Tuesday, October 30, 2012

California Bassackwards! No on Prop 31

California Forward, a non-partisan front group for sanctimonious centrists who think problems can be solved by anodyne nonsense and half-measures, has polluted the ballot in our state with a truly moronic proposition that would give large businesses the ability to elude environmental regulations by playing county governments against each other. While it purports to move power and authority down to the local level, it would have the effect of giving private business entities the power to rewrite California's laws as long as they can convince already beleaguered local governments to go along with them.

I am a strong supporter of the principle of local control of decision-making. Every day, city governments all over the country enact great policies that federal and state governments are too sluggish and cowardly to touch. But often "bringing power back to local government" is code for "corporate privatization of laws and regulations", in the same sense that "states rights" is often code for "white supremacism." I don't know if the folks at California Forward are actually so stupid as to not know the difference between the two or if they're actually going out of their way to hand power to big monied interests, but based on prior knowledge of the organization I would say it's likely some combination of both.

The "common sense" centrism espoused by groups like California serves two distinct purposes. First, it's a subconscious pose by intellectual lightweights attempting to appear as if they have thought through the issues and come to the conclusion that both sides of the debate are half right. Second, it's an attempt to cloak nasty, brutish policies in the guise of reasonable compromise.

To illustrate what I mean, let's consider California Forward's stance on legislative minority rule in California. Or should I say, lack of a stance on legislative minority rule in California. If you're unfamiliar with California politics, you might not be aware that our state's finances are held hostage to the whims of an entrenched minority in the legislature. Because of an obscure portion of a law passed more than thirty years ago, one third of the state legislature can block any measure to raise new revenue to pay for public goods like education, health care, public safety and transit infrastructure. An entrenched minority has taken advantage of this rule to control the state's fiscal trajectory.

One would think an organization dedicated to reforming political institutions and improving the finances of the state would at least mention this major issue on their website. But legislative minority rule does not receive any attention from California Forward. How could this be?

Well, sensible centrism would have you believe we can't afford to adequately fund public education in California because the people's elected legislators won't vote to fund it. But voters support increased support for public education by wide margins. Likewise, a majority of California legislators want to pass measures like the no-brainer oil extraction fee that would charge oil companies to drill in the state just like Alaska and Texas do. This would bring in new revenue that could fund the public's priorities But a minority blocks all attempts to revenue. So here we are.

I apologize if you read this far expecting a thoughtful dissection of California Forward as a representative for milquetoast centrism that fucks over the working class every day of the week. Unfortunately, it turns out I just have a grudge against them for not backing the California Democracy Act back in 2010. Sorry about that.

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