California general election

As usual with these every-two-year posts, probably of direct interest only to California residents. Maybe the more obscure things we're voting on will be a minor curiosity to people elsewhere.

Apologies to Planet Debian readers for the explicitly political post because I'm too lazy to change my blog software to do more fine-grained post classification. For what it's worth, most of the discussion here will be about the more fiddly and nuanced things we vote on, not on the major hot-button proposition.

As in 2020, I'm only going to cover the ballot propositions, as all of the state-wide and most of the district races are both obvious to me and boring to talk about. The hyperlocal races are more interesting this year, but the number of people who would care and who are also reading this blog is essentially nonexistent, so I won't bother writing them up.

This year, everything except Proposition 1 is an initiative (not put on the ballot by the legislature), which means I default to voting against them because they're usually poorly-written.

Proposition 1: YES. Adds reproductive rights to the California state constitution. I'm fairly sure everyone reading this has already made up their mind on this topic and certainly nothing will ever change my mind, so I'll leave it at that.

Proposition 26: YES. This mushes two different things together in an unhelpful way: allowing sports betting at some racetracks, and allowing a wider variety of gambling on tribal lands.

I have no strong opinion about the former (I'll get into that more with the next proposition). For the latter, my starting point is that Native American tribes are and should be treated like independent governments with their own laws (which is what we promised them by treaty and then have systematically and maliciously betrayed ever since). I am not a citizen of any of the tribes and therefore fundamentally I should not get a say on this. I'm not a big fan of gambling or of the companies they're likely to hire to run casinos, but it should be their land and their decision.

Proposition 27: NO. This, on the other hand, is about on-line sports betting outside of tribal lands, and looks to be a lot more about corruption and corporate greed.

I am fairly dubious that outlawing gambling in general is that good of an idea. I think the harms are overstated given the existence of even wilder forms of gambling (crypto and financial derivatives) that are perfectly legal, and I'm always suspicious of attempting to solve social problems with police and prohibition systems. If there were a ballot proposition to simply legalize gambling in California, I'd have to think hard about that.

But this is not that. This requires companies that want to offer on-line gambling to pay substantial up-front costs (which will restrict this to only huge gambling companies). In return, they are allowed entry into what is essentially a state-constructed partial monopoly. As usual, there's a typical vice tax deal attached where those companies are taxed to fund some program (in this case, homeless services and mental health treatment), but these sorts of taxes tend to be regressive in effect. We could just tax richer people like me to pay for those services instead. I'm also dubious that the money for homelessness will be used to build housing, which is what we need to do to address the problem.

Proposition 28: YES. Sets aside money for art and music funding in public and charter schools. This is a reluctant yes because this sort of law should not be done via proposition; it should be done through a normal legislative process that balances all of the priorities for school funding. But despite the broken process by which this was put forward, it seems like a reasonable law and no one is opposing it, so okay, fine.

Proposition 29: NO. The attempt to force all dialysis clinics to have licensed doctors on site is back again.

Everything about the way dialysis health care is provided in California makes me angry. We should have a state health care system similar to the NHS. We should open dialysis clinics based on the number of people requiring dialysis in that area. Every one of them should be unionized. We absolutely should not allow for-profit companies to have primary responsibility for basic life-saving medical care like dialysis.

But this proposition does not solve any of those problems, and what it claims to do is false. It claims that by setting credential requirements on who has to be on-site at a dialysis clinic, the clinics will become safer. This is simply not true, for all of the reasons discussed in Still Not Safe. This is not how safety works.

The safest person to do dialysis is someone with extensive experience in performing dialysis, who has seen all the problems and has an intuition for what to watch out for. That has less to do with credentials than with good training specifically in dialysis, apprenticeship, and practice, not to mention reasonable hours and good pay so that the workers are not stressed. Do I think the private dialysis clinics are likely doing a good job with this? Hah. (Do I think dialysis clinics run by large medical non-profits would do a good job with this? Also hah.) But this would enshrine into law a fundamentally incorrect solution to the problem that makes dialysis more expensive without addressing any of the other problems with the system.

It's the same tactic that was used on abortion clinics, with the same bogus argument that having people with specific credentials on-site would make them safer. It was false then and it's still false now. I would agree with better regulation of dialysis clinics, but this specific regulation is entirely wrong-headed.

Also, while this isn't an overriding factor, I get annoyed when the same proposition shows up again without substantial changes. For matters of fundamental rights, okay, sure. But for technical regulation fixes like this one, the proponents should consider taking no for an answer and trying a different approach. Like going to the legislature, which is where this kind of regulation should be designed anyway.

Proposition 30: YES. Raises taxes on the personal income of extremely rich Californians (over $2 million in income in one year) to fund various climate change mitigation programs. This is another reluctant yes vote, because once again this shouldn't be done by initiative and should be written properly by the legislature. I also don't like restricting tax revenue to particular programs, which reduce budget flexibilty to no real purpose. It's not important to me that these revenues go to these specific programs, although the programs seem like good ones to fund.

But the reality remains that wealthy Silicon Valley executives are undertaxed and the only way we can ever manage to raise taxes is through voting for things like this, so fine.

Proposition 31: NO. The Calfornia legislature banned the sale of flavored vape products. If NO beats YES on this proposition, that ban will be overturned.

Drug prohibition has never, ever worked, and yet we keep trying it over and over again in the hope that this time we'll get a different outcome. As usual, the pitch in favor of this is all about the children, specifically the claim that flavored tobacco products are only about increasing their appeal to kids because... kids like candy? Or something? I am extremely dubious of this argument; it's obvious to me from walking around city streets that adults prefer the flavored products as well and sale to kids is already prohibited and unchanged by this proposition.

I don't like vaping. I wish people would stop, at least around me, because the scent is obnoxious and the flavored stuff is even more obnoxious, even apart from whatever health problems it causes. But I'm never going to vote for drug prohibition because drug prohibition doesn't work. It just creates a black market and organized crime and makes society overall worse. Yes, the tobacco companies are some of the worst corporations on the planet, and I hope they get sued into oblivion (and ideally prosecuted) for all the lying they do, but I'm still not going to vote for prohibition. Even the best kind of prohibition that only outlaws sale and not possession.

Also, secondarily but still significant, bans like this just frustrate a bunch of people and burn good will and political capital, which we should be trying to preserve to tackle far more important problems. The politics of outlawing people's pleasures for their own good are not great. We have a lot of serious problems to deal with; maybe let's not pick fights we don't have to.

Posted: 2022-10-29 12:35 — Why no comments?

Last modified and spun 2022-10-29