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cockswain's avatar

Should we be allowed to vote on economic issues? (details inside, don't freak out)

Asked by cockswain (15286points) October 12th, 2010

In light of this proposition on the ballot in Colorado and conversations I’ve had with people who support it, I’m wondering where/how we draw the line on what sorts of economic issues are allowed on the ballot. This particular proposition would be devastating, and anyone who has had an economics class can see why. The way it is worded, it rides a Tea Party wave of “fiscal responsibility” but is not a viable solution to a debt at all (more proof in my opinion the Tea Party is comprised of many unqualified morons who will do more harm than good with their self-proclaimed “lack of college learning”) Not all voters understand economics but all have equal say in whether or not this passes. So, given the wide-reaching and dire consequences of stupid economic decisions, should there be restrictions on allowing economic proposals on ballots?

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14 Answers

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I’m not always a fan of “direct democracy”, including measures like this one or most of the California ballot initiatives that cause so much controversy there. And I really hate when ballot initiatives are worded ambiguously, circuitously or loosely enough to make comprehension difficult and administration impossible without numerous court challenges and “interpretations”. I don’t think I would much care for this initiative, either.

But they beat going to war (again) against an unresponsive government as we did in our founding Revolution.

Our Founders would be appalled at the amount of government this supposedly “republican” country has taken on. We nearly went to war with France in 1799 because of the rise of Bonaparte, but he couldn’t hold a candle to the current Washington leaders and the power they hold.

We don’t need as much government as we have. How, other than admittedly draconian (and probably futile) measures such as this one, will our political leaders absorb that message?

wundayatta's avatar

Where to begin. The thing that glares out to me is the idea of no debt. What are these people? Islamists? Everyone knows that if you can’t get the capital together, you can’t do shit. The best way to get capital is to borrow it. That’s how people buy houses, for pity’s sake.

I have to admit that I am a bit shocked by my friend, @CyanoticWasp‘s response. I think I heard on the radio the other day that this nation has one of the lowest government to private sector spending in the world. Something like that, anyway. I don’t remember exactly. We are not overburdened by government. Far from it.

What we have is a lot of know-nothing (and proud of it) people who have a knee-jerk response to the current economic environment. The economy is sick. Someone must be at fault. Oh look! Big Government is spending lots of money. Money should be spent in the private sector. Let’s dissolve the government.

It is a knee-jerk, uninformed response and it’s kind of scary. It forgets that people in this nation like to point fingers and they like to point them everywhere else but at themselves. Who is responsible for this economy? You. And you. And you and you and you….. all of us. We’re the ones who aren’t spending, so demand is down, and in response production is down. If people have even less money in their pockets, are they going to spend more?

Yeah, if we cut government spending on social programs we can bring back the depression. Good on us! You think there are a lot of beggars now? You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet, brother (not you, CW).

The people who will have more money are… yup, you guessed it… the rich. The middle class won’t be helped much. And the rich don’t spend money. How much can they spend? They use their money as capital to form new businesses, but in this business climate, are they going to do that? I doubt it. They’ll go to India and China—places where there is a consumer explosion just waiting to happen.

And even if the middle class did get a couple hundred dollars per year extra, are they going to spend it? Would you? I don’t think so. People are actually doing what economists have been asking them to do for ages: saving. Only now what we need is spending.

And the Tea Party will make it far, far worse if they have their way. This recession has been going on for a long time. People are very, very tired of it. It could go on for a long time to come. Are we going to go back and forth between dems and reps since none of them get the economy going?

We need to spend ourselves out of the recession, the same as we did out of the depression. Or start a war, so we have to buy all kinds of military shit…. oh wait. We’re already in a way. It ain’t helping. In fact it may be why we’re in the depr recession. Resources needed for the economy are being wasted in the badlands of Afghanistan.

As to your question, @cockswain, I’m afraid I disagree. If people want direct democracy, who are we to say they shouldn’t have it? That is an elitist point of view: we know better. I’m sure we do know better, but that doesn’t give us the right to run things. If the people want to stab themselves in the gut, all we have are words to stop them. If our words won’t do it, they are too dumb to survive. And if we can’t persuade them to understand the science behind this, we’re just inadequate at protecting themselves from themselves.

The irony is that if they pass a tax cut, I get a significant amount of money in my pocket. I’m voting to reduce my pay to benefit others, and they want to vote to let me keep more of my money so they can have more poverty. The world is indeed strange.

MeinTeil's avatar

If we want the whole country to end up like California.

marinelife's avatar

It’s an attempt to tie the hands of the people that have been elected to make those decisions.

It is bad government and bad law making.

lillycoyote's avatar

I don’t really have serious objections to direct democracy, referendums and ballot measure, in general with one exception, and this the one. It’s not the issue of the ballot measure, I just don’t think people should be able to amend their state constitution simply by passing a ballot measure. That leaves the state constitutions open to modification every time the political wind or the mood of the people changes direction. Also, who exactly is the State of Colorado borrowing from and how much, that this issue even needs to be addressed at all? The article you link to says that Colorado has borrowed money from the federal government exactly twice in the past 30 years. That’s hardly profligate, irresponsible, out of control borrowing it seems to me, and certainly not something that requires amending the state constitution to rein in. The ballot measure seems to not only be a bad idea but a completely unnecessary waste of the time and money spent trying to get it passed. If they are trying to solve a problem that doesn’t actually exist then it’s just more agenda politics from idealogues, I guess.

arpinum's avatar

I have an economics degree and could defend the measure if it were the first best method available to prevent overbearing long term liabilities from accumulating. I doubt Colorado is at that state, but it is not a crazy thing to disagree about.

zenvelo's avatar

I like @lillycoyote‘s idea of limits on the ability of initiatives to amend the state constitution. It would be better if the ballot initiative were required to either be placed there by the legislature, or require ratification by the legislature within two terms, or by ⅔rds of the counties.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

I’ll take “Propositions Colorado will never pass” for 500, Alex….

But really, I’d much rather professional economists and winners of the Nobel Economics Prize set the policy of an insanely complicated issue. Just like I’d rather have physicists operate the Large Hadron Collider.

wundayatta's avatar

@arpinum You have an economics degee??? OMG. We should all bow down before you in awe!!!!

Give me a break man. You need to have at least one argument or piece of evidence to support your case if you want anyone to give your statement half an ounce of attention. Shit or get off the pot. Either you defend it or you don’t. Merely saying you could defend it is pure self-aggrandizement.

arpinum's avatar

Op said anyone with an economics class can see it would be devastating. I’m saying that statement is false, proven merely by my speaking up.
I don’t defend it because I don’t have the same level of fear as these people. Our priors differ, and so I don’t defend it, but at the same time I don’t have large qualms with the economic argument behind it.
Thanks for the condescending tone! I’ll make sure to not point out completely relevant information in the future.

cockswain's avatar

@CyanoticWasp I generally agree that gov’t could reduce a lot of its administrative jobs and still run effectively. The devil is in the details though.

@wundayatta That is a terrific answer, very much echoes my own thoughts and I’m thankful you wrote it so concisely. The only point of contention is when you say “And if we can’t persuade them to understand the science behind this, we’re just inadequate at protecting themselves from themselves” I have zero problem with people willfully screwing themselves after being shown the error of their ways. But when the effect of them stabbing themselves in the gut also stabs me, it’s also my problem.

@MeinTeil Good point. California voted to keep taxes down, and the state went bankrupt. Colorado is trying to reduce state income tax by a point, cut CDOT’s budget by reducing vehicle registration fees, and impeding the state’s ability to borrow. All while recovering from a recession.

@marinelife I agree with that.

@lillycoyote I think this is the product of Tea Party rhetoric, and not appropriate for this state. This seems unnecessary and will only harm a state that is financially doing OK. I got a flyer in support of the prop in the mail. It shows a graph of increased spending in the state from $3B to $20 over about 25 years to show how it’s “out of control.” There is no accompanying graph to adjust for inflation, population growth, nor does it show how revenues have grown as well. Total political propaganda.

@papayalily I hope you’re right, but this prop is part of three. They are worded like “would you like to pay less to register your car?” “Would you like state taxes lowered?” “Should the gov’t be more fiscally responsible?” It isn’t quite that badly worded, but it isn’t difficult to get that impression. There has been a lot of active campaigning against these, but again it comes back to my original question: Should we be in this position in the first place?

@arpinum I’d like to hear reasonable arguments for this. Honestly, perhaps only taken by itself, and not during a recession, it COULD be reasonable. But, it is linked to props 60 and 101 as well. The links I want to post to those are giving me grief, so if you’re interested you can look them up. Essentially the state will be reducing revenues AND handicapping its ability to borrow. On a micro level, it would be like cutting my income and credit, telling me I can only get a mortgage if I can pay it off in 10 years, and then I’d hear a lot of bitching when I can’t afford to make necessary road and bridge repairs. I’ve got more to say, but I’ve got to go and have written a lot in this post. I’m interested to hear your take.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@cockswain I’ve only heard it promoted once, but I see/hear it opposed at least 3 times a day. All three are grouped together in the opposition, referred to as the “evil 3”. 60, 61, and 101 won’t pass.

arpinum's avatar

@cockswain yes, it will hamper the state. But compared to what. The point these people are making, not the only one, but one of them is that without this the situation will get even worse. If people are fearing crushing liabilities, defaulting on debt, and further entrenchment of insiders, then sacrificing the credit card may be a much better proposition.
Its too late to save Greece. Reforms were put in place, commitments to spend wisely and not rack up debt. Yet it wasn’t enough. The country will declare bankruptcy soon. Its trying to reform, to dismantle the huge government favors bestowed upon so many groups. But its not working. There are too many people who refuse to stop sucking at the government teet. And reform will fail.
Thankfully its not that bad in the US. California may be lost, but colorado, often a place of refuge for Califonians, can still be saved. It can reverse path before its too late. Insiders don’t want to do it, they never will. Their need to get reelected is too strong and they will seek ways to continue the handouts. We must find a way to restrain them. These amendments are our best tool. They may be drastic, but they are the best chance we have. Its this, or the path Greece France, Spain, and Ireland have taken. Neither is pretty.
Wee need 61, but 61 is not enough. The politicians will find other way to keep their handouts coming. A good restraint must also include 60 and 101, else nothing will really change.

That of course is not me. If you want to convince someone like that to change their thinking, either show them their priors are wrong, or give them a better alternative to deal with their priors.

I’d avoid referring to California, their spending has consistently outpaced GDP growth for the last ten years and has some of the highest taxes and fees in the country. Not exactly a winning move.

cockswain's avatar

That, in turn, would mean Colorado businesses would no longer qualify to pay a discounted rate on their federal unemployment taxes and instead would see those taxes increase nearly seven-fold.That would amount to at least a $700 million tax increase on businesses in the state, Peel said. Yet because Colorado could not pay unemployment benefits, none of the money from the increased federal taxes on employers would stay in the state.

What is your opinion on this point?

Also, while I doubt anyone has a problem with fiscal responsibility, I think trying to shove radical economic changes without a model anywhere else during a recession is terrible timing. To me, it seems the idea is fiscal responsibility outweighs all other functions of gov’t. This concept works fine for everyone who needs limited government assistance, but reduced funding for education (always a place money gets cut) and less help for truly worthy recipients (think someone who has to quit their job/reduce hours to care for a relative/spouse with Alzheimer’s with expensive meds) will likely be the short-sighted by-products of such legislation.

My main argument is basically while I believe in fiscal responsibility and the necessity of checks to prevent longterm overbearing liabilities, I don’t think these amendments are viable solutions at all as they leave too much of the human factor out of the equation. Too much harm will be caused in the short term trying to fix a problem that isn’t enough of a problem to warrant such casualties.

What do you think?

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