Liddick: A skeptic’s guide to the Colorado ballot (column)
September 26, 2016
You've got to be kidding.
I was intending to review Coloradans' most recent attempts to turn the state constitution into something bigger than the Manhattan telephone directory, but when I came to Amendment 69 in the 2016 Colorado Blue Book, my head spun around so fast I blacked out. When I recovered consciousness, it was just as bad as I thought it was.
Let's begin with the cost. The amendment proposes creation of a new state bureaucracy and structure to provide health care to "all" Coloradans, funded by $25 billion per year in tax receipts – roughly what the state takes in per year for everything it does now. So taxes will double.
The target for collection will also change. According to the Amendment, wage earners' tax rates (note: not taxes. Rates.) will rise by 3.3% and their employers will be saddled with a 6.6% higher rate. Expect fewer hires and fewer employees than would otherwise be the case. For non-wage-earners, who make their living through investments, capital gains, rents, dividends and interest and even Social Security, the news is worse: they will pay the entire 10% increase in rate, up to $450,000 for a married couple filing jointly. Call this the "Driving Off Investors" amendment.
And what are we promised, in return for doubling the state's tax burden? Not much. Arguments in favor feature a lot of "mays" and "coulds," but are thin on details. Mostly, it's about "universal coverage," and "controlling costs," and "improving care," and all the other pretty flapdoodle we heard in 2009, which is a sign those using the arguments think Coloradans are either too stupid to draw breath or so addled by a Rocky Mountain High that they'll buy anything set before them. I'm betting most aren't, and won't.
There are serious problems. Get sick or have an accident out of state? Maybe you're covered. Maybe not. Will transients in Colorado, who have not paid into the system, be treated on our dime if out-of-state insurers don't pay what a board of 21 unaccountable bureaucrats think is "fair?" Who knows? Failing financial limits on treatments, who will decide when Auntie Grezelda's had enough chemotherapy? Or even gets to start, when there are all those needy younger folks in line? Unclear. And disquieting. Of course, if Proposition 106 passes, there will be another way out; call it a "Final Solution" to one's medical problems.
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So a big, fat "NO" on 69. At least until I can get my 2009 insurance plan back, and get the $2,500 per year in savings I was promised. After that, I'll think about it.
While we're discussing sugar-rush proposals — those that make one feel good until the subsequent crash smashes face into pillow or floor — how about Amendment 70? Yes, by all means raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour, whether productivity gains justify it or not. After all, it's only those evil corporations that get punished in the name of "fairness," so why not? Look for a prospective decline in service employment, as Colorado firms from Vail Resorts to McDonalds figure out how to replace wage earners with machines. That's exactly what happened in places like Seattle where the Left decided that politics, not markets, should determine the worth of goods and services. As in the planned economies of the former workers' paradise and its slave states in Eastern Europe, chaos resulted; no one, no matter how clever, is smarter than market forces.
Then there is Proposition 107, which advocates that Colorado taxpayers, not political parties, pay for presidential primaries here, and that said primaries be open to independents as well as partisans. Arguments in favor of this run something like: "All registered voters in Colorado should be allowed to participate in the selection of presidential nominees, even if they are not affiliated with a political party." Which is a transparent device to reduce party and ideology to an afterthought in politics. I'd agree with this the day after all citizens can vote on who should be admitted to the Colorado Bar. But I won't hold my breath. Proposition 108 would materially have the same effect and is similarly useless.
Which doesn't mean there aren't any good ideas up for a vote. How about Amendment 71 which – paradoxically – makes it just a little more difficult to stuff the state constitution like a 15-year-old's piñata? This might mean that in future, proposed amendments and initiatives reflect thinking across the state, instead of across one zip code in Boulder.
But this November 8, be judicious. One might want to vote for an amendment, but if there is no clear-cut advantage to doing so, follow the sage advice of Nancy Reagan: "Just say no."
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily.
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