Friends don’t let friends vote for Prop 16 & 17. (part two)

As I said in part one of this series, this June’s initiatives are easy – there are only five, numbered 13 thru 17. And, as your friend, it’s my solemn duty to make sure you vote NO on the last two, 16 and 17.

Short version – they are both corporate scams, the first one brought to you by PG&E, and the other brought to you by Mercury Insurance.

When citizens hear what these measures actually do, and who is behind them, they overwhelmingly fail – EPIC fail. The problem of course is that money is no object to the funders of these measures, and they’re already blanketing our airwaves with shamelessly deceptive characterizations of what the measures would do.

I know, what else is new, right? The struggle never ends. Not until we somehow neutralize the noxious effects of big money in politics. (That’s a subtle plug for Prop 15, which really needs your support!) In part one we demolished PG&E’s Prop 16, now we will set our merciless sights on Mercury Insurance’s Prop 17. But first let’s enjoy this right-on-target sendup from Brave New Films (previously posted on Eddie Rose’s anti-17 piece.)

This video, obviously, has fun with the comical unlikeliness of a big corporation spending millions of dollars just in order to save its customers money.  But I know you expect something more in depth from your humble Orange Juice blogger, so let’s take a quick look at a little history:

For decades now – ever since 1984 when California made auto insurance mandatory for driving – Mercury Insurance has been on an Ahab-like quest to jack up their profits a little higher, by charging you an extra fee or SURCHARGE – of up to $1000 a year – as a punishment for going without insurance for any reason for 90 days or more.  They’re allowed to do that in some states – states like Texas – and they just really don’t think it’s fair that we Californians won’t stand for it.

Mercury’s attempts to achieve this Surcharge Grail have been slapped down soundly and repeatedly, by the courts, by the legislature, by Governor Davis (before later caving,) and most decisively by us voters, with 1988’s Prop. 103.

But like the mad Captain they just never give up, and this multi-million dollar initiative is but the latest chapter in their tireless quest to either force you to stay permanently insured whether you’re currently driving a car or not, or to squeeze an extra grand a year out of you once you need insurance again.

Prop 17 if passed would particularly impact seniors and military personnel.  Despite Mercury’s false claims to the contrary, it contains no exemptions for military stationed in bases within the US – they would either have to keep up their payments while stationed thousands of miles from their vehicles, or face Mercury’s punishment when they return home.

Really, this puppy is just too easy to kick.  With all their dough, Mercury hasn’t lit on any effective, credible propaganda, in contrast to PG&E’s cloaking of their Prop 16 monopoly grab in a disguise of voting rights and anti-government shtick.   Hell, even my jousting partner Sgt York – not only as conservative as I am liberal, but an actual INSURANCE AGENT – opposes the measure, and I look forward to hearing his rationale in the comments section.

This leaves me a little time to tie in a plug for the initiative I think is most important this June:

Props 16 & 17 are TWO MORE REASONS to vote YES on Prop 15!

Although Prop 15, the California Fair Elections Act, would not affect the funding of initiatives at all, the very fact that Props 16 and 17 have got as far as they’ve gotten and could conceivably pass is an indictment of the destructive power of money in our politics – the problem Prop 15 is a first step to solving.

This is especially clear when you look at Mercury’s past attempts to subvert Proposition 103 legislatively through legal bribery:  Spreading around nearly a million to over 2/3 of the legislature in 2003, they snagged themselves a real prize in Democratic Senate Majority Leader Don Perata, who shepherded their bill through successfully (shame!) only to see it vetoed by Governor Gray Davis (yay!)

But a year later they tried again, this time with Gray facing an imminent recall (you remember that!)  This time the Governor signed the bill, after receiving $100,000 from Mercury, and before getting $175,000 for his anti-recall campaign.  Shame! [The bill was still overturned by the courts, if you were wondering.]

Point is, this is exactly the sort of pay-to-play politics that Fair Elections will neutralize, and Proposition 15 (which if you remember, is a pilot project, costing taxpayers nothing, to fund the Secretary of State race with a modest increase in lobbyist fees) is a vital first step to get us there.  The Los Angeles Times came out in favor of Prop 15 last week, but their column just – I don’t know – lacked the sort of battle-cry spirit I felt it should have, so I scolded them in a letter they printed yesterday, a letter I’m STILL proud of an entire day later:

Re “Money and politics,” Editorial, April 22

Welcome to the growing movement for fair elections in California, but how about a little more enthusiasm?  You’ve made the case quite clearly that Proposition 15 is a modest but crucial step toward getting our politics to a place where politicians are responsive to public needs more than moneyed interests.

Think of all the pathologies in our body politic that fair elections would cure: healthcare reform for doctors and patients, not insurers and Big Pharma; financial reform not written by the financial miscreants; Republicans not owned by corporations and the wealthy; Democrats not owned by unions and the environmental lobby; billionaires no longer claiming office as their birthright.

Think of the political system we’d like to leave for our children, even if it will take a decade of incremental struggle. And then show some enthusiasm!

In sum:
Prop 13, tax break for earthquake retrofit – sure, why not.
Prop 14, Maldonado’s Jungle Primary – NO.
Prop 15, Fair Elections – YES!!!!!
Prop 16, PG&E Scam – Hell No!
Prop 17, Mercury Insurance Scam – Hell No!

Thank you.

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.