Sunday :: Oct 30, 2005

Terminating The Propositions of Der Governator, Part I

by pessimist

One commenter on a recent thread asked for an analysis of the California initiatives being pushed so heavily by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. This feeble posting attempt on this complex topic is intended to meet that request.

Support for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's special election ballot measures remains weak, with none of them enjoying majority support despite millions spent in advertising by the governor, according to a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California [PDF]. All would fail if election were held now.

Surging voter interest in the Nov. 8 special election could test the low-turnout predictions of many political pundits, according to a new survey released Friday by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). Although most likely voters continue to question the wisdom of the special election – 54 percent call it a bad idea – they are nonetheless showing more interest in and awareness of it. Eighty-one percent of likely voters say they are closely or somewhat closely following news about the special election, compared to 69 percent in September. "This level of interest is similar to what we observed during the 2002 gubernatorial election, which had a 51 percent voter turnout," says PPIC survey director Mark Baldassare.

However, greater awareness has failed to sway public opinion when it comes to specific ballot measures. None of the measures actively supported by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger currently enjoys majority support, even when the likely voter pool is limited to a subset of voters who are particularly engaged in the special election, the PPIC poll says. Indeed, only one measure (Proposition 75) has seen significant movement since August – in a downward direction.

"This upcoming special election is a misbegotten idea if ever there were one. Nothing on the ballot was so urgent that it couldn't have waited until the general election next year, and much on the ballot should never be decided by public referendum. And it's likely that a great many of California's working people will, once more, be persuaded to vote against their clear self-interest.

"An election like this one trivializes our most sacred civic right and duty. It makes a mockery of the will of the people, and for that we can thank Arnold Schwarzenegger. This special election is a little celebration of his enormous ego, and not much else."

Annette Goldman, an independent who lives in San Francisco and has already voted, said that she thought the governor's heart was in the right place but that she is 'appalled' by the special election. "This man is constantly talking about the budget being in shambles, and yet he's spending money in an election that is not supported by voters," she said. "It's obvious to me that he is using the election to promote his own personal agenda."

There are eight propositions on the ballot. Arnold is behind at least six of them.

Here are the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll results [PDF] for five measures on the Nov. 8 ballot. The poll did not look at two competing prescription drug measures, Propositions 78 and 79, or Proposition 80, which makes changes in the state's electrical markets. The poll of 2,003 Californians has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. The sampling error for the 1,079 likely voters is plus or minus 3 percentage points. [Sources: California Secretary of State's Office and USA TODAY reporting]

Prop. 73 - Parental notification
Yes No Don't know
Aug. 44% 48% 8%
Oct. 42% 48% 10%

• Proposition 73 – which would require doctors to notify parents when a minor seeks an abortion – has the support of 42 percent of likely voters, with 48 percent opposed. Special election voters are similarly divided on this measure (42 percent yes, 49 percent no). Voters on both sides do agree on one thing: Most (83 percent) say the outcome of this vote is at least somewhat important.

Proposition 73 is the red meat on the ballot, intended to bring the Christian right to the polls. To turn out Christian right voters, the Schwarzenegger machine hired Gary Marx, a protege of Christian conservative activist Ralph Reed. Marx led the get-out-the-evangelical-vote effort for Bush in 2004.

The initiative would bar most abortions by minors unless their parents are notified. But the fine print defines abortion in the California Constitution for the first time as the "death of the unborn child, a child conceived but not yet born."

This definition sets the stage in California to undermine the protections of Roe vs. Wade.

Prop. 74 - Public school teachers
Yes No Don't know
Aug. 49% 42% 9%
Sept. 43% 47% 10%
Oct. 46% 48% 6%

Teacher tenure
Extends period when new teachers can be fired without a hearing from two to five years. Simplifies process of firing tenured teachers.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger , George Shultz, former secretary of State

Leading opponents
California Teachers Association; state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, a Democrat

• Teacher tenure (Proposition 74) – Likely voters’ support for this measure – which would increase the time it takes teachers to gain permanent status from two to five years – stayed relatively steady during the last month, rising from 43 percent in September to 46 percent today. Among special election voters, 46 percent say they support the measure while 49 percent oppose it. A majority of likely voters (55 percent) say the outcome of this proposition is very important for improving teacher quality in California’s public schools. Fifteen percent of voters said this proposition interests them the most, surpassed only by Proposition 75 [covered next - ed.].

"Democrats and a good number of independents are skeptical about whether these ballot measures really offer the best opportunity for changing our schools, fiscal system and political system, " said Mark Baldassare, director of [the PPIC] poll, which was conducted between Oct. 16 and Oct. 23.

Proposition 74 - the one that would extend the time it takes for a teacher to get tenured from two years to five years, as if such piddly tinkering is going to do anything at all to fix the accelerating decline in the performance of California students (who now test near the absolute bottom of all the states in reading ability).

The national conservative attack on public schools has found voice in this proposition. Proposition 74 discourages teachers from working in public schools by limiting the awarding of tenure. The California Teachers Assn. considers the initiative a stalking horse for a voucher system of "school choice" favored by conservatives.

I can vouch for this proposition being a deterrent to a newly hired teacher. Many of the new teachers in our school district came from out of state, and one reason they gave for coming here was the two-year period to earn permanency. This two-year requirement is the norm for the majority of states, with only a couple of states requiring the five years that Arnold wants. New teahcers will avoid California and accept jobs in less stringent districts. This proposition will only exacerbate the current shortages of qualified teachers.

To me, this proposition is a win-win for Arnold no matter which way it goes. If he gets what he wants, he has more control over the schools (yes, I know that they could use some, but the teachers aren't the problem - the administrators are). If he loses, the schools will become noticeably worse and open another opportunity to end public education in America.

Prop. 75 - Public employee union dues
Yes No Don't know
Aug. 58% 33% 9%
Oct. 46% 46% 8%

Union dues and politics
Requires public employee unions to get written permission from members to use dues for political campaigns, including initiatives.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; Lewis Uhler, National Tax Limitation Committee

Leading opponents
Major labor unions and most Democratic politicians

• Use of Union Dues (Proposition 75) – Support for Proposition 75 – which requires employees’ consent to use union dues for political contributions – has dropped 12 points among likely voters since August (from 58 percent to 46 percent). Special election voters are divided in their support for this initiative (47 percent yes, 47 percent no). Likely voters who are union members or have immediate family in a union oppose it (62 percent no, 34 percent yes). Still, strong majorities of likely voters believe that both unions (61 percent) and corporations (79 percent) have too much influence on candidate elections and ballot initiatives.

When asked which initiative interests them the most, a majority of voters are able to name a specific measure, with Proposition 75 (18 percent) leading the pack.

The coalition of labor unions and Democrats opposing the governor's initiatives has made a substantial dent in support for Proposition 75, which would make it more difficult for public-sector unions to raise money for political purposes. Support has dropped 12 points since mid-September among likely voters, with an equal 46 percent saying they will vote for and against the measure.

"Teachers, nurses, firefighters and police speaking out in our advertisements, in the thousands of rallies across the state this year, and walking precincts every night are just workers who want to continue to protect their schools, patients and communities," said Sarah Leonard, a spokeswoman for the team trying to defeat Prop. 75.

Leonard and her associates looked into the backgrounds of people appearing in ads for the opposition and found that several are Republican activists and that one of them, James Galley, a water plant operator in San Diego, has run for office and is currently seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego. He's hardly 'real people', said Leonard.

While a majority of Republicans favor the union dues measure, Democrats and independents are now more likely to be opposed. "Initially, Democrats thought it was something that could help reform the political system, but the ads created doubts about that," Baldassare said. "There is no question people think labor unions have too much influence, but they say corporations have even more."

Neal Salogar, a Democrat who lives in San Francisco and is a member of a union, echoed that sentiment. "I don't have a problem with the idea of it as much of the inequity of it," he said. "I favor taking away all kinds of special interest money that goes into politics. But to take it away from the working class but not the large corporations seems ludicrous."

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, is behind Proposition 75, the Schwarzenegger initiative that polls show is most likely to succeed. It's a Trojan horse whose larger purpose is to tilt the balance of power in politics by limiting union support for Democrats without cutting corporate sources of Republican funding. "If it passes, it will be so significant, and the effects will be so dramatic, that you would see a dozen initiatives on the ballots [in other states] within two to four years," Norquist said.

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe is a senior scholar in the School of Policy, Planning and Development at USC, and a political analyst for KNBC-TV. I used to consider her a moderate observer, but after this slanted screed I can do so no more:

Democratic officeholders are the main recipients of public employee union largesse in California. The unions know what they'll be facing if the measure passes. They contend that it is a head-on attempt by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, no friend of unions, and his business allies to cripple their political clout. Schwarzenegger has long complained that Democratic legislators are in thrall to public employee unions. There is some truth to that.

Jeffe undermines her own argument in this very article:

Business heavily outspends labor in California. In 2004, business interests spent almost $47 million on state candidates, while unions spent roughly $13 million, according to the Institute on Money in State Politics.

Jeffe also points out that this porposition is completely unnecessary:

Employees who don't want their dues used for political purposes can opt out now. It's reasonable to assume that those who want them to go to politics will opt in.

This is why Proposition 75 needs to be defeated:

The secret force behind the propositions

WHEN President Bush came to Los Angeles earlier this month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger treated him like a rival Mafia boss crossing a turf line. Schwarzenegger didn't want Bush raising money from the same right-wing Beverly Hills donors who the governor wanted to help underwrite his November ballot measure campaigns. "We would have appreciated if he would have done his fundraising after the Nov. 8 election, because you know we need now all the money in the world," said Schwarzenegger, who ran for office saying that he was so rich he didn't need anyone else's money.

By turning to those donors, Schwarzenegger has revealed a truth about his proposals. He presented them as nonpartisan, but they are unquestionably rooted in a gene pool of conservatism. Some of the nation's leading conservative thinkers and strategists are seeking, through Schwarzenegger's initiatives, to alter the balance of power between the right and left wings of California politics. Their hope is to turn California red in '08 and pioneer a new gospel that can spread across the country.

This columnist put the lie to the Schwarzenegger line:

One of those little tricks against working people is Proposition 75, the exercise in union-busting the governor is trying to put over on us. He wants to hamstring the various public employee unions so that each worker must sign off on how union dues get spent on political endorsements.

All public and private employees in a union or association already have the right to opt out of having their fees used for political ends. So why the urgency for this so-called 'reform' measure? Proposition 75 backers are misleading the public. Misleading the public is the theme of this special election.

Now here's the deal. Working people who seek to offset a tiny bit of the political clout of corporations and fat-cat political action committees would, by the destructive power of Proposition 75, be gutted by restrictions, but there are no corresponding restrictions on big business.

Let's say you own shares in a big utility or pharmaceutical company, but you actively oppose a certain politician that utility or company is supporting with big contributions that might otherwise go to paying you stock dividends. Tough luck. Nobody in those corporations give a damn what stockholders think about the expenditure of stockholder monies on political advertising, and those companies sure as hell don't have to get you to sign off on how to spend that money.

But, under Proposition 75, each individual union member would be entitled to determine just how each individual dollar of union dues might be spent on political advocacy.

The idea of a union of shared interests determined by collective bargaining and the will of rank-and-file opinion as expressed democratically would be splintered. Bust one union, and you begin the process of weakening them all, a principle Ronald Reagan understood when he gutted the air traffic controllers union some 20 years ago.

Who will reap the benefits of this splintering? The very people who have always been opposed to unions and collective bargaining in the first place. And who are those people?

Republicans, the party of big business.

Prop. 76 - State spending and School funding limits
Yes No Don't know
Aug. 28% 61% 11%
Sept. 26% 63% 11%
Oct. 30% 62% 8%

State spending Ties each year's growth in state spending to average increase in revenue over previous three years. Gives governor new authority to make midyear spending cuts if deficits loom and Legislature fails to make cuts.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, California Chamber of Commerce

Leading opponents
California School Boards Association, California PTA, California Correctional Peace Officers Association

• Spending and funding limits (Proposition 76) – As in August and September, the measure to limit state spending and change school funding requirements still trails by a wide margin (62 percent oppose, 30 percent support). Sixty-two percent of special election voters say they will vote no on this measure while 32 percent will vote yes. Despite the lack of support for Proposition 76, an overwhelming majority of likely voters (89 percent) believe that the state’s budgeting process needs work.

Proposition 76, which would change the state budget process to limit what the state can spend and give the governor power to make unilateral cuts, continues to be opposed by a majority of likely voters. A total of 62 percent say they are against the measure, with just 30 percent in support. Overwhelming numbers of Democrats and independents are opposed, with a slim majority of Republicans in favor.

Proposition 76 is another Norquist special delivery, one he and other conservatives have pushed in many states. It gives Schwarzenegger extraordinary budget powers to cut spending. California voters turned down a similar attempt by former Gov. Pete Wilson in 1992, but Schwarzenegger is hoping to bring his star power to bear in the sequel.

Norquist, the current ringleader of the 'Republican revolution', "refers to Democrats as 'the enemy'; he has described bipartisanship as 'date rape'; and he likes to talk about reducing the federal government so much that he could 'drown it in the bathtub,' " an Aug. 1 New Yorker article says.

Grover would thus appreciate the poigniancy of this little hidden gem:

An example of a hidden poison pill is in Proposition 76. On the surface, this proposition is all about "state spending and school funding limits." But deep in the text of it is the poison pill that could give the governor the power to cut spending on most programs without any oversight or limitation by the Legislature.

It would, in effect, give the governor dictatorial fiscal powers in certain circumstances.

Would you give such power to a man who ignored the will of the people in the first place?

In Thursday's poll by the Public Policy Institute, 54% said the special election, which will cost $54 million, isn't necessary. Schwarzenegger's reliance on California's initiative process worked in March 2004. Voters approved a budget-balancing amendment and a proposal to borrow $15 billion to ease the strain of chronic budget deficits. The governor's fame made it easy to raise money nationwide to push through the initiatives. Leading Democrats were on Schwarzenegger's side then. That collapsed this year. Shaun Bowler, a University of California-Riverside political scientist, says people are tired of voting on Schwarzenegger's initiatives. Schwarzenegger "has been seen more and more as a conservative Republican," Bowler says.

Prop. 77 - Redistricting
Yes No Don't know
Aug. 34% 49% 17%
Sept. 33% 50% 17%
Oct. 36% 50% 14%

Shifts authority to redraw districts for legislative and congressional elections from the Legislature to three retired judges. They would draw new lines immediately, not wait for 2010 Census.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, People's Advocate, an anti-tax group; California Business Political Action Committee

Leading opponents
U.S. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Democratic legislative leaders, U.S. Rep. John Doolittle, R-Calif.

• Redistricting (Proposition 77) – More likely voters continue to oppose (50 percent) than support (36 percent) the proposal to have a panel of retired judges rather than lawmakers draw legislative districts. However, 14 percent remain undecided. Among special election voters, 50 percent oppose the measure and 38 percent support it. Despite the lack of majority support for this measure, many likely voters (69 percent) believe that the way the governor and legislature go about the redistricting process needs change.

Proposition 77, which takes the process of drawing legislative boundaries out of the hands of lawmakers and gives it to three retired judges, is trailing, with 50 percent saying they will vote "no" and just 36 percent saying they will vote "yes."

Texas Rep. Tom DeLay inspired Schwarzenegger's Proposition 77, which would redraw political districts more to the benefit of Republicans and do so in 2006 rather than after the 2010 census. State and federal districts traditionally are redrawn every 10 years, consistent with the census cycle. But like Schwarzenegger, DeLay did not like the Texas redistricting results after the 2000 count. Rather than wait for a new census, DeLay engineered a plan to redraw Texas districts mid-decade. Democratic legislators fled across the Texas state line in protest. DeLay's fundraising tactics for that political coup d'etat is the subject of his recent grand jury indictment.

Fairer redistricting is vital in California, but drawing new districts mid-decade is frowned upon by good-government groups. They recognize that plans tied to recent census figures are better than midstream revisions, which are prone to manipulation because they are based on older data. Those groups also favor transparent independent commissions rather than the type of unaccountable, unelected three-judge panel called for in Proposition 77. Opponents of the initiative also say it could disenfranchise minorities by preventing the panel from taking "communities of interest" into consideration when drawing boundaries.

Arnold himself isn't too worried about 'communities of interest' when he steps on Republican toes for not being as supportive of his propositions as he would like:

In LA campaign swing, governor takes swipe at GOP legislators

Polls show the Republican governor is struggling to win support among Democrats and independents, and at an earlier appearance in the Wilshire district he was pointedly critical of members of his own party. Speaking to an Iranian community group, Schwarzenegger said that "Democrats and Republicans alike" are responsible for soaring debt in Sacramento "but they won't do anything about it." The remark appeared aimed at convincing skeptical voters that his interests are broader than those of his own party or the corporate supporters that have contributed millions of dollars to his campaign.

Asked later about his Republican roots, Schwarzenegger said, "What is more important, rather than party, is to be a servant of the people. I don't think when I make decisions, 'What is best for my party?' But I make decisions about what is best for the state of California," he added.

But with voters distracted by the war in Iraq and day-to-day issues such as housing prices and the cost of gasoline, some say they are unable to connect Schwarzenegger's goals to their more immediate concerns at home.

That 'man of the people' ploy isn't working very well, especially since it's come out that Arnold is deep in the 'special interest' pocket that he decries so loudly about his opponents:

Veto of SB 469 was to protect special interests

If there's one thing voters need to know more than anything else in today's politics, it is which moneyed interests are paying to place ballot items before them. Yes, the corporations, labor unions and other forces whose big money has come to dominate the California initiative movement use misleading committee names in every election year to mask their involvement.

If there's one thing the sponsors of most ballot initiatives don't want, it's for voters to know that's what they are. But there's a simple way around that: Print the names of the biggest contributors behind each putative measure in big letters on the initiative petitions voters are asked to sign in shopping malls and outside stores.

That was the precise aim of a bill that easily passed both houses of the state Legislature this year - only to be vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger - the same man who loudly promised while campaigning in 2003 that he would make California government the most open in America.

The governor did not explain how requiring a prominent listing of the top five funding sources for each proposed initiative on its qualifying petitions would make gathering signatures harder. Doing this would not close off any venues for signature gathering. It would not prevent anyone who wants to sign from doing so. But it would let voters know who is paying the petition circulator that's harrying them on their way in or out of a store. It would often provide a clue about the real stakes of a proposed initiative.

Why did Schwarzenegger veto the bill, known as SB 469 and sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Debra Bowen of Redondo Beach? "This bill attacks the initiative process and makes it more difficult for the people of California to gather signatures and qualify measures for the ballot," said Schwarzenegger in a veto message that had many readers scratching their heads in puzzlement.

The actual meaning of Schwarzenegger's veto message is not that the bill would make matters more difficult for voters, as he said, but that it might make things harder for him and his corporate backers. Had the petitions for this fall's Propositions 74, 75, 76 and 77 listed the oil companies, developers, pharmaceutical firms, big-box stores and other companies that provided the approximately $20 million Schwarzenegger used to fund the petitions campaigns for them, those measures might not have made the ballot.

Of course, all the information SB 469 sought to put at the public fingertips already is available to anyone who takes the trouble to look for it. All anyone needs to do is check out this starting page on the secretary of state's website.

In no way would this deprive any persons or companies of their right to back whatever measure they like to whatever extent they like. But doing this would at least allow voters to know who is trying to shape public policy in this state. So Bowen's bill would not have forced anyone to reveal anything new, merely to display public information more prominently. And that's important. Since almost no voters realize the information is available or know how to find it, providing it for them in a relevant document makes sense.

Or, as Bowen said after her bill was vetoed, "The governor's belief that somehow `everyday Californians' are better off when they can't find out who's paying for an initiative campaign when they're being asked to sign a petition to put something on the ballot is both wrong and ridiculous."

But Schwarzenegger's action is at least consistent. When it comes to the TV commercials pushing both sides of this fall's propositions, other ads tell voters whose ideas they are hearing. "Paid for by No on 75, educators, firefighters, school employees, healthcare givers and labor organizations," is the tagline on the anti-75 messages. "Paid for by Californians Against the Wrong Prescription - No on 79, sponsored by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and major funding provided by Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Pfizer Inc., GlaxoSmithKline and other companies" makes it pretty clear drug companies oppose Prop. 79.

But Schwarzenegger's ads for his propositions all say merely "Paid for by Gov. Schwarzenegger's California Recovery Team."

This says nothing about the real estate, chemical, insurance, entertainment, retail or big agriculture interests that really provided the money.
In short, Schwarzenegger's veto was an act purely designed to help special interests. Quite a move for a politician whose mantra is all about driving special interests out of Sacramento.

These special interests that Arnold represents are up against some heavy obstacles:

With just over a week to go before the election, 81 percent of voters said they are interested in the election, according to the poll, but the governor continues to face significant opposition from Democrats and independents. The campaign is starting a new ad today that features the governor. The spot does not mention the propositions, but instead, the governor tells voters, "I've had a lot to learn ... but my heart is in this, and I want to do right by you."

Gale Kauffman, political consultant for the Alliance for a Better California, the opposition campaign, said the new ad is a 'sign of desperation'. "They don't mention the initiatives. This campaign is either about the special election and the initiatives, or it's about his re-election," she said, saying they have seen no change in the governor's approval in their tracking polls.

Mark Baldassare, PPIC research director, told Reuters, "The challenge for him this time is really twofold: first of all, he's got very strong disapproval ratings among the voters, who are opposing his measures, particularly Democrats, and secondly, there is a very substantial amount of money that is being spent on the 'no' side."

The Public Policy poll shows Schwarzenegger's approval ratings remain low, with just 38 percent of likely voters in support and 57 percent disapproving. A majority of Democrats and independents do not approve of Schwarzenegger's job performance. Latinos are also highly critical of the governor, with 76 percent saying they disapprove of his performance in office. "He really has a challenge to break through to those groups," Baldassare said.

The former actor has generally avoided forums at which he could face random questions. During the 2003 recall campaign that brought him to office, his staff blared loud music as he shook hands, making it hard to exchange more than a few words.

There is very big money plowing the voter opinion fields:

Committees formed to oppose Schwarzenegger's ballot measures reported this week that they have raised about $106 million. The governor -- who is also pushing for new budget powers (Proposition 76), longer probation periods for teachers (Proposition 74) and changes to legislative redistricting (Proposition 77) -- has raised about $45 million, including a $3 million personal contribution from Schwarzenegger that was reported Friday.

It's fortunate that players on both sides of the initiatives have such deep pockets because television stations are charging very high rates for air time as the special election nears. Under federal law, a candidate for office buying radio or television advertising is entitled to get the lowest unit cost, or the lowest prices that spot sells for, but that is not true for propositions and ballot measures, noted Darry Sragow, a longtime political consultant who recently returned to practicing law in Los Angeles.

Rick Colsky, who heads a media-buying service in San Francisco, Colsky Media, said prices, a function of supply and demand, have recently spiked at California TV stations as the initiative warriors scramble in the final days.

For example, said Colsky, in Los Angeles in early September, 30 seconds on ESPN from 4 to 7 p.m. cost about $3,500; it's now $10,000. The network was charging $4,000 from 7 p.m. to midnight, and now that time slot also costs $10,000, he said.

Overall, rates in Los Angeles are double what they were two months ago, if time is available, said Colsky.

Also in Los Angeles, CBS' advertising rate for placement on "CSI'' is up 30 percent over two months ago. It's up 40 percent for "60 Minutes.'' Los Angeles advertising rates are up 18 percent for early evening news and 40 percent for late news, compared with two months ago, said Colsky.

The ads for and against the ballot measures pushed by Schwarzenegger are costing a fortune, as California television stations, particularly in Los Angeles, have in the past two months sharply increased rates. Unlike elections featuring candidates, initiative campaigns do not qualify for discounts under federal law.

There is a warning to California voters being issued:

It's scary just how easily people can be fooled by a politician who says he's "a man of the people," even while that politician spends all of his time in the company of corporate donors and specially selected audiences of friendly right-wing compatriots. This is a guy who brags about "kicking their butts" when it comes to the "special interests," but the butts he tends to kick are nurses, schoolteachers and firefighters, and the people who give him money tend to be the giants of power and influence who have always held sway with ambitious politicians.

I'm speaking of our governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, just so you don't confuse my subject with George W. Bush, who operates in much the same way, pretending to be a man of the people while seldom venturing anywhere near where "the people" live and work.

When the governor fills up his Humvee at the pump, the cost is chump change to him, and he could never know or understand the hardships borne by working people who suffer when the price of gas bumps up a buck a gallon. To a guy whose personal income hovers around $60 million per annum (the cost, ironically, of this special election) and who is insulated from nickel-and-dime changes in the cost of living, the way "the people" live might as well be science fiction.

Speaking of science fiction, the advertising for both Propositions 78 and 79 wander into that realm:

A classic example of skewed claims is the advertising for Proposition 78 or, more correctly, the advertising against Proposition 79. Proposition 78 has a title that declares it to be the "discounts on prescription drugs initiative."

Sounds nice. Who could be against discounts on prescription drugs?

The ads say check us out, so that is just what I did. By carefully looking at it, you find what I consider misleading information in the ads. The heavy advertising blitz that has been on television for the past weeks says very little about Proposition 78 - it is mostly negative ads against a competing discount drug measure, Proposition 79.

So, when our governor hands us this expensive special election, we all should be a little suspicious of just what this "man of the people" is trying to foist on us. It's going to cost a great deal of scarce taxpayer money, and it's not likely to produce any real change, but it does keep the political machinery humming, all that fund raising and all those dollars going into TV advertising from pharmaceutical companies and other big-money sources.

Surely you've seen all those TV commercials supporting Proposition 78, the ads that try to create the fear that our prescriptions are going to be filled, or denied, by "bureaucrats." Those ads are paid for to the tune of millions of dollars by the pharmaceutical companies who are currently so flush with cash that they can afford not only political campaigns and endless political donations, but that never-ending run of TV commercials for their various nostrums for vague and ill-defined ailments.

And who is paying for this saturation of the media? I'll give you three guesses, and the first two don't count. If you feel you want to make a choice between the two competing drug discount measures, don't be conned by all the negative advertising against Proposition 79. Carefully read them both before you make a decision.

I have to cut this off here for a multitude of reasons. I will cover Propositions 78, 79, and 80 in greater detail later in the week. I will also cover what California voters want to see their elected officials deal with - and some hints as to how they want these issues addressed.

Uncited material comes from one of these sources:

Governor's ballot not faring well
PPIC poll: Californians rejecting ballot measures
A not-so-special special election

Schwarzenegger trails on Calif. ballot measures-poll

Costly TV ads doing little to sway voters
A not-so-special special election
Schwarzenegger losing fans in Calif.
Propositions aren't all the supporters say they are
Arnold softens his appeals to California

Download the PPIC report here in PDF format.

Copyrighted [©] source material contained in this article is presented under the provisions of Fair Use.


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