Monday, November 5, 2012

Guide to Naor's Opinion on Election Stuff

I probably should have written this before I voted, but here are my thoughts on some issues:

Before I say anything about the election itself, I want to express my disgust at two archaic voting processes that you should scorn no matter your party affiliation.  Let me start with the day of the election itself.  Is there any good reason that the biggest national event every four (if not two) years is held the second Tuesday of November?  Well, there was, back in 1845.  It has a lot to do with the Sabbath, farmers, and buggies.  Come on, is there anything that makes it good policy now?  Early voting and absentee ballots help, but they aren't available in all states and most people still vote in person.  There is the argument that the alternatives (making voting a holiday or have it on Saturday) would be economically harmful or cut into people's leisure time.  However, I doubt that modifying one day out of two years is going to stall vacation or destroy business.  If it does, then perhaps we should reevaluate our commitment to democracy  Voting should not be unnecessarily burdensome more than it already is in the form of long lines and and vicious campaigns.  Here is a petition in support of weekend voting (unfortunately it doesn't look like its going anywhere):  

The other dumb artifact of a different century is the electoral college.  The founding fathers didn't want a true democracy and wanted smaller states to have some influence.  Originally, the "electors" in each state were chosen by the legislature, but eventually their affiliation was chosen by the popular vote in each state.  As it stands, smaller states are over-represented in influence on the result, but the bigger issue lies with the process itself.  2000 aside, it is a rarity that the elected president actually loses the popular vote.  The bigger concern is really with the fact that so few states end up deciding the election.  Voting for president in large states like California and Texas, or small states like Hawaii and Alaska, is not very important considering that there is little chance of a close result.  As a result, the campaigns put no effort into some of the most important regions of the country.  I do not know how the vote would change if we moved away from the electoral college, but it would certainly be more representative.  Even among swing-state voters, there is a strong majority support for getting rid of the electoral college.  The best avenue now is a campaign to get state legislatures to pass an agreement to appoint all their electors to the winner of the popular vote.  It has passed for 132 out of 538 electoral votes; if just 271 votes are represented, then we can change the system.  This is because states are still not actually mandated to choose electors based on the state totals.  Hopefully this will eventually get the support it needs!

Now to some issues that I voted on:

I'll offer my lukewarm support to Obama.  Although Michael Bloomberg may be a little more conservative than me, I'd like to see him as president.  See his endorsement of the president for more.

Other People
I voted for Democrats in all the partisan elections and voted for Jerry Hill over Sally Lieber (apparently he is more devoted to education).  I would support a Republican under the right circumstances, but I didn't see one I could support in this election.


Prop 30
BIG YES.  As much as it sucks to raise taxes in a still-down economy, we can't afford to cut back on schools.  Of course I'm biased as this could have a direct impact on my college tuition.  Yes, I'm sure that there are some things that we should cut, but gutting our schools and colleges isn't going to cut waste.  The tax increase is modest, temporary, and goes to a good cause.  I am not the biggest fan of teacher's unions, but it is not worth it to under-fund schools just to spite a few overpaid teachers, especially when most good teachers are probably severely underpaid.  

On that note, NO on 38.  Just a rich idiot who might not even support education since all she did was spend tens of millions of dollars proposing a slightly different bill than Prop 30 that ignores colleges and universities. If Prop 30 fails, Charles Munger (anti-Prop 30)and his daughter Molly (pro-Prop 38) are to blame.

Prop 31
No.  It has some good things like a two year budget cycle.  Unfortunately, it ended up being too complicated and gives too much power to local governments.  I don't really support balanced budget amendments either, something that is basically a part of this.  Any increase in spending of over $25 million would have to be immediately offset.  The biggest problem is this: "Allows local governments to alter how laws governing state-funded programs apply to them, unless Legislature or state agency vetoes change within 60 days."  That is just a recipe for more fighting and bureaucracy.  I hope that the group that brought up Prop 31, which is actually legitimately nonpartisan, simplifies their proposals and comes out with a better bill.

Prop 32
NO.  By itself, it's not bad.  I support reducing campaign spending, but unfortunately it is nearly an impossible task in the wake of Citizen's United.  Proposition 32 unfairly targets unions while leaving Super-PACs and does nearly nothing to stop corporate spending.  

Prop 33
NO.  Stupid bill designed by the Mercury Insurance chairman.  Punishes people who have not yet had insurance or who decide to get rid of car insurance temporarily if they are disabled or decide not to drive.  

Prop 34
Yes.  I support ending the death penalty.  Just a moral thing.  I think we should avoid killing other people no matter the situation.

Prop 35
I voted yes, but I'm not so sure it's a great bill.  It will pass easily, but it seems to be dubious with regard to punishing prostitutes and their families as if they're sex offenders.  And I'm not sure how much effect the increased fines and jail time will really have on reducing sex offenders.  

Prop 36
Yes. It would modify the three strikes law to end mandatory life sentences when the last felony is non-violent.  My support is tepid due to concern that there may be a flood of cases in the court system.  Hopefully though, it will remove non-violent felons from unnecessary jail space.  

Prop 37
No.  I was initially in favor of this, largely because Monsanto is against it.  I am very skeptical of the positive impact of a chemical company that makes GMO crops just so people will buy Roundup.  Even for people who support labeling, the fact that meat and dairy products are exempt is very concerning.  The biggest GMO crops by far are soy and dairy.  98% of soy is used for livestock feed.  Most corn not used for ethanol (gosh don't get me started on how stupid ethanol is) gets fed to farm animals too.  A significant portion of the remainder is used for alcohol, which is also exempt from labeling.  

Well, since I am vegetarian and I don't drink alcohol, nearly everything that I purchase at a supermarket would be required to be labelled if it contained GMOs.  However, there is no credible evidence that GMOs are themselves harmful.  If they are, this is not the way to go about regulating them.  I believe that there needs to be more research into the safety of foods and pesticides, but there is nothing inherently different about GMOs than conventional crops.  I have my concerns about environmental sustainability and the actual effectiveness of genetically modified crops at increasing yields and reducing pesticide use.  However, simply slapping a label onto a box of crackers doesn't address these concerns.  

Another influence on my decision to vote against Prop 37 is that one of its biggest supporters is a anti-vaccination, alternative medicine by the name of Joseph Mercola.  He also believes that AIDS is caused by stress and that microwave ovens are dangerous.  His anti-vaccination stance is quite a bit more concerning to me than Monsanto's policies.

Prop 38
NO.  See Prop 30.

Prop 39
Yes.  It makes business pay taxes based on in-state sales.  Now, companies can choose to either do this or pay taxes based on property owned and labor employed in California.  This means lower taxes for companies that are from out-of-state.  Unfortunately, the first five years devotes $550 million to cleantech investments, basically filling the pocketbook of the bill's main sponsor and proponent.  I don't think that clean energy investing should have a place in this bill, but it seems to be generally good tax policy.

Prop 40
YES.  Not much to say here considering all opposition has been dropped.

Some local things:
I don't vote in Palo Alto, but I think Ken Dauber is nuts.  Unfortunately it looks like he will join the school board.  His views on closing the achievement gap are overly simplistic.  Basically, making Algebra 1 easier will do nothing to better prepare students for life.

Measure A
Yes.  A small increase in the local sales tax.  I am generally supportive of tax increases and relatively trusting of my county to not waste too much money.

Measure B
NO. It is fairly complicated and I admittedly did not read through all of it.  That is not a good sign, especially for a local measure.  It would basically replace a parcel tax that is expected to expire in 2016 and renew it for 15 years.  The money would go to water supply and flood control programs.  It will also supposedly provide habitat restoration  and ensure clean water goes to creeks and bays.  Unfortunately, from what I've heard, the Santa Clara Valley Water District is not the best organization and the bill has a lack of accountability.  Also, one of the main selling points is that it does not raise water rates.  I'd rather see a rise in water prices to pay for water improvements and hopefully lower costs due to reduced demand.  The measure has drawn mixed reviews from environmental groups and a neutral position from our local Sierra Club chapter.

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