Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Propositions in California: Revised

     After my foray into presidential politics, I thought I should continue this trend with some thoughts on the current propositions that are up for election in California.  Unlike the presidential election, those propositions have a much more direct influence on my life, and attempt to accomplish very concrete goals, both good and bad.  My positions aren't going to be that startling to anyone who knows me, and frankly don't stray very far from the positions taken by other groups, but, nonetheless, I thought it would be worth spelling out my thoughts in these matters.

     Proposition 30 is a compromise between Governor Jerry Brown's proposition to refund the state government and the proposition being brought up by labor unions and other progressive groups, called the millionaire's tax.  In effect, it took some of the regressive taxation proposed by the governor and combined it with the progressive taxation proposed by the millionaire's tax.  It's certainly not the proposition I would have wanted to see.  The notion that those who have hurt by the crisis should have to pay along with those who have benefited seems a little obscene to me.  However, our ability to freeze the cost of university and college education is on the line with this proposition.  Moreover, most of the taxation is progressive.  I have difficulty seeing anyone interpret the failure of this proposition link it to the sales tax, setting back attempt to reintroduce progressive taxation in the state.  Within that context, I think folks should get out and vote for this measure.  However, we shouldn't be deluded into thinking this will solve the crisis.  We need to also pressure the governor and the regents to prioritize public education.

     Proposition 31 is a little baroque.  No position

     Proposition 32 basically is a way to take away any political influence of unions from the political process, while continuing to allow the immense expenditures on the part of corporations.  The prop attempts to disguise this by stating it will equally disqualify union and business spending, but the truth is that it removes the funding mechanism that unions use to make political donations, while not challenging the main forms of corporate funding.  It should also be noted that union political donations are made voluntarily and aren't taken out of union dues.  As much as I get annoyed at the unions love of the democratic party, the big unions have been some of the biggest advocates for public education and the social safety net in the state.  Obviously, you should vote no on this.

    Proposition 33 is basically an auto insurance industry scam, one that they keep on trying to pass.  Don't vote for this.

    Proposition 34 abolishes the death penalty in California, while creating the conditions to put a lot more money in law enforcement.  It also changes the labor expectations of prisoners found guilty of murder, giving them the same labor expectations as other prisoners, expanding prison labor.  This reinforces a set of policies connected to the prison labor industrial complex, but it's not a substantial transformation.  Here's an article discussing why many death row prisoners are opposed, along with some prisoners' rights groups.  No position  (This is revised from a reserved yes for the measure.)

     Proposition 35 focuses on the question of human trafficking, imposing larger penalties on those who engage in these practices.  Sounds good, but the definitions presented in the proposition threaten to place these onerous penalties on sex workers and those who were victims of trafficking.  It also continues the erasure of the majority of those affected by trafficking, those who were transported for labor purposes.  Here's a decent article on some of the severe problems with the proposition.  Vote no.

      Proposition 36 is an attempt to modify California's three strikes laws, setting it up that one can only be imprisoned for life when the final accusation is a serious felony.  All the polling seems to show that this is not going to pass, which is unfortunate because the only problem with the proposition is that it doesn't go as far as to get rid of the entire edifice of the three strikes law, which has contributed to the explosion of prisons in California.  Voting for this won't get rid of the racist prison system, but it is a significant small step in challenging it.  Vote yes.

     Proposition 37 would require that the use of genetically modified organisms (gmo) must be labelled when used in food products.  I don't have the passion about this issue that other folks do, but it seems to make sense that folks can make informed decisions on what they eat.  I suggest folks vote yes.

     Proposition 38 is a competing tax proposal with prop 30.  It focuses its funding for K-12 education, with some money going to early education and some going to debt reduction, basically leaving us out in the cold.  It operates by increasing the income tax on everyone but those in the lowest tax brackets.  Basically, it takes the same perspective of prop 30, but taking a more regressive stance.  Folks should vote this down, and support 30.

      Proposition 39 basically cuts a bunch of loopholes for business who operate in a multi-state context, and sets up new sales tax expectations on how out of state businesses calculate sales taxes.  That money will go to clean energy stuff, specifically tied into creating new jobs.  Folks should vote for this one too.

Proposition 40 is another in a long line of redistricting proposals.  I don't have a position on this.

      In any case, I hope to move away from this shameful act of reformist deviation to discuss more meaningful radical organizing, but there seem to be a lot of folks wondering about this stuff.  I thought I would toss out my two cents on this.  To put it simply, you should go out and vote, but none of these propositions respond to the structural issues that have created this.  In order to do that we need organize a historical bloc that would begin to undo the last 500 years of exploitation and domination created by the world capitalist system.  No ballot measure will solve that.  Radical expectations met.  I'll leave it there.

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