Includes our first original animation on California's tax system!
Taxes. Not too many folks like paying ‘em, and even fewer understand what they’re actually paying for. In November, California voters will decide on two major competing tax measures – Proposition 30 and 38. The initiatives are both intended to shield public schools from devastating budget cuts, although they each propose to do so in pretty different ways. Deciding which path makes the most sense requires first understanding the basics of California’s tax system. Pretty enticing, huh? Well, before we lose your attention to the latest gripping cat flick on YouTube, at least take a quick look at this animation produced by freelancer Josh Kurz. It’s a surprisingly digestible primer on a topic that’s admittedly pretty freakin’ dry … but one that’s also got some pretty huge real life consequences for almost all of us. (Scroll down to see another KQED video and detailed summaries on both propositions)
When asked, during the second presidential debate, about their respective positions on assault weapons, both candidates gave only vague responses. Neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney offered any indication that they would would push for stronger gun control laws.
In case you haven’t been paying attention for the last, say, 40 years, gun control has long been a thorny issue in American politics, partly because of the ongoing heated debate over how the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted, and partly because of the National Rifle Association, a powerful lobbying group that has successfully dissuaded ranks of political leaders from pushing for more restrictive firearms legislation. Continue reading →
Individuals and organizations are spending millions in this election to win support for, or to defeat, a variety of propositions on California’s ballot. Anyone who’s watched even a smidgen of TV in the last two months can attest to the inundation of prop commercials out there. Often times, the names, affiliations, and locations of the big funders (who are oftentimes out-of-state groups) are left intentionally vague – organizations like Americans for Responsible Leadership, a conservative Arizona-based group that’s donated $11 million in favor of Prop 32. Such opaqueness makes it nearly impossible, from the ads alone, to decipher a funder’s political affiliation or long-term agenda. So, a little sleuthing can go a long way to find out who’s behind what. Bottom line: you always gotta follow the money! And the Vote’s Edge project at MapLight – a nonpartisan, nonprofit research firm – makes it pretty easy to do just that. Check out their cash flow tracking app.
Source: Center for Responsive Politics (www.opensecrets.org)
The 2012 presidential and congressional elections will cost roughly $5.8 billion, making it the most expensive in U.S. history. That’s according to estimates by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which predicts about a 7 percent increase from 2008′s $5.4 billion price tag. The presidential race, alone, CRP estimates, will cost about $2.5 billion.
$5.8 billion! That’s nearly twice the state of Wyoming’s entire 2012 budget!
The biggest difference in this year’s election is the sharp rise in contributions – and influence – from outside groups, namely Super PACs. Remember that the current races – both presidential and congressional – are the first in which the new, post-Citizens United rules will be in effect. While outside spending groups did exist in previous presidential election cycles, significant legal developments, including the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision – which determined that political spending is a form of protected speech and lifted spending limitations for corporations and unions – have led to a rapid rise in super PACs and other outside spending groups that don’t have to disclose their donors. And that means a deluge of negative campaign ads paid for by organization’s you’ve probably never heard of. Continue reading →
Because nearly every state in the nation has a winner-take-all presidential electoral system (except Nebraska and Maine), the outcome on election day in most states is fairly predictable. No Republican presidential candidate, for instance, has won California since 1988, and there’s no sign of that trend changing anytime soon. So it wouldn’t be the smartest move to put your money on Mitt Romney here.
Likewise, Texas hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976. So Barack Obama’s chances of winning over the Longhorn State this election? Pretty slim.
Of course, on the rare occasion there have been some monumental upsets. Take Indiana, which hadn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964, but in 2008 picked Obama (albeit narrowly and ephemerally: the state is back to it’s solid red roots this year).
The majority of the presidential race is downright predictable.
Guest post by Jennifer A. Waggoner President, League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
Voting is essential to the democratic process; it allows citizens to participate in shaping the role and scope of government. And it remains one of the most powerful and interactive forms of civic engagement.
In most Democratic nations throughout the world, universal suffrage is a right that’s been fought hard for. And in some democracies, voting among the adult population is actually mandatory.
In the week since the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling upholding key parts of President Obama’s health care law (“Obamacare”) – namely, the individual mandate that everyone buy insurance - Americans have been inundated by an endless deluge of analysis and commentary. Making sense of it all is challenging, so here are 10 good resources that help connect the dots. Continue reading →
2011 State Congressional Districts_California Citizens Redistricting Commission
Gerrymandering: it ain’t nothing new in California politics.
For much of the state’s history, the legislature has firmly controlled the once-a-decade redistricting process. New district lines are typically redrawn in a way that directly favors whichever party is in control.
Demographic techniques like splitting apart cities, carving up ethnic enclaves, and leaping across vast geographic swaths to bundle like-minded voters are common gerrymandering tools long used by pols to solidify power. Continue reading →
The year was 1996, and a political novice named Barack Obama was running for Illinois State Senate – his first bid for public office. Responding to a questionnaire from Outlines, a gay newspaper in Chicago, Obama wrote: “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”
It took him till now to return to that position.
Just two years later, Obama was deeply steeped in the world of politics. In his re-election bid for state senate, the same newspaper asked the same question. Obama’s position had already shifted, though. In response, he said he was now “undecided.”
Since then, Obama has held fast in his support for civil unions and equal rights for gays and lesbians, but until this week, he never firmly tied the knot in support of same-sex marriage. Scroll through the timeline, and view the clips, to see Obama long “evolving” feelings on this issue.