Saturday, January 30, 2010

Don't Blame Proposition Thirteen

California is once again facing a budgetary shortfall, after the politicians managed to come up with a "fix" that balanced the state budget for a few more months. This has happened several times over the past year, and each time there is a predictable chorus of people blaming Proposition Thirteen for the inability of politicians to not spend more than is collected in taxes.

The first argument is that Proposition Thirteen makes it impossible to raise taxes. Given that in February of 2009 the largest state tax increase in the history of the United States was passed, that is truly an absurd argument to make. If Proposition Thirteen really did make it impossible, instead of merely more difficult, to raise taxes, the tax increase of 2009 would never have happened.

The other argument is that Proposition Thirteen somehow leads to minority rule. The problem with that argument should be obvious to everyone - two thirds is not a minority. If two thirds of politicians vote for something, a majority has voted for that something.

A more sophisticated version of that false argument is that the majority, in order to pass anything, the majority must convince part of the minority to vote with the majority, and this in a very weak way this results in minority rule. But in truth this once again is still majority rule, and if the minority under persuasion demands something the majority is unwilling to give that minority cannot pass anything - it is a minority.

The real reason there is a budget crisis is because those in government are unwilling to control their spending. The situation in California is identical to a person who continuously lives beyond his means and then blames his employer for not giving him enough money once the credit card bill is due. If an individual makes that argument, the absurdity of the claim is readily apparent.

But when a government official makes that claim, for some reason people actually take it seriously. Assemblywoman Noreen Evans made exactly that claim: "There is this mantra out there 'living within our means' and while it sound really nice it sounds really simple and it sound really responsible it's meaningless. Our means are completely within our control". It's not her fault that she approves spending far beyond what tax revenues will allow, it's the tax payers for not writing her a blank check.

She blames Proposition Thirteen for the lack of a blank check. The real reason there is no blank check is because they don't exist.

11 comments:

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