You think you’re so smart

As with being told to vote (I can’t find where I talked about that), I’m not entirely sure how I feel about being told to try my hand at balancing the budget. I assume the Bee’s interactive feature was not done in cahoots with the powers that bee in the state house. But I was also asked by the Natomas School District to participate in an “interactive budget workshop” (tonight at 6pm at Inderkum High School) to collaborate with Assemblyman Dr. Richard Pan on balancing the state’s books. For some reason this just doesn’t sit right with me.

Sure, we voters bear some responsibility for the mess as many of the strings tying the hands of the legislators were put there by voters. But making sense of it is part of a politician’s job. They seek our input when we vote, so pretending that they are taking our input in the line items of the budget seems like a preemptive excuse for when the final result doesn’t please anyone. “Well, we certainly did solicit your input, but as you see there are as many budget solutions as there are Californians, so our options were limited, etc.” So when the actual budget consists of a bunch of backroom temporary and no permanent solutions, we won’t have anyone to blame but ourselves.

I know my feelings on these things are seldom relatable but there you have it. What do you think? Do you enjoy fiddling with the knobs? Do you think they actually care what we’d do if we called the shots?

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Author: CoolDMZ

"X-ray vision to see in between / Where's my kimono and my time machine?"

9 thoughts on “You think you’re so smart”

  1. California’s unique initiative process gives “the voters” a lot more power over the budget than in most other states, and with great power comes…

    But I agree that the onus of “fixing Sacramento” has to weight most heavily on the shoulders of the lawmakers. The typical voter is ignorant, uneducated and uninformed, so for democracy to function there needs to be a really simple heuristic to guide them, such as, “Economy good, me vote for incumbent; economy bad, me vote against incumbent.” There are a number of structural issues that keep this heuristic from functioning, the initiative process being one of them.

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  2. I felt the same way about President Obama telling the state governors to suggest a better version of a national healthcare policy. It suggests a failure to lead.

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  3. I am all for community-based, collaborative attempts at involving the public in this. It not only shows voters that their elected officials are listening to them, but it serves as a valuable education tool to better inform voters for those who seek more information.

    HOWEVER. Actions like this seem to be forest-for-the-trees events in this current budget environment. The problem does not lie in poor budgeting decisions. The problem is that our system is broken and we need big-picture fixes. Return to a straight majority for all budgetary decisions to reduce the gridlock from a hostage-holding minority party. Remove the oil tanker-sized loopholes in the tax structure to make sure everyone pays their fair share. Put sales tax on Internet purchases. Restructure the general fund so it is not directly dependent upon economic fluctuations. Stop letting uninformed voters make budget decisions through the ballot box.

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  4. Then again, hardly anybody joins in at the grass roots level when an agency really does want/need/solicit help: SACOG has been holding blueprint planning meetings for the general guidelines for urban planning for the region for 10 years, and only about 1/4 as many people show up as should. Of course, plenty of folks complain later on…

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  5. Stickie: I am informed enough on finance and economics to balance my own family’s budget, and I am informed well enough on the issues facing California to vote on what I consider to be our state’s top priorities. But I am not at all ashamed to say that I am not very informed about the California budget. I’m not praising ignorance. That’s what a representative government is for, to weigh the competing needs of the public. Your assumption seems to be that if all voters were informed to your liking they would all vote like you šŸ™‚

    Surely, if dozens of other families who I didn’t know had their say in Mrs Cool’s and my family budget then I’m sure we’d be broke too.

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  6. All for what you recommend Stickie, right after we eliminate welfare of every kind for anyone who has ever had a kid while on welfare, and get the taxpayers off the hook for public employees’ underfunded pensions. Stop sticking the middle class with tax increases, and the problem IS poor budgeting decisions (or lack of decisions). Maybe open up the coast for oil exploration and tax that?

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  7. “Stop letting uninformed voters make budget decisions through the ballot box.”

    Jeeze, Stickie: White, male, landowner much? Maybe a poll test before the uninformed masses start voting to spend your money?

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  8. Turty
    I like a good poll tax accusation as much as the next guy, but Stickie makes some good points.

    Switzerland seems to have direct democracy nailed down pretty, the US seems to work better under a representative system. There is a place for propositions, but when they have reached the point like they have in CA of completely hamstringing the elected assembly then maybe some reform is in order.

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  9. Naw, DMZ, not like me, just voting in an informed manner. Studies on exit polls clearly show that a huge chunk of voters simply do not understand what they are voting on and that their votes cast on propositions completely contradict their self-reported political philosophies. These same studies show that people report that they frequently formulate their vote 24 hours or less before the election and do so without reading the voter guide. This means that they are either reading the proposition’s description and simply assuming that they “get” it or they are swayed by television commercials, which frequently mislead the viewer about the actual impacts of the proposition, or try to appeal using emotional cues rather than even discussing the facts.

    Does this mean we need literacy tests to allow people to vote? No. It means that we shouldn’t be sticking incredibly complicated things on the ballot for people to vote on. DMZ is right, this is why we have a representative democracy: We select people who we think will represent our values and let them make the tough calls. We give them a budget to hire experts who can sort through this mess because we have better things to do, like raising families, working jobs and doing our own household budgets. We should not be relying on the public to make these decisions through the ballot box, that’s not how our government was set up to run.

    So, do away with the proposition system? No, but how about we reform it so that it asks simple questions, and let the experts work out the details in a manner that reflects the will of the people.

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