It's disappointing to see how out of touch The Californian's editorial board is, given its support for loophole-riddled Proposition 32. The impact to the community beyond the blatant super PAC exemption is painfully obvious. If you look at the history of this proposition, who's supporting it, who's funding it, and investigate beyond any personal anti-union philosophy you might have, you will agree that no reasonable, prudent person would vote yes.
Historically, corporations have made similar attempts to quiet labor's voice with attack measures like this, with Proposition 226 in 1998 and Proposition 75 in 2005. This time, though, the initiative was crafted a lot better -- it reads like it addresses both corporations and unions by getting rid of automatic payroll deductions and removing direct contributions from both sides. Sounds fair, but Prop. 32 fails to address the remedial fact that corporations fund their political activity predominantly through profit margins and not payroll deductions. Whereas the people who have come together to create some semblance of a voice by way of unions voluntarily give through their automatic deductions each month. Which raises the obvious question: If unions are already required to make dues for political activity voluntary, why the need for this type of imbalanced initiative?
Furthermore, independent expenditures are not addressed at all in Prop. 32. According to the National Institution on Money in State Politics, in 2010 public- and private-sector unions gave a combined $74.7 million in state political campaign contributions from "payroll deductions" compared with the $95.4 million given by the top three business interest groups: utilities, insurance companies and investment firms. And, according to opensecrets.org, business interests dominate labor spending by a whopping ratio of 15-to-1. Clearly a lack of fair balance already exists; I would hate to fathom the campaign ramifications if only corporations could fund independent expenditures in the way they're funded now. We might as well go back to the 1920s, with two classes of people and no regulations.
Here's another issue to consider: Who owns the big corporations? Who makes the greatest amount of profits? Billionaires. And who are the super PACs funded by? Generally speaking, by billionaires. And does Prop. 32 address these billionaire-funded super PACs? No! So who do you think is going to run the country if this passes? The people? No. Billionaires will.
The working class' suppressed voice will stifle its ability to fund anything remotely political, and our already imperfect system will become so grossly imbalanced that billionaires will be able to overwhelmingly fund any legislation or political candidate they choose. Where's the democracy in that? And, I might add, few of those billionaires have our best interests in mind. Look at who's funding this. The Koch brothers, among others, can fund and direct public policy without any regard for democracy. Our country was founded on the concept of one person, one vote -- not one dollar, one vote.
The worst travesty here is the direct impact to our community. Here's one example. Your firefighters are intimately involved in this community. Beyond the personal involvement in emergency 911 calls, that small union of men and women voluntarily donate into a political fund that is used to support more than 20 nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organizations. That funding is spent on endeavors such as public service announcements that benefit our city and save lives, feeding the homeless, providing safe environments for Halloween, cancer research, junior fire academies and Christmas presents for homeless children.
All of that will virtually disappear if Prop. 32 passes. Regardless of how you feel about unions, this proposition has more of an impact than some feeble attempt at trying to coerce our political system. It will have a detrimental impact on the personal lives and businesses of our community. Please vote no on Proposition 32.
Jeff Heinle, a San Jose native, has been a Bakersfield firefighter since 1992. He is chairman of the local firefighter union's political action committee. Another View presents a critical response to a previous editorial, column or news story.