As Robert A. Heinlein once wrote, a democracy will only survive until the people figure out they can vote themselves bread and circuses. There are times when I think we passed that point some time ago. However, I now have a bit of hope that my fellow citizens can occasionally rise up to vote something other than their self-interest.
Specifically, yesterday the California electorate was given an opportunity to vote on Proposition 82, sponsored and supported by Hollywood director and political activist Rob Reiner (aka "Meathead") . The "Preschool for All" initiative would have taxed people making more than 400 grand a year in order to provide "universal" preschool for the kids of California.
At its heart, the proposition was as cynical as all hell. It was premised on the facts that (1) everyone thinks preschool is swell, and (2) there are are lot more people in California making less than 400k than there are people making more. So we were all given an engraved invitation to vote to for free preschool, with the rich guys having to pay for it.
Reiner has had success at just this sort of thing in the past. In 1998 he sponsored Proposition 10, which imposed a 50 cent tax on a pack of ciggies, in order to fund "early education". Once again, who among us isn't in favor of "early education", and there are more non-smokers than smokers. So the tax passed (and my local cigar store went out of business, but who's complaining).
This is the same formula, offering up a big spoonful of gravy with someone else footing the bill. And if this had worked, you can be sure that in a couple of years Reiner would have offered up another initiative, mandating free food and health care for puppies (who doesn't love puppies, right?), funded through a tax on left-handed midgets.
Well, yesterday a significant majority of the California voters said no to pie-in-the-sky. A significant majority of California's refused to vote themselves a free bennie with some other slob having to pick up the tab. Hurray for the Republic!!