My government in action

Since I have to go out and vote tomorrow, I decided to go ahead and take a peek (at the wife’s urging) at the propositions that I am going to be voting “no” to. I like to take part in the democratic process after all, but I rarely take more than a couple of seconds to familiarize myself with any of the specific propositions that I am voting on. This might seem like a bad idea, but in reality it is exactly the opposite. Virtually all of the propositions that make their way to the public ballot are going to be of huge benefit to a very few people, and usually cost everyone in the state. There are exceptions to this, of course, and many don’t technically cost anything since they are just changing the way the government’s budget is allocated. While voting “yes” to a proposition could have a horrific impact on you and your family, voting “no” will keep things the way they are now. And if you have seen some of the propositions that have passed in Arizona over the last few years, you would understand that the status quo is far from perfect, but it is still better than having such ridiculous propositions passing. Personally, I am going to vote “no” to all but one of the propositions on the ballot.

I am not going to pretend that I know a great deal about the propositions, but there are three of them that got my mind fired up enough that I decided to sit down here and write out a couple of opinions. Unfortunately I don’t know what the particular numbers of them are, and I am not going to waste the time to look them up since it isn’t as if anyone is reading my site for objective political information and advice anyway.

The first proposition that I want to talk about pisses me off just because it doesn’t make a lick of sense. It seems that there isn’t enough funding in the state for pre-school. I am not going to argue with that, as it could be true; I wouldn’t know, as I never attended a pre-school. I am not sure how pre-schools are run these days, but when I was a child they were voluntary and the childrens’ parents had to cover 100% of the costs of the daycare -I don’t think pre-school can really be considered anything other than baby-sitting since the children who attend pre-school don’t reach grammar school with any knowledge or skills that children in the care of baby-sitters do.

I don’t want to argue about whether or not there should be public funding for such institutions though, since I just don’t know enough about it. What I do want to argue is how they are currently trying to fund them: Tobacco.

Arizona currently has three separate taxes on the sale of tobacco products. Each of the taxes funds a different program, but each of them goes to a program that deals directly with problems caused by tobacco, such as healthcare. The current proposition wants to put an additional tax of 80 cents per pack on cigarettes, which they estimate would raise about 180 million in the first year, with the proceeds going directly to pre-schools. Why? The taxes already in place on tobacco are already raising hundreds of millions per year, money which goes directly to the people (insurance companies, hospitals, etc.) who are affected by the use of tobacco. How do you justify taxing only people who use tobacco and using the money to fund programs that have nothing to do with it? It just doesn’t make any sense. If you want to raise money to fund pre-schools, why not put a tax on the sale of SUV’s and mini-vans? That would be forcing the people who are benefiting from the tax to also be the ones who foot the bill, which would make a hell of a lot more sense. Failing that, a tax on non-food merchandise statewide would only have to be thousandths of a penny per dollar to raise the same amount, and it would spread the tax over everyone. As I say, I have nothing against public funding for the pre-schools, but placing a tax on tobacco is not the right way to do it.

The other two propositions that I have to bring up are both regarding pay increases. I honestly wouldn’t have even thought twice about either of them if it hadn’t been for my local PBS stations. They had the same person argue for one and against the other, and it just irritated me.

The first one is to raise the statewide minimum wage. I am not 100% sure on this, but I think that it has been the same since 1990 (I know from living here that it has been the same at least since 1994). The current minimum wage is 5.15/hour, and even that has exemptions for “tipped positions”, such that a waiter will make a base of 2.13/hour (some employers do pay them minimum wage in addition to tips). So if you were working full time at minimum wage, you would be making roughly 11,000 a year. That is just not enough to survive on. The average rent on a home has doubled where I live since the last time minimum wage was increased, in fact with an average 3 bed, 2 bath home renting for about 800 a month, that would basically be the entire annual salary of a minimum wage employee. That is simply unacceptable.

This proposition would raise the statewide minimum to 6.75/hour. Hardly a huge increase, but it would be enough that it could take young couples from near poverty and government assistance to self-sufficiency. I have not actually read the entire proposition (quality reading time in the voting booth, baby!), but there are supposed to be some exemptions to it which will allow small businesses a time to adjust. I also would not be opposed to there being an age stipulation which would keep high school kids at the old rate. Inflation is estimated at 3% per year, and this increase would almost cover the 3% per year since the last time minimum wage was raised. This is the one proposition that I am going to vote for. I just don’t think that you should be able to work full time and still be in poverty.

Which leads nicely into the third proposition that I am going to bitch about. This one would raise the salary of our state legislators by 50%! That’s right folks, the very people who have voted against a minimum wage increase at least four separate times over the last decade are trying to get their own salaries increased by 50%. The increase would be from 24,000 to 36,000 a year, and I am voting no to that one for sure. Mind you, I really think that they should be making more than they are, but they are trying to take way too big of a chunk there -especially since they have refused to raise the minimum wage every time it has come to a vote. Funny thing is, I bet they would get their increase if they would have just raised the minimum wage the last time they had the chance.

Anyway, the reason that I decided to write this at all was because one of the people that they interviewed on PBS was arguing for raising the legislator’s salaries by 50%, yet arguing against raising the minimum wage by a buck and change. She said, and I am paraphrasing “raising the minimum wage will result in thousands of lost jobs statewide, and it will put small companies out of business” when she was arguing against the minimum wage increase, then said “the state legislators are barely above the poverty level” when arguing for that proposition. And it just pissed me off to see someone argue that millions of people should remain below the poverty level (based only on speculation as there is no way to know if it will actually cost jobs; do you really think McDonald’s is going to quit selling burgers if minimum wage goes up?), and in the same breath argue that a select group -who is making way more than double that- needs to be paid more. Yes, I know that comparing a job at McDonald’s with a job in congress is apples and oranges (you have to have some intelligence and god-given skill to land a job at McDonald’s), but it is a microcosm of government today: Even at the state level those in charge are so oblivious to the needs of the people they represent that it seems logical to raise their own pay while forcing millions to remain destitute.

Get out there and vote, and remember when in doubt vote “NO”.

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