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Democratic Double Standard in California

Saturday January 15th, 2011   •   Posted by Emily Skarbek at 10:57am PST   •  

Governor Jerry Brown is proposing measures to balance the California state budget, including cutting $12.5 billion in spending and extending $12 billion in expiring taxes. The politically ambitious move from the new governor involves a sequencing of three legislative parts. The legislature would pass spending cuts, voters would then be able to vote in a special election to extend certain tax rates, and afterward the legislature would pass a final budget. However, Brown’s proposal faces trouble.

As the Christian Science Monitor reports, passing the state spending cuts could require a super-majority of two-thirds to get past the legislature. Often requiring a simple majority vote or less to determine government spending of taxpayer dollars, this appears to be a double standard.

There are good reasons for having some democratic double standards, albeit the opposite of what Gov. Brown may be up against. Rules determine the scale, scope, and distribution of political power. The nature of the political process is to transfer wealth to concentrated, powerful groups and away from dispersed and uninformed individuals. Taxpayers seeking to protect themselves and their heirs from political interest groups would be wise to advocate a reverse double standard—mandating a two-thirds vote for any new spending initiatives and allowing a simple majority vote for spending cuts.

In other words, it should be difficult to take and spend other people’s money and easier to cut back programs that are unfunded, unwanted, too ambitious or inefficient. Instead, the rules of the game currently favor the government’s proclivities to dig deep into our wallets and the savings accounts of the young.

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January 2011