May 13th, 2009


I am Voting No ...

I keep re-reading the ballot book to find a reason to vote for any of the propositions in next week's election.  My search has not been successful.

The fundamental imbalance between revenues and expenses is maintained if the any/all the propositions pass.  The structural overspending/under-collecting will continue.

Me, I see two issues that must be fixed. But each problem has hugely powerful interests protecting it.
  1. We are too generous to public employees. I believe in compensating public service workers well, but we've screwed up. Twenty-five years ago when I was in civil service, workers were paid medium/low wages, but the understanding was the the jobs were secure and benefits -- including lifetime retirement benefits -- were good. Then the unions successfully argued for competitive current salaries. There's nothing wrong with the unions doing that, but it's horrible that the politicians granted higher current pay without adjusting benefits and retirement. We just cannot afford to be this generous.
  2. We are spending tons of money on smaller classrooms, but the controlled studies say that students in smaller classrooms do not do any better by any measure, unless the classroom size gets to be about 15 (if I remember correctly).  So, we have hired a lot more teachers -- many who are inexperienced to reduce classroom size from 35 students (which I had in school) to the low 20's.  We have spent a lot more money for additional classrooms and schools.  All of this for no educational benefit.  The teacher unions have a lot more members, and are even more powerful, under this scheme.  But, this half-assed reduction in classroom size isn't helping the kids or the state.

But, these issues -- or other structural changes are not even talked about.  Instead, the commercials show sweaty firefighters saving our lives and begging for a YES vote.   It's "Vote Yes or I shoot this Fireman".

Sorry, Mr. Fireman.

Here's a good summary of the ballot issue and the positions of major organizations (League of Woman Voters, California Federation of Teachers, etc.).  Surprising -- and unhappily -- most of the neutral good-government organizations recommend NO votes.