We at Politomuse are big fans of free speech. That said, there is a good reason that false or misleading speech is generally not protected in this country — the reason is that lies don’t generally promote the positive effects of discourse. Unfortunately, when we have an initiative process that foists upon voters the responsibility to analyze pages and pages of legalese, there is a real incentive to “bend the truth.” Sadly, our press has become less interested in calling out untruths, opting instead for a policy of acceptance of all opposing positions — even ones that are based on false or misleading facts. We don’t agree with that trend so, in anticipation of tomorrow’s election day excitement (yes, we admit to being Polito-geeks), we thought we’d point out some of the more egregious falsities in recent election mailers.
First Place: Prop 29 Proponents Claim Funds Must Be Spent in California. Verdict: FALSE
We urge a “no” vote on 29 for a number of reasons related to the manner in which the hundreds of millions of dollars collected through this tax would be spent. Among those reasons, however, was not the fact that the moneys need not be spent in California. Apparently, however, many voters are troubled by the fact that California’s smoking taxpayers would potentially have their money funnelled out of state and the “No” campaign has been getting some traction with that argument. So, what better way for the “yes” folks to rebut that argument than a recent mailer sent by the pro-29 folks simply stating that all the money must be spent in California. The “pro-29” forces are also running the same misstatement in slick television commercials that are currently blanketing the airways. The only problem with this clever rebuttal is that it is patently untrue. We’ve reviewed the full six pages of tiny text several times and find no requirement that money be spent here.
To the contrary, section 30130.53, subdivision d, section 1 provides that “All qualified investigators, regardless of institutional affiliation shall have equal access and opportunity to compete for the funds in this act.”
In other words, any attempt to limit expenditures to California would likely expressly violate the proposed initiative. Like most initiatives, if approved, this one can’t be changed except by additional proposition (though this one could be altered by the legislature 15 years after passage). So, while we can think of a number of reasons that reasonable voters may disagree with our “No” recommendation on this initiative – this falsehood isn’t one of them.
Second Place: Measure B Opponents claim passage will cause city employees to lose their homes. Verdict: Misleading
We picked the nicely laid out picture of the young couple that states “If Measure B passes people like me will lose our homes” followed by a signature of Carlos, a San Jose Animal Control Officer for this questionable prize; although frankly, we could have picked a number of questionable statements presented in various “No” flyers for this dubious honor. The wickedly clever part of this hit-piece is that the statement is really an opinion and therefore can’t really be disproved. However, Measure B gives current employees the option of either not changing their current paycheck at all but moving to a less generous future pension or “agreeing” to a small increase in the amount of their pension contribution (between 4%-16% but no more than 50% of the real cost of the benefit). Since Carlos will chose whether he takes a small financial hit today or a small financial hit in the future one really can’t say that the measure will force him out of his home. If you are interested in the specifics, this chart shows the various permutations that would be available to City employees.
Dishonorable Mention: Measure B Proponent Chuck Reed claims Measure B doesn’t reduce employee benefits. Verdict: Misleading
So lets think about this, we want to solve a financial problem by not reducing benefits to employees? If you think that sounds a little dubious, there is good reason. While its is true that City employees will have an option that keeps their exact current pension plan in place under Measure B, they will need to pay more for that plan — an increase in costs is necessarily a decrease in overall benefits to the employee. While Mayor Reed has done a better job recently of avoiding some of the less palatable tactics he employed earlier in this campaign, we were disappointed to see this little nugget in a recent Reed flyer. Especially since with the exception of this point, he has recently done a fair job of just laying out the facts — facts that we think should lead voters to a “yes” vote. So why bend the truth Mayor?
We hope you navigate your way around these and other misleading gems in this election cycle. If you find the information we provide on this site helpful, please remember to subscribe (on the right side of this page) so you will get our future posts delivered (and nothing else by the way). Happy voting!