The “American Commons” is a phrase I use to describe my ideal political party, although at this point it’s really about being in full support of Democracy as opposed to Oligarchy or Monarchy. One of the things we need to do, as a country but also at every level down to the neighborhood, is apply Democracy to the election process. One way to do this is to publicly finance campaigns, letting each serious candidate draw from a stipend during the official three-month campaign season and have the state buy advertisement slots which can be distributed evenly among those candidates.
In the meantime, we have Measure 26-184, which puts strict restrictions on how much any individual can donate to a county-level campaign. To win broad appeal, political figures will need to make a broad appeal instead of getting one or two special interests with deep pockets behind them. I am for this measure.
I believe that we will not be able to fix any political process problem until we get the effect of big money out. I know many wealthy people prefer anonymity, but they still manage to turn the world to their personal liking. See Gawker Media for the latest example of someone imposing their will on thousands of other people just because he could afford to do it.
As I also noted on Facebook yesterday, this year’s pamphlet seems low on arguments and those arguments are very one sided. Measure 26-184, however, has a great argument in opposition. There is only one argument in opposition, and it is well worth the read.
The online version can be found here (PDF version). The argument in question is on page 35 of the online document.
Thanks to Hamilton, most Americans know a story of Aaron Burr. Burr does not always act to better his position, but waits for someone to realize his virtue and give him status. When he does decide to make a move to get into “the room where it happens” he finds the last available seat is taken up by Alexander Hamilton.
Imagine (or remember) a time when the only way to learn about new movies was to read the news paper (which came to your door every single day) and scan the ads. Sometimes there was a movie reviewer, and some times an ad on TV, and sometimes schoolyard scuttlebutt. You are twelve years old. You see a bunch of movies that look good (they aren’t, but you’re twelve! What do you know?) and you look forward to a whole summer of catching movies.
Then a new rating comes out: PG-13. You may be allowed in, but you hear society telling you “wait until you’re older”.
A few years later you get into college, because a college education is the way to a good job and financial independence. Then a ballot measure to limit property taxes goes up and your per-credit costs triple in a year and your books get five times more expensive. You hear “wait a little longer” for financial independence.
Then you enter the work force just as people push to raise the retirement age, keeping the best jobs in the hands of the more experienced workers for longer. You hear “wait a little longer” for job promotions.
You work and start to think about retirement, and are told that social security is going to be gone, or you’ll have to wait longer to see any benefits, or work well past the retirement age to build a nest egg stable enough to retire on.
You end up thinking your 65th year will see a rash of “mandatory retirement” movements that kick you out of the workforce with an estimated thirty years to live and only the savings for ten, and you really can’t work anymore.
This is what I think about when I read Measure 94. The measure would remove the mandatory retirement age of 75 for our justices. Not replace, mind you: remove.
There are no arguments in opposition.
The argument in support is that no other government position has mandatory requirements, and we have a new way of looking at age, so 75 isn’t seen as “old” anymore. This is a fair argument.
On the other hand, it also makes younger people “wait” for a chance to be elected to the judiciary if that’s what they want.
I suspect I will vote for it, only because my only argument against it that I can come up with is the wallow of self-pity for my generation. The only thing that could make me vote against it is if any of our judicial positions at the state level were lifetime terms like the US Supreme Court. This page claims this is not the case in our state, so I guess I have no reason not to vote for it, and voting for it adds an element of consistency to our state government.
Afterword: This page (An Introduction to the Courts of Oregon) has a lot of good information about how our courts currently operate.
In the world of jokedom, the 12:30 AM phone call is the teenager out after curfew with the family car, calling to say there was an accident. Dad immediately asks “How’s the car.”
It’s not a funny a joke, but it is telling about what the Dad of Jokedom fears more than the potential loss of a child or even injury to that child: Loss of the family car.
Why? Because without the car Dad has to go to work on Public Transportation, which may add an hour or two to his day. (My personal record: 5 hours on public transportation back and forth for a 4-hour work shift.) But also the cost of repairing the car on a tight budget may mean “no vacation this year” or “no meals out this month” or “no mortgage payment this month” which leads to living in smaller and smaller apartments for possibly even more per-square-foot than the house.
The reaction “how’s the car” comes out of fear. Fear of so many things that could happen because despite our best intentions, our scrappiest living, our careful planning, bankrupcy and homelessness is one or two paychecks away.
Imagine the phone call isn’t from the teenager, but the hosiptal, or the police, with news that the child is in the ER. All those fears are even worse because fixing a car may only cost a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Hospital bills, even with insurance, come in tens-of-thousands. Dad can’t do what Dad wants to do: be near their child all the time to be sure everything is okay, because if Dad doesn’t work, Dad doesn’t get paid, and the house is sold to pay the hospital bill.
I cannot speak for Dads through direct experience, and I sure as hell can’t talk from Mom’s point of view, but I imagine all these fears carve even darker and deeper scars into her soul.
The bit that actually matters, the important thing, the life, health, and well-being of a child is low on the parents’ list of priorities because of fear.
This is not a healthy state for the American Commons.
What if we had, in general, better public transportation so the loss of a car wouldn’t be a major inconvenience (or even a job risk) and time sink. What if we had tax laws that made it easy and desireable to deduct medical expenses for every tax payer? (Yes, you can deduct medical expenses but only if you itemize deductions which most people don’t do.) What if they didn’t have to deal with the fears of losing everything because a simple mistake?
What if Mom and Dad in Emergency Mode could focus on their child and know that things are going to be okay in the end?
Our Commons would be stronger.
To get there we need employees to have guaranteed paid time off for medical emergencies.
We need medical costs constrained to human scale.
We need laws to protect people’s homes in dire circumstances.
We need social safey nets.
We need to not live in fear.