Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Power Grab

Election season is cranking up in California (oh, joy!) and the TV machine is once again flooded with confusing, innuendo-filled adverts for candidates* and propositions.

Whenever these commercials start running incessantly, I ask two questions:

Who's paying for these ads, and what do they stand to gain from them?

In the case of Proposition 16 (the "taxpayer's right to vote act"), I didn't have to look far.

Turns out that editorial boards all over the state, along with the League of Women Voters, have come out against this $35 million power grab by PG&E, the utility that supplies power to Northern California.

Big electric wants to protect its monopoly by making it virtually impossible (know how hard it is to get a two-thirds vote for anything?) for cities and communities to band together and supply their own power with "community choice" programs. "The organized opposition, lacking a wealthy backer, has raised about $20,000," notes the San Jose Mercury News.

How's that for cynical and Orwellian? The "taxpayer's right to vote" - sounds great. What taxpayer wants to give up her right to vote, especially in this year's extreme "throw the bums out" climate?

But what the proposition really does is take away the right for taxpayers to get locally provided, and potentially lower-cost, electricity. And, of course, it entrenches PG&E's monopoly and likely boosts its ability to raise rates.

This is yet another perfect example of why California's ballot proposition system is institutionalized insanity. Big tobacco, big power and other deep-pocket corporate interests are the ones that bankroll these initiatives and they use deeply deceptive ad campaigns to get uninformed voters to approve them, usually to their own long-term detriment.

How do we stop this? Tell everyone you know about the reality behind Prop. 16, and tell them to explain it to everyone they know. Help out with the No on 16 campaign, which is being outspent 100 to 1.

It may not help much, but it's the least we can do.

*Speaking of candidates, check out last weekend's This American Life episode for a humorous take-down of gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner.


  1. I think it's a rhetorical fallacy to believe that by educating the electorate we will change their minds. We all tend to have self-serving filters. Do I have solutions? Nope, not a one. I stopped believing in reason as a fourth grader, when I discovered the tyranny of the majority. Sheesh, sorry for sounding so cynical!

  2. Cynic on, Desiree.

    As for me, I'm a profound and undeterred optimist. Can't help myself. I figure it must be genetic!

    Of course, 2008 only confirmed my self-serving filters and I'm sure will cynic-proof me for the rest of my days. ;-)

  3. I thought that flyer looked fishy.

  4. The whole system of ballot propositions needs to be scrapped or wildly reformed.

    And the state legislature needs to actually do some governing for a change.

    I'm so glad I don't cover state politics. It would be the death of me.

  5. Hi,
    The commercials play an important role in convincing people to give votes. The more powerful it is the more it will be able to attract people; the more people will give vote.

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  6. Yes, exactly so, Biz. Thanks for your comment!