Wednesday, July 4, 2012

California: Too Much Democracy?

A not well-enough understood fact of politics in California is that the voting public has too much power over public policy. Voter initiatives and referenda have brought about the most significant changes affecting all aspects of life in California. The State legislature (who are, yes, elected by the voters) seem to have little if any power. They blow around in the wind and can't get much of anything done. When it comes to adopting a sensible policy, such as placing limits on solitary confinement of juveniles, they are shrinking violets to the gorilla-like presence of the correctional officers' lobby. Nevermind the studies that show that isolating minors for days without psychiatric support or evaluation may very well exacerbate or even cause mental illnesses (which we, the taxpayers, will all eventually have to pay for down the line in the form of crime and/or medical and social services that they will need as the result of it), the fact that it might cost more money in the short-term to place limits on the length of solitary confinement was enough to scare even Democrats away. Yes, even two Democrats joined the ranks of the fiscally conservative; no doubt due to pressure from the lobbyists. So there you have it. Bucking the national and, yes, rational trend to treat kids like kids, California rejected the proposal and left juvenile inmates at the mercy of jail guards who may continue to unleash their unfettered discretion in costly and inhumane ways. It's hard to imagine what it may take to cause Californians to realize that there is a problem with the way our Legislature functions or, more realistically, doesn't. The example of juvenile delinquents being mistreated will, no doubt, be considered irrelevant where we have more important things to worry about like initiatives against same sex marriage. Campaign finance reform would go a long way toward solving our greatist problems. Enter Citizens' United, which strips away any meaningful limits on anonymous corporate contributions to political advertising. I've heard that things will get worse before they get better. I hereby declare that things are now worse. Let's now work on making them better.