In 2004, nearly 54 percent of California voters approved Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act. State senate boss Darrell Steinberg, the measure’s original sponsor, wants President Obama to use it as a model for the nation. That is a bad idea, just like Proposition 63 itself.
The measure slapped an additional 1 percent tax on millionaires’ incomes. In eight years, this has brought in more than $8 billion, and the San Jose Mercury News explains what the state has to show for it: “Fewer psychiatric hospital beds, fewer doctors treating patients and fewer clinics across the state. An estimated 750,000 California adults failed to receive mental health treatment they needed last year.” Therefore, “if President Barack Obama wants a model for solving the nation’s mental health care crisis, he needs to find a better one than California.”
The Sacramento Bee wonders: “Was the money spent wisely? Did the money do as much good as it should have done? Was it shoved down a rat hole, never to be seen again?” Trouble is, the state Bureau of State Audits “could not answer how the money was spent”—another confirmation that California is incapable of auditing itself. The Bee flags “questionable” uses of the money “such as yoga, horseback riding, gardening, the purchase of iPads, and a slick public relations video that is being passed off as a serious documentary about stigma.” So the $8 billion was not spent wisely and didn’t do much good, if any. But the billions did enrich mental health providers and their wholly owned subsidiaries. The same is true of Proposition 71, the 2004 stem-cell initiative that produced none of the promised cures but has done a good job redistributing public funds to the measure’s sponsor and his cronies.
Voter approval is no guarantee of performance, especially if the measure wears a white coat, raises taxes and expands government. Some ballot measures, such as Proposition 13, lower taxes and limit government. But that’s the measure the ruling class endlessly attacks and seeks to eliminate, not the wasteful Proposition 63, which as the Bee lamented, “fuels public skepticism about government’s ability to use the people’s money for the greatest good.” Based on the performance of Proposition 63, you’d practically have to be crazy to believe that.