D. Dowd Muska


How Freedom Fared in 2013’s Ballot Boxes

November 07, 2013

In 2013, voters didn’t pick a president, determine partisan control of Congress, or settle the fates of dozens of gubernatorial candidates. The election -- let’s face it -- bordered on a snoozer.

Still, there are some items worth noting. And happily, on balance, this November’s Tuesday after the first Monday did not yield many wins for the unlimited-government lobby.

Liberals were delighted by the approval of a hike, to be followed by inflation-indexing, of New Jersey’s minimum wage. (The “raise” will likely prove to be of dubious value to the measure’s alleged beneficiaries, who comprise a mere 1.3 percent of workers in the Garden State.) But Americans have consistently demonstrated their appalling ignorance of the unintended consequences of minimum-wage mandates. Votes against them are quite rare. (Kudos to Montanans and Missourians in 1996.)

The left’s giddiness over its utterly predictable victory on the East Coast should be tempered by its stunning defeat in the Pacific Northwest. Washington’s voters rejected a labeling requirement for genetically modified food. Organic farmers and “sustainability” scolds, whose claims have about as much credibility as the fabulations of “ancient-alien theorists,” were aghast. After all, the Evergreen State is reliably blue. Its population is concentrated in crunchy Seattle, most of its fedpols are Democrats (while its Republicans are hardly tea-party stalwarts), and Washington hasn’t cast its electoral votes for a GOPer since the Gipper’s 1984 landslide. Yet Initiative 522 fizzled, garnering just 45.9 percent support.

The ballot measure’s proponents were quick to blame the loss on corporate money. One “reporter/columnist” helpfully averred that a “deluge of food-agribusiness bucks wiped out a I-522’s early lead in the polls.” But whining about the deep pockets of your opponent is usually an indication of poor campaign management, a failure to accurately gauge public opinion, or both. Here’s an alternate take on the initiative’s outcome: A majority of voters decided that the issue of food transparency is best left to farmers, processors, grocers, and customers. Imagine that.

Try telling Colorado’s tax hikers that big bucks buy elections. Moonbat financiers Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg each donated $1 million to aid the passage of the Centennial State’s Amendment 66. Unions supplied millions more. The measure was about schools -- or as a nincompoop columnist for The New York Times put it, “children, knowledge and the future itself.”

Amendment 66 was projected to raise $950 million -- in its first year -- for rehiring teachers and expanding preschool. The extra revenue would come from hiking Colorado’s flat 4.63 percent income tax to 5 percent for filers earning under $75,000, and 5.9 percent for those earning more.

Colorado is moving leftward, and fast. While never deep red, both its U.S. senators are now Democrats, and Barack Obama prevailed there in 2008 and 2012. Its governor is a liberal, and last year, voters legalized marijuana. Amendment 66, it once seemed, was a no-brainer. “It’s a tax increase, but what we get out of it is the No. 1 public education system in the country,” Governor John Hickenlooper promised.

Evidently, Colorado is occupied by public-education haters. An impressive 64.6 percent of voters rejected Amendment 66, despite little organized opposition. And the state produced additional returns that augur well for smaller, more accountable government. Of the 11 Colorado counties that asked residents whether they wished to secede from Denver’s suzerainty, five chose to bolt. Durango repealed a politician-imposed fee for plastic bags, and Telluride rejected a soda tax.

Missouri’s Jackson County, home to Kansas City and Independence, offered what was inarguably this year’s nuttiest tax measure. Question 1 sought to annually raise $40 million -- not for roads, schools, or sewers, but medical research. Alas, the half-cent tax for the proposed “Jackson County Institute for Translational Research and Medicine” was annihilated, The Kansas City Star reported, by a “greater than 5-to-1 ratio.” Once again, campaign-finance orthodoxy was disproved. The pro-tax side had piles of dough. Its anti-tax nemesis was strapped for cash.

In several Oregon communities, property-tax hikes for bonding projects saw little love. A majority of Houston’s voters rejected a kooky, corporatist, $217 million scheme to preserve the Astrodome as an event space. In nearby Katy, the school district’s $99 million bonding plan -- which included a 14,000-seat football stadium -- was defeated. (That bears repeating: Texans declined to fund a football stadium.)

All in all, Election Day 2013 was not a happy one for government-employee unions, Nanny State ninnies, and corporate-welfare queens. Savor the victories, freedom fighters, but get to work soon on the challenges that await in 2014.

D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.

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