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Why bother?

The Washington State legislature eventually overturns all major tax limitation initiatives, so why bother promoting yet another such initiative? To solve the fiscal problem, we first need to flush the fiscal liberals from the legislature.

      —  Posted 2010-03-21, From a number of people

In response to this concern, I'd like to explain why The People's Initiative hits the bullseye dead center in terms of fixing the problem of government growth and in terms of appealing to the people. Then I'll address the problem of the legislature overturning initiatives.

Fixing the problem of government growth

The fundamental problem underlying the unrestrained growth of government is that we have, in effect, given the government a blank check, allowing the government to draw money from our pockets without asking our permission. If the government had to ask our permission for an increase in income, it would rarely, if ever, get it because people are reluctant to spend their money without careful consideration as to the payoff.

The People's Initiative hits the bullseye in terms of fixing the problem of government growth by giving the citizens direct control of a ceiling on government income+debt. The ceiling is expressed as a percentage of the income of the state economy, allowing government to grow at the same rate that the income of the economy grows, and this is intuitively the fastest that government should be able to grow. Furthermore, the people can vote to change the ceiling via a request by the legislature or via an initiative process, hence over time the people can vote to lower the ceiling bit-by-bit! This is the only program that I am aware of that makes it politically possible to reduce the size of government over time. Other than this, all we have are unrealistic hopes of flushing most of the liberals out and of keeping them out.

Appealing to the people

The People's Initiative hits the bullseye in terms of appealing to the people because it gives the people direct control of the ability of the government to get their money. Nothing that Tim Eyman, or TABOR, or any other party has offered can have such a powerful, compelling appeal to the people.

Legislature overturning initiatives

The state constitution allows the legislature, by majority vote, to overturn an initiative after two years. And as you probably know, the legislature recently did this for I-960, which was approved in 2007 and which required a 2/3 vote of the legislature in order to increase taxes. As a result, Tim Eyman is redoing I-960 this year. With all due respect to what Tim has done for the state during the last 10 years, redoing I-960 is not a clever or a creative idea. It's just redoing what's already been done.

I now wish to explain why The People's Initiative offers the best possible solution to the problem of the legislature overturning an initiative after two years. As you'll see, this is a novel strategy.

Popular mandate for constitutional amendment

As noted above, The People's Initiative should have a uniquely compelling appeal to the people because it gives the people direct control of the ability of the government to get their money. So we can infer that if the initiative is put on the ballot it should garner an overwhelming approval vote.

The initiative contains, as section 2, a request that the legislature approve the initiative as a constitutional amendment (after which it would go to the people for ratification). Thus, an overwhelming approval vote for the initiative would constitute a popular mandate for the legislature to approve the initiative as a constitutional amendment. In particular, this would give the fiscal conservatives in the legislature the mandate to lead the legislature in this vote, and fiscal conservatives statewide would complement this effort by lobbying the legislature through the media and through all other forms of influence, using the popular mandate as the primary tool of persuasion.

Complementing this, we should see a backlash against the liberals in the upcoming election this fall, thereby shifting the legislature toward a more conservative posture and thereby increasing the legislature's affinity for approving the initiative as a constitutional amendment.

This explains why The People's Initiative offers the best possible solution to the problem of the legislature overturning an initiative after two years.

Transforming the government

With the ceiling in place, fiscal conservatives will — at long last — be on the side of the people, and the people will vividly see this, for the conservatives will support the ceiling, rather than chafing against it. So the ceiling will put fiscal conservatives on the side of the people, and it will pit fiscal liberals against the people. For this reason, the ceiling will transform government from an institution that is hospitable to fiscal liberals to an institution that is hospitable to fiscal conservatives. As a result, the ceiling will shift the bias away from electing fiscal liberals toward electing fiscal conservatives. This is the shift that we want to see, and The People's Initiative will foster this shift.

Legislature overturning The People's Initiative

Now suppose that the initiative is approved by the people in 2010 but that the complementary constitutional amendment is not approved by the legislature in 2011 or in 2012. The citizens of Washington State will still have at least two years of owning a ceiling on government income+debt. It will be their ceiling!

Further suppose that, after two years, the fiscal liberals in the legislature want to overturn the ceiling. Since it is The People's Ceiling, overturning it will be a direct slap in the people's face. Through the initiative, the people took direct control of the ability of the government to get their money, and now the government wants to usurp the people's power to protect their money so that the government can resume its control of taking the people's money. This will be a humiliating slap in the people's face.

To make this graphic, imagine sitting across a table from a person who personifies the government, while you personify the people. The situation starts with the government having your wallet on its side of the table with its hand on top of your wallet. Approval of The People's Initiative means that you reach across the table, you grab the government's hand and remove it from your wallet, then you grab your wallet and put it on your side of the table with your hand on top of it. For the government to now usurp your power to own and control your money means that the government reaches across the table, grabs your hand and removes it from your wallet, then grabs your wallet and puts it back on the government's side of the table with its hand back on top of your wallet.

Do you see how profoundly personal this would feel to the people compared to the feel of the legislature overturning the two-thirds requirement of I-960? As a result, we can infer that the legislature would be very unlikely to overturn The People's Ceiling.

This complements the observation given above that The People's Initiative offers the best possible solution to the problem of the legislature overturning an initiative after two years.

Summary

I've explained why The People's Initiative hits the bullseye dead center in terms of fixing the problem of government growth and in terms of appealing to the people. I've also explained why The People's Initiative offers the best possible solution to the problem of the legislature overturning an initiative after two years.

Technical note

The constitution allows the legislature to overturn an initiative within two years of initiative approval, but the requirement for this is a two-thirds vote of the membership of each house, as provided in article 2, section 1, subsection c. The probability of this occurring for The People's Initiative is essentially zero.



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