax to finish building out LA County’s public transportation infrastructure. This tax has already been around for two years and has paid off well, with projects like the accelerated completion of the Expo Line to show for it.
Yes, public transportation in LA County has been a mess for years, and is always much more expensive than expected. But it’s heavily-used, and takes load off of our freeways, which have broadly been expanded to the extent possible. These are projects that pay off and there’s already proof this process works.
US Senator — Elizabeth Emken (R)
I’m just sick and tired of Dianne Feinstein. She’s voted against progressive pro-tech-industry legislation; for legislation that attacks fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution; and was as much in George W. Bush’s back pocket as she has been in Obama’s.
There’s a little to like about Emken. While she spouts much of the same bullshit as most Republican candidates — “I would have voted against Obamacare, and I support its repeal… Health insurance should be portable and individuals should be able to control what`s in their benefit package. The role of government is to establish a set of fair insurance marketplace rules, and then serve as an honest referee.” DID YOU NOT NOTICE THAT THIS IS WHAT OBAMACARE DOES? (Ed. note: Obamacare doesn’t quite do this, but Hillarycare did exactly.)
Ahem. sorry for yelling. Back to the point at question: Emken also says some good things:
“Q: What agencies would you eliminate?
A: My approach is different. I want a top to bottom review of every agency, requiring metrics that measure results and value for invested tax dollars. Those programs that aren`t producing need to be made to produce. And those that have no possibility of returning value for invested tax dollars should be discontinued. As a cost efficiency expert, I spent a good portion of my career implementing these practices in the private sector.”
See, that’s reasonable and practical and something we should probably actually do. I could be OK with that, and you could probably be too.
I’m tired of voting for Feinstein just so we don’t get a Republican in the Senate. Some of my values are being held hostage so that others won’t be compromised. Let’s just blow it all up and start again. Emken’s about as good as we’ll do on the red side of the aisle, let’s grab this chance while we can.
And, hey, if they get rid of Obamacare on Emken’s vote, well, that just puts on the track to single-payer nationalized healthcare in 10 years anyway.
Measure 30 (Amendment) — Yes
This is part of Jerry Brown’s master plan to put the state straight. We should give him the chance to execute on the policies he was elected with. A “no” vote just keeps us in the same mess, but with no solution.
Measure 31 (Amendment) — No
Boy, this is almost great. I love every part of this amendment in concept, but the execution just seems a little sloppy. I’d love to see this chopped up into a series of bills; I think parts (2-year budgeting, mandatory legislative program reviews) would do well there. As a whole, I just get tripped up by their PAYGO rules:
- PAYGO is set in the constitution, which means that we’re following this one procedure period exclamation mark until the end of time, even if we come up with a better model (on the Federal level, for instance, PAYGO is a non-binding practice followed by the Democratic House)
- The particular flavor of PAYGO being used excludes a tremendous amount of spending and is essentially worthless as a standard to hold our legislators to
Measure 32 — No
This is one of the “follow the money” initiatives out there. It’s financed by union-busting groups and is designed to do just that. In the name of fairness, it says “neither unions nor corporations can make political donations from payroll deductions,” but, in fact, only unions can or do currently follow that practice. After Citizens United, it seems preposterous to say that any group should have any limitations at all placed on its political fundraising and spending.
Measure 33 — No
Another “follow the money” initiative. If this is actually good for us all, why was it only created by one insurance company? Mercury insurance was unable to get the state insurance commissioner to approve a policy they wanted, so they have tried (this is the second time now!) to get voters to change the law to get what they wanted from the commissioner.
Basically, now your insurance rate is set by law based on factors including your driving record and where you live. Under this law, somebody who, for instance, let their insurance lapse because they didn’t own a car for a while would end up paying more than other individuals with the same record and demographics.
Insurance companies in California have a history of screwing their customers by continually raising rates without raising payouts in any way. Until they behave, they need to be kept in line.
Measure 34 — Yes
I’m pro-death penalty. However, we spend a ton of money on that penalty here in CA, without getting any executions in return. Let’s just be realistic and save money over the long term and stick with life in prison. (The alternative is to switch to Texas-style enforcement practices, and those seem to result in a greater-than-zero number of innocent people being put to death, which is just stupid.)
Measure 35 — No
I say “no” for three reasons on this one:
- Most prosecution of human trafficking cases happen at the Federal level, where penalties are already very harsh; and we don’t need to spend more money on prosecuting people at the state level who are already prosecuted elsewhere. Moving these prosecutions in-state would only increase California’s law enforcement and prison costs, without actually putting anyone new in prison.
- The Silicon Valley entrepreneur who put this on the ballot apparently never went to a legislator to get this passed as a typical law. Moving along this path would’ve dramatically decreased the costs associated with putting this law on the ballot and would have also helped by involving people with experience in human trafficking in writing this law. For instance, did you know that the United Nations has a working group that looks at the problem of human trafficking worldwide and has produced laws that embody best practices in preventing human trafficking, from around the world? That wasn’t used in drafting this initiative?
- This law puts human traffickers on the sex offenders list in California, despite the fact that one of our state’s largest trafficking issues is involuntary labor, not sex trafficking. No need to ruin a list we created to do something else we thought was important at the time.
Measure 36 — Yes
Another Yes! How unlike me!
Three Strikes has been a tremendously expensive policy, delivering both higher prosecution and higher incarceration costs. Minimizing our costs by imprisoning criminals whose crimes are less serious for lesser amounts of times makes good sense. I mean, who can argue with this ad:
Measure 37 — No
I’m quite conflicted on this measure. The reality is that it would vastly improve the state of food labeling, and consumer knowledge about what goes into the food that they’re purchasing, if it passed. On the other hand, there’s no reason to think that it wouldn’t result in an increase in food prices.
What I think they’re missing is the incredible revolution that the range of organic certifications have wrought in the marketplace over the last 10-15 years. While the generic USDA Organic label is worthless, labels like QAI, Oregon Tilth, and CCOF are of high value and trusted by producers and consumers.
It’d be nice to mandate this kind of labeling, in a world in which there would be no costs to such a mandate. But there are costs, so instead the state should provide assistance to non-GMO certification start-ups. This will provide strong consumer benefit at a moderate cost.
Measure 38 — No
This addled proposition would raise taxes to help education, without preventing the collapse of the state budget, which would inevitably result in education spending cutbacks. I’ve bemoaned the kind of ballot-box budgeting that talks about giving more money to things we believe in without considering consequences of any type; this is just such an initiative. Voting yes on this won’t even do schools a favor, so vote No and actually guarantee education funding over the long term.
Measure 39 — Yes
We used to have this tax. Then we lifted it. Since we lifted it, the only thing I hear from the GOP is how more businesses move away from California. Clearly, we need to bring it back so fewer businesses will move away.
Also, if you look at it from the opposite side of the aisle, this is basically a tax break that businesses get for moving out of California. Let’s give tax breaks for staying in the state, not the opposite!
Measure 40 (Referendum) — Yes
This is a confusing ballot measure. Do you remember when we passed a proposition to have a citizen’s commission draw the electoral district lines, rather than having the state legislature do it? You probably remember, since we’ve already voted yes on this kind of thing three times. Well, apparently we have to do it four times. Originally, the state GOP wanted to overturn the citizen-drawn districts; now they, the Democratic party and every single statewide good-governance group are for this referendum.
It’s confusing, so let’s review the vote meanings:
- Vote yes to uphold the existing, citizen-drawn maps.
- Vote no to overturn them and have them redrawn at a cost of at least $1mm, plus the cost of new referenda to return the citizen’s commission.
I suggest you vote Yes and then vote Yes on any subsequent proposition that allows us to hang the idiots who wasted all our time by putting this thing on the ballot for the fourth consecutive election.
President of the United States — Barack Obama
I know I’m wasting my breath here, that I’m not changing anybody’s mind on this election. But I feel like I have to say a little bit about why I’m choosing whom I’m choosing. So, here goes. If you’re the one person I know who lives in Ohio, I hope this changes your mind!
I’m not particularly impressed with Obama’s performance over the last four years; I think he could’ve done better on the economy, and he totally betrayed most progressive and libertarian voters with his policies of extrajudicial wiretaps and killings.
On the other hand, we have Mitt Romney. Mitt’s tax cuts don’t add up. Mitt’s healthcare plan doesn’t quite add up. Mitt wants us to ratchet up the pressure on Iran, but hasn’t said exactly what that means. Mitt wants to get more cooperation over Afghanistan, but he’s again vague on what exactly this entails. There’s more, but the same lack of specifics pertains. Even with Israel, it’s not entirely clear what his higher level of support could mean, because we already do whatever Bibi asks. I’m entirely not sure what we’d get with Mitt.
And that’s a pity. Obama’s not the strongest candidate, but I can’t imagine voting for someone lacking so many specifics. The reality also is that Obamacare, while not my first choice, is a specific, practical, and measurable deficit-cutting plan that offers real healthcare benefits, and that we’re better off not in Afghanistan. So I’m comfortable voting Obama, and you should be too.