November 7th, 2005


Tuesday's Propositions (and additional thoughts)

So here's what I'm voting on Tuesday's propositions. They're holding an election, and the money has been spent already, so I might as well vote -- not that I like the fact that we're wasting all of this extra money voting on issues that could be deferred to future ballots without undue harm:

Prop 73 - waiting period for parental notification: No.
This probably creates more problems than it solves. Reasonable teenagers will talk to their parents anyway. Teenagers afraid of parental repercussions shouldn't be forced through some legal process to get an abortion. And unreasonable teenagers shouldn't be having kids. You might want be interested in reading Freakonomics.

Prop 74 - waiting period for permanent status: No.
Apparently even after a teacher has tenure, this doesn't mean that can't get fired for doing a bad job. According to the voter guide, the initial waiting period is just a time when they can get laid off without any specific reasons. It seems this proposition sidesteps the real issue, which is public school funding and low teacher salaries. While it's true that you can't currently get rid of a teacher who is teaching a subject in a curriculum that the school may no longer want to continue, this proposition doesn't address anything except for trying to get higher quality teachers into schools. Given the fact that teachers can be laid off for poor performance currently, this proposition ignores the real problem -- not enough money to the schools.

Prop 75 - public employee union due restrictions: No.
Businesses don't have the same restrictions (shareholders and/or employees don't have any say in political contributions to their respective business). Apparently most unions allow their members to specify that their dues not be used politically -- this proposition makes it so that members have to choose to make their dues available for politics every year. Plus this proposition isn't being funded by union members fed up with their union -- California law says that no public employees (the employees to which this proposition is being targeted) are required to join the union. What gives?

Prop 76 - State spending and school funding limits: No.
According to the proposition's text in the voter guide, this "permits governor, under specified circumstances, to reduce budget appropriations of Governor's choosing." Too much power in the hands of one person (who is partisan in one way or another) is probably bad. The roads do really suck right now, and presumably this proposition would fix that, but I think that better schools are probably more important than shiny new roads. Even if shiny new roads makes me happier in the short term...

Prop 77 - Redistricting: No.
This one deserves the proverbial Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot. Voters are supposed to vote on this? This just seems totally oddball for a proposition. I'm voting no -- things seem to be fine the way they are.

Prop 78/79 - Discounts on Prescription Drugs/Prescription Drug Discounts (did that confuse you?): No on 78, Yes on 79. You'll have to actually read about these, as the intrigue is quite riveting. 78 is supported by drug companies trying to defend themselves against proposition 79. Proposition 79 essentially strong arms drug companies into providing drugs at deep discounts to low income people. I really have no problem with drug companies making large amounts of money on drugs -- presumably the more they make, then more money they can invest in developing new and better drugs (the whole making money/FDA/Vioxx thing is not a factor in my decision on this proposition -- this is a separate problem). Proposition 79 "prohibits medi-cal contracts with customers not providing medicaid best price." I see no reason why the state of California shouldn't have the additional power to negotiate better contracts. Although I'm fairly certain that voting yes on prop 79 will probably raise my insurance costs as drug companies try to make up for lost revenue. I would consider voting no on prop 79, but the large amount of money ($50 million or some figure like that) given by the drug companies to fund prop 78 bothers me. Drug companies--.

Prop 80 - Electric service providers regulation: Yes.
A competitive market presumably means lower prices. Unfortunately, when the product is exactly the same (or when the product is competing on exactly the same things -- see the airline industry), companies are forced to compete strictly on pricing. Of course for an electric company, you can make your product cheaper by not building more power plants. And with no new power plants and increasing demand, the price of the product goes up, and you make more money. Then with this more money you build more power plants, and all is supposedly well and good. Unfortunately this sort of system provides no incentive for uninterrupted power. Why spend more money building power plants now, and having to raise rates (in which case the consumer will switch to another cheaper provider) if the rest of your competitors are instead keeping low rates? This means power plants might not get built until after they are needed. Given the long construction time on power plants, regulation of this market seems necessary in order to allow power companies to both grow and build plants at a steady rate, and to provide for power reliability. As I mentioned earlier, the airline industry is facing a similar problem after deregulation. Sure, flights are a lot cheaper now (tickets perhaps half the price compared to before), but service has gone down (no more real, hot meals on continental US flights), and many more flights get cancelled due to insufficient booking. Everything in our life depends on electricity -- so while it's debatable whether deregulating the airline industry is good or bad (some would say that the market has chosen), I would choose stability for electricity over price.

All in all, because I don't like the fact that this extra election is being held, what the governor supports and doesn't support played a small factor in my initial approach towards these propositions. I'm beginning to think more and more that really a lot of these issues should probably not be handled by the voters themselves (specialists exist for a reason -- obviously people with more domain knowledge can make better decisions about a respective subject than a mass of uninformed voters). While yes, there seem to be a lot of corrupt politicians, there are also ones that aren't corrupt. And the fact is, all of these politicians spent their entire day thinking about these different bills that get written. The public should make more of a concerted effort to get rid of corruption, and then let the (resultant uncorrupted) legislature do its job.