Okay. Just a parochial political rant today. And it's not even about the Presidency or anything the Network News drones on about 24-7.
I'm sick of bond measures. They're phenomenally stupid and an insult to Americans' intelligence (or an exploitation of their stupidity, take your pick). Oh, right. Some of you might not know what I'm talking about. I don't know how it works in other states. Here in California, invariably every election is choked with bond measures. Bond measures for everything. Boring, stupid bond measures.
It's the way it works here, that anyone--just some guy off the street, or not even a California citizen, could be some Afghan warlord, Gort from Planet 9, or even the California legislature (no kidding!)--can get an "initiative" on an election ballot with enough signatures of registered California voters. Dunno how many, but I seem to recall it's less than 100,000. I could look it up if I thought the five minutes would be worth the bother, but I don't, since it's not relevant to my point today, as I'm not against the idea--even Taliban insurgents in the Eureka state can put up whatever initiatives they want, ask for the institution of Sharia law, the beheading of Britney Spears, don't care. Since we all have to vote on it in the end anyway, so we get what we deserve, whatever the fiasco may be.
But I digress. "Initiatives" can be a change to the state constitution (there's one on this November's ballot to "save" hetero marriage from all those wicked homos daring to topple Western civilization under their perverted avalanche of wedding rings and successful careers) or a...yes, you know it...bond measure. I don't know the exact technical reason. But since our state is now constitutionally required to pass a balanced budget every year (imagine that...gee, when will those whiny Republicans in Congress start emulating this godless state of liberal perverts and actresses, I do wonder?...we even require our government to save money for future rainy days, such liberal freaks we are), the only way any money can be borrowed to do anything (outside an actual, serious emergency--which I mean in English, not Washingtonese, where "serious emergency" can mean something as lame as we can't afford stamps to mail our staff their checks this year unless we borrow a gagillion dollars to meet our tobacco price-fixing buyback obligations) is if the citizens directly vote to temporarily override the constitution (which they also voted for, by a massive landslide, as if they forgot) with a "bond measure," a special exception to the balanced budget rule whereby money can be borrowed and our state can be sunk back into debt, but hey, as long as the money is only spent in a very specific way (whatever stupid way the bond measure specifies).
Now every California ballot is littered in bond measures. There are at least three this November (not counting local municipal bond measures, of which I must endure at least one this year). Now, if 71% of voters already voted to compel our budgets to be balanced, how on earth could any bond measure pass? Wouldn't the same 71% say "Dude, we told you NO...how many f*cking times do we have to repeat ourselves?"? Or are Californians so stupid they don't even realize the inconsistency of passing a balanced budget amendment one year and then a bond measure the next? But never mind that. I'm sure at least a third of the human race is addicted to hypocrisy. It's a chemical in the water or something. That's not my complaint right now.
My complaint right now is stupidity. Either the abject stupidity of California voters who actually fall for this sh*t, or the stupidity of bond measure proponents who actually think their bond measure is a good idea. Because it has to be one or the other (or, dog forbid, both). Here's why...
A bond measure is nothing more than asking the California taxpayers for permission to go into debt, so something (something supposedly important, like giving candycanes to cancer kids or something) can be done. But if that "something" is so important, why can't we just move the existing budget around or raise taxes to get it done? "No one will vote for that," you might say. But voting for a bond measure already does that. Bond measures basically conceal the actual costs from the voter, so the voter thinks he's getting something for free, when in actual fact he's voting to pay twice as much. Yes, bond measures cost the taxpayer twice as much as just buying the damn thing outright. Because instead of just paying for it, we then have to pay the exact same amount for it in interest, which works out to a whole other bill for the same amount on top of the first one.
That money has to come from somewhere. It won't fall like manna from the sky. So where will it come from? To pay back the bond and the interest on the bond, we still either have to move the existing budget around or raise taxes. So why not just do that in the first place, and thus save half our money doing it? If you can't think of an answer, then you just proved you have an IQ anywhere above dumb.
For example (you know, in case anyone's still confused): California Proposition 1 (which I guess is now 1A, don't ask) asks voters to approve the issuance of $10 billion in bonds to build a spiffy new supertrain up and down half the state. Yes, they try to coax you with red herring bullsh*t like "It'll bring jobs!" (so would building a ten-mile high replica of the Moon from solid jack cheese...just think of the fantastic boost to the California dairy industry!). But what they're really asking you is to pay $20 billion for a $10 billion train. No kidding. The measure even says that, right in the pamphlet summary, you don't have to go digging at all: the cost of getting this $10 billion is $20 billion. Wait. What? Wouldn't just spending $10 billion be cheaper? Uhhh...10 billion dollars cheaper in fact?
"Well, it'll be spread out over thirty years." So? We still have to come up with the money. So are we raising taxes, or cutting police from the beat? For thirty straight years, no less. Remember, we have to come up with the dough every year. Is it supposed to come from finding pennies under the rug or something? As the measure says, the cost per annum will be $647 million. So, are we raising taxes by $647 million or closing $647 million worth of schools? Or what? That's not a facetious question. You'd better have an answer.
Now, think for, like, two seconds. A supertrain along the length of California linking a dozen cities. Hmmm. How long, honestly, do you think that will take to build? Fifteen years would not be an unreasonable estimate. It's supposed to connect at least four major metro areas in the state (LA, Silicon Valley, The Bay Area, and the Capitol, i.e. Sacramento, as if there was any important industry there), and eventually twice that (hitting almost every major city from San Diego to Fresno and in between and beyond). I seriously doubt they can complete even one of those linkages, from buying the land to having it operational, in less than three years. All four links would take almost ten years, and the whole line surely at least fifteen years. So why not just make it fifteen years and spend $647 million a year on each annual phase of the project (the same amount they already plan to spend on the bonds)? Then the total cost would be half (only ten billion instead of twenty). Yeah, the annual cost to the taxpayer would remain exactly the same, but that's actually the point: exactly the same annual cost as the bond will burden us with, yet it would be paid off twice as fast (fifteen years instead of thirty).
It's not even a question of what's "more palatable" to the voter, since "tricking" the voter into spending $20 billion on a $10 billion train is always an outrage. Why not just be honest and tell the voter the train is still going to cost us $647 million a year either way, bond or not. And then pitch the fact that just voting that money right out of the budget (or from some new tax) will cost them half as much as the losses they'll eat if it's done with bonds instead? Really, who's the bigger idiot here? The bond measure proponents or the voters who fall for it?
Now I'll be honest, I'm against all government debt. It should only ever be resorted to in emergencies. And again, I mean actual emergencies. Like, when you have no choice, because there is nothing left to tax, or not enough time to collect it. You know, like if we suddenly find out an asteroid is going to vaporize the West coast in three months and we need to build a gigantic raygun or something before the fiscal tax year is in. But until that happens, they can suck it. So I always vote against bond measures. I don't care if they fund a time travelling ninja squad that will prevent the Holocaust (or the 2000 election of George Bush). I don't care if they buy shoes for orphans. I don't care if they give spontaneous orgasms to all law abiding citizens. No more debt. If it's really so important, f*cking pay for it. Otherwise, I have a simple rule: if they can't afford their pet projects, they don't get to have them. Period.
But even if you're not a fiscal hardliner like me, surely you at least aren't a drooling idiot. So why, why oh why, why in heaven and earth and all the lands of fey, would you approve a measure that will force us to pay twice as much for the same result? If you can't give any valid answer to that (and especially if you can't even conceive of an intelligible attempt at an answer), then please do not vote for any bond measure. Ever. No matter what it's for. Don't even read it. Because their expecting you to even so much as read such measures only insults your intelligence. And if you let them do that even one more time, it may be arguable that you don't have any to insult.