Posts Tagged ‘Elections’

In the grand scheme, I realize red-light cameras are not very important, but I was absolutely delighted to see that Houston voters approved a referendum to stop the city from using these devices. Red-light cameras should be called revenue cameras because local governments almost always use them to collect more money rather than to promote safety. Indeed, there’s good evidence that they cause accidents, in part because governments shorten yellow lights in hopes of raping more motorists.

The same is true of cameras to catch speeding. In my life, I’ve been nailed a couple of times by those devices, and in every case it involved an absurdly (and deliberately) low speed limit (including 45 on an interstate highway and 25 on a four-lane road in a non-residential area).

The fringe benefit of this Houston referendum, by the way, is that the city will be forced to spend less. The City Controller acts as if this is a terrible result, but one quick solution for the city’s budget problems would be to limit average pay for all government officials to the average of private sector pay in the region. Here are some excerpts from a story in the Houston Chronicle. Read and enjoy.

Houstonians rejected the city’s red light camera program in a hard-fought ballot contest, delivering an immediate $10 million hit to an already dire budget situation at City Hall.

With all votes counted, 53.2 percent of voters demanded a decisive end to the use of the devices, which had been used to issue more than 800,000 tickets and collected $44 million in fines since 2006.

…City Controller Ronald Green said the loss of the devices would amount to a $10 million shortfall in revenues, a sharp decrease that would greatly complicate efforts to close a shortfall that was already nearing $80 million.

“We’re going to have to cut expenses,” he said. “We need to really start talking about the fact that furloughs and layoffs may really be a potential option. … It’s now time for drastic cuts.”

Jim McGrath, a spokesman for Keep Houston Safe, said he did not anticipate that the political action committee — backed by the Arizona-based company that runs the city’s red-light camera program – would try to fight the election results in court.

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Actually, if you want good election predictions, don’t listen to me. I’m just an amateur without any special expertise. If you want real knowledge, I encourage you to visit these three sites:

Realclearpolitics.com, which has good summaries of polling data and predictions based on that data.

Intrade.com, which is a political betting market site, so you are seeing estimates based on people defending their views with cold, hard cash.

Fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com, which is Nate Silver’s site and seems thoroughly researched.

But since several of you have emailed for my thoughts, I predict the number of House Republicans will jump from 178 to 242, for a gain of 64.

In the Senate, the GOP delegation will climb from 41 to 48 (I hope all of you can figure out that’s a gain of seven seats). Since there’s a lot of attention being paid to the Nevada race, I will specifically predict that Harry Reid goes down.

By the way, for any of you in southern in Florida, I’ll be at the Allen West victory party tonight. Stop by and say hello.

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I don’t know if “be careful what you wish for” is actually an ancient Chinese proverb, but it does apply to this year’s mid-term elections. Most of my GOP friends are very happy about the expected takeover of the House of Representatives, and they are keeping their fingers crossed that there will be enough big wins in Senate races to capture that chamber as well.

I certainly agree that Pelosi, Reid, et al, are a bunch of statists and that they deserve to lose, but that’s not the same as thinking that Republicans deserve to win. The GOP leaders in the House and Senate, after all, are mostly the same crowd that voted for bigger government and more intervention during the Bush years. Is there any reason to think that they’ve had epiphanies and now genuinely believe in freedom?

But even if you think that Boehner, McConnell and the rest of the Republicans now have their hearts in the right place, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it would be good for Republicans to re-take Congress. Let’s walk through the upsides and downsides.

The biggest upside, as noted above, is that the current crop of Democrats would lose. I realize it’s not nice to enjoy the misery of others, but I would take great pleasure in watching Reid and Pelosi eating crow tomorrow night as they discuss big Democratic defeats. In the same spirit, I would be happy that so many evil people would be sad, particularly the global warming fanatics and the government employee union bosses.

But I don’t think better public policy will be one of the upsides. Even if Republicans somehow win the Senate, it takes 60 votes to make big changes. That obviously won’t happen. Moreover, Obama surely would veto any reforms to shrink the burden of government.

This is a perfect segue to a discussion of the downsides of a GOP victory. One of those downsides, which already was mentioned, is that Republicans need more time in the wilderness to purge the big-government virus that ran rampant during the Bush years.

But the bigger concern is that Republican victories this year might reduce the odds for big wins in 2012. If the GOP takes full or partial control of Congress, that means they also will be at least somewhat responsible for anything that happens between now and the 2012 elections. And Obama, aided and abetted by the establishment press, will blame any bad news on Republicans.

This is the worst of all worlds. You don’t have the power to actually change policy, but you have enough power that people will blame you if they don’t like the results.

This is why the best result, from a long-term GOP perspective, is to win lots of seats, but to leave Democrats in charge of both the House and Senate. If Republicans wind up with 215 seats in the House and 49 seats in the Senate, that will be more than enough to block Obama from imposing additional bad policies (especially with the Senate filibuster). But Republicans won’t be in the difficult position of having illusory power to make changes.

And if everything goes well, this would put them in a position to enjoy big gains in 2012. That means winning the White House and capturing both chambers of Congress with big majorities.

That would please Republicans, but some of us are concerned about better public policy rather than partisan politics. So the goal is not to get more Republicans, but rather to get a Reagan-type person elected to the White House at same time that a 1994-style GOP Congress is elected.

As I’ve explained before, America is on a pre-determined path to being a European welfare state. Preventing that tragic result will require real control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. That might happen in 2012, but it will be less likely if the GOP takes over Congress in 2010. Food for thought.

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The “good government” crowd tells us that voting is a “civic duty.” When I hear that type of nonsense, it makes me want to deliberately stay home.

But I did actually vote today, in part to avoid lines on Tuesday and in part because I leave that morning for a speech in Florida. But why did I bother? The odds of my vote making a difference in any race are so infinitesimally small that there’s no logical reason to vote. But that’s if you view voting as an “investment good” – i.e., you vote in hopes of influencing the outcome.

Voting only make sense as a “consumption good.” In other words, you do it just for the sheer joy of voting against someone (or, in very rare cases, because you actually want to vote for someone).

Some libertarians argue that voting is wrong, for any reason, because it legitimizes the current system. This is the sentiment that motivates this t-shirt, and it also is the title of P.J. O’Rourke’s new book. But that argument, while superficially appealing, doesn’t make sense. Does anyone actually think that the corrupt crowd in Washington will suddenly stop stealing our money and trying to control our lives if fewer people decide to vote? I don’t think it would have the slightest impact on their behavior.

I’m not saying people shouldn’t vote, but don’t delude yourself into thinking that you can escape the predations of the political class if you opt out. Pericles, way back around 430 B.C., supposedly said that, “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.”

I’m not sure if that’s a real quote, but it sure is accurate.


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While everyone is focused on whether Republicans will win control of the House and/or Senate, there are several issues that voters will directly decide that deserve close attention. Here are the nine initiatives that have caught my attention. I’m probably missing some important ones, so feel free to add suggestions in the comment section.

1. Imposing an income tax in the state of Washington – This is the one I’ll be following very closely. I have a hard time thinking that voters would be dumb enough to impose an income tax, but the Pacific Northwest is a bit crazy on these issues. Oregon voters, for instance, approved higher tax rates earlier this year.

2. Stopping eminent domain abuse in Nevada – This initiative is very simple. It stops the state from seizing private property if the intent is to transfer it to a private party (thus shutting the door that was opened by the Supreme Court’s reprehensible Kelo decision).

3. Marijuana legalization in California – Proponents of a more sensible approach to victimless crimes will closely watch this initiative to see whether Golden State voters will say yes to pot legalization, subject to local regulation.

4. Strengthen rights of gun owners in Kansas – If approved, this initiative would remove any ambiguity about whether individuals have the right to keep and bear arms.

5. Protecting health care freedom in Arizona – For all intents and purposes, this is a referendum on Obamacare. I’m hoping that it will pass overwhelmingly, thus giving a boost to the repeal campaign. There’s apparently a similar initiative in Oklahoma, but it hasn’t gotten as much attention.

6. Reducing benefits for bureaucrats in San Francisco – If one of the craziest, left-wing cities in America decides to require bureaucrats to make meaningful contributions to support their bloated pension and health benefits, that’s a sign that the gravy train may be in jeopardy for bureaucrats all across the nation.

7. Making it easier to increase government spending in California – The big spenders want to get rid of the two-thirds requirement in the state legislature to approve a budget. This would pave the way for even bigger government in a state that already is close to bankruptcy.

8. Reducing the sales tax in Massachusetts – The entire political establishment is fighting this proposal to roll back the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 3 percent, and pro-spending lobbies are pouring big money into a campaign against the initiative, so you know it must be a good idea.

9. Controlling benefits for bureaucrats in Louisiana – The initiative would require a two-thirds vote to approve any expansion of taxpayer-financed benefits for government employees.

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