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About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

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A Voter Warning from a Wise Friend

Uploaded: Nov 18, 2019
“Do not be a single-issue voter,” a wise friend once told me. “Elections are too important to waste your vote just because you may agree with a candidate on one issue.”

He was right.

Why do I bring this up now, a year before the presidential election? Because we are playing compare and contrast with the dozen or so Democratic candidates, while at the same time wondering whether the GOP will even allow a Republican to run against Trump. In California, would-be runners for state offices are surfacing, and by spring, local city council candidates will start sprouting up.

Let me provide a hypothetical example of the danger of voting for a candidate because of his stance on a particular issue. Next month Trump, anxious about his re-election, will reverse his position on climate change, admitting it was not a hoax but rather a very real concern and he will say he’ll do everything he can to help control CO2 emissions. A lot of people, especially environmentalists, would be delighted and may decide they will vote for Trump in 2020, believing he will work to protect our waterways, forests and oceans, cut down on coal production, push for higher fuel emission standard and agree plastic straws are environmentally bad.

Now protecting our planet is extremely important. But a president also has a variety of other responsibilities. There’s always the economy to worry about, and jobs, and providing health care at reasonable costs -- and foreign relations. The president is in charge of what is happening between the U.S. and North Korea, Russia, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, Israel and China. His tariffs are affecting the economy and hurting U.S. farmers.

So if one is a single-issue voter, what about all these other issues a president has to cope with during four or eight years in office?

And while my wise friend said don’t be a single-issue voter, I will add: Don’t dismiss a candidate because of a single issue. For example, some people say they will not vote for Michael Bloomberg because of his previous stand on stop-and-frisk, which, unfortunately targeted minorities, not whites. But Bloomberg’s for a lot of things, including gun control and acting on climate change, issues that may be more important than his stance on stop and frisk.

I have the same single-issue-vote concern on local matters. In Palo Alto traffic has continued to be the main problem, but no one quite knows what to do about it or how to reduce traffic on all our clogged roads. Sure, a candidate will crop up who will declare s/he wants to solve our traffic problems. Don’t vote for them on just that statement until you find out what the magic solution is.

More affordable housing is also a big concern, and I predict a couple of candidates will call for more housing for everyone. Fine, but how will that affect traffic and what is their solution?

But city council members also vote on other issues. We have the highest general fund we’ve had in years, thanks to escalating housing prices producing higher property tax revenues going into city coffers. But it seems that anytime a new to-do project comes along, council members look to raise more taxes from residents and businesses. That’s one issue we should all look at in judging a candidate.

Another is getting things done faster in town – it’s been almost 10 years since a bicycle bridge across Highway 101 was approved, but building the bridge has not even started. Ditto for work on the possible flooding of the San Francisquito Creek and the Chaucer Bridge. After a decade, where are the solutions?

Or traffic flow around town. The Charleston–Arastradero road east-west passageway in clogged during commute times, but I don’t see council talking about that problem. And residents have been promised for a decade now that the Embarcadero Road-El Camino Road intersection traffic delays will be solved. They haven’t been.

So we have to look to candidates who have views we agree with on a number of issues like this, not just affordable housing, or traffic or spending city money properly.

As I said at the start, elections are a year away. But oftentimes voters make up their minds way before elections, and once a mind is made up, it’s hard to change one’s mind. So be aware now of my wise friend’s warning.
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Comments

 +   5 people like this
Posted by Los Altos Neighbor, a resident of Los Altos,
on Nov 18, 2019 at 5:14 pm

I've said it before. Fixing the housing and traffic problems IS easy but nobody wants to do it because it means converting already built office space to housing. You don't even need to make it "affordable" because increasing the SUPPLY of housing while decreasing the DEMAND for housing with fewer high paying office jobs will do wonders.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Dan, a resident of Midtown,
on Nov 18, 2019 at 5:14 pm

I admit that I am primarily a single issue voter. My issue of concern is how much of our hard earned freedoms and money will a politician take through increased government regulation and taxes. At the national level, the rest of the political stuff is mostly window dressing apart from foreign policy which is a federal government constitutional role.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Citizen Realist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 18, 2019 at 6:38 pm

@Diana,
You make a good point that voters would do well to not shoot themselves in the foot by assuming it's possible for any good candidate to be the perfect personal President for every last one of millions of people. We do need to do a better job teaching our kids power literacy.

But there is a the discussion about politics, and then there is the discussion about structural problems in voting.

For example, young people tend to be more liberal but then also tend not to vote. That is in part because they don't understand how power works or how important it is for them to be responsible to vote. But it's also because it's harder for them to vote, especially college students.

Who is making sure that there is a polling place at every college in America? Who is making sure that the millions of out-of-state students at every college have easy access to information and services to be sure they know where they are registered, where they are considered a legal resident, where to transfer their registrations, how to get absentee ballots if possible, understanding the vagaries of local elections, dates and deadlines, etc etc. It's easy for them to think they'll worry about those things when they get out of college. And thus, they remain relatively powerless even though there are more of them than there are people of opposing political views.

So, while you may bemoan single-issue voters, there is a segment of the population on one side of the aisle who worship their politicians like they are God and wouldn't change their votes if their leader shot someone on Fifth Avenue (as he said himself). There are more people on the other side of the aisle, and they've even been the majority in national elections, but they don't get out and vote as reliably. Part of the problem is they just don't look seriously enough at how to get out their side of the vote. The came out in droves to vote for Obama then didn't have his back two years later so he would have the power to enact the policies they wanted him there for.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Diana Diamond, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 19, 2019 at 9:17 am

Diana Diamond is a registered user.

Dan -- You said you were a one issue voter. "My issue of concern is how much of our hard earned freedoms and money will a politician take through increased government regulation and taxes."
I think you have lumped several issues together, and I understand your issues. But I'll play a game of one-upmanship. My single issue is preserving democracy! Diana


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Dan, a resident of Midtown,
on Nov 19, 2019 at 11:02 am

My goal is for government to be less intrusive so that your fear of losing democracy should not keep you up at night and I don't have to follow the politician's daily nonsense afraid what they might foist on us next. A government that takes most of our money and redistributes it with laws infringing on basic rights/freedom is one that is scary whether you have a democracy, fascist dictatorship, "communist" dictatorship, social democracy, or what we have which is a representative federal republic (not really a democracy). As an example of representative form of government vs democracy, I do remember voting on a statewide rent control initiative last election , but the state representative legislature passed a statewide rent control law recently. I don't remember voting on that. So not sure we have a true democracy to preserve. Power corrupts in proportion to the amount... I am for giving the government less power. That is a single issue that manifests itself in different policy choices.


 +   10 people like this
Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Nov 19, 2019 at 3:49 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Government being less intrusive almost always means let's have less regulations, which actually means let's allow corporations to have more power over us. The vacuums created by less regulations is always filled up by corporations gaming the system, and corporations care about the public much less than the government.

Additionally, many of those calling for government to be less intrusive have no problem with government legislating morality, particularly removing a woman's right to control her own body. They are very selective with their desire for less government intrusiveness.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 19, 2019 at 4:41 pm

Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,

>> Additionally, many of those calling for government to be less intrusive have no problem with government legislating morality, [...] They are very selective with their desire for less government intrusiveness.

So true. I lived in the South for a few years way back when. I saw how "less government" meant "less Federal Government, more State and Local Government".

I also have seen how "anti-regulation" meant, in large part, pro-air-pollution pro-water-pollution. As a liberal, I'm very much in favor of maximum personal freedom. But, not the freedom to pollute the air and water we all share. And, that leads back to the original blog post-- if we want representative government rather than a dictatorship, we have to pick the best candidate overall. Single-issue voting is polarizing and self-destructive; representative government depends on competing interests finding compromises on many issues.


 +   11 people like this
Posted by Citizen Realist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 19, 2019 at 5:36 pm

@Diana,
Did you notice what @Dan said? "or what we have which is a representative federal republic (not really a democracy"

That is a really old rightwing talking point, when you corner them on how anti-democratic -- all out, trying to destroy democracy/government of the people -- the whole direction of the Republican Party has been for at least 40 years, and how anti-freedom and anti-marketplace of ideas a "permanent Republican majority" push is, they come out and try to say we aren't really a democracy, we're a "republic", making the utterly false claim that these are mutually exclusive. They're not. Our founding fathers are rolling over in their graves.

Our country is a democratic republic, or a representative democracy. We are mostly not a direct democracy, but that is not the only kind of democracy, as Dan is trying to falsely frame it. Here's a well-written post discussing this debate, which should never even be a debate, except for the Republicans trying to full on be only about three things 1) reducing top tax rates (and solidifying concentrations of wealth), 2) destroying our democratic form of government "drowning it in a bathtub, and 3) lying and doing whatever it takes to keep a permanent majority, i.e., permanently destroy our Constitutional democratic republic.
Web Link

I am not really a partisan so much as fully on the side of autonomy for the people. I think it's really tragic what the Republicans have become, when we need a party that is actually about some of the things they used to claim they were about but have long abandoned, such as fiscal and personal responsibility and personal freedom. It was hard to even list what they stand for, they've been lying for power for so long, nothing they claim is real, it's all dog whistles.

Even the whole business-friendly thing -- they give us some divisive figure who went bankrupt six times and is more interested in serving himself than even contemplating serving the public, and treats more than half the population like some kind of foreign enemy. (Where is all the concern about the deficit now? But, you can't hit Republicans with the hypocrisy stick, they're way too good at lying to themselves.)


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Dan, a resident of Midtown,
on Nov 19, 2019 at 5:56 pm

Wow... now I am a right wing talking point. Beware what you ask for... when you give government the power over your lives you deal with the consequences... your preferred political party and like-minded people will not always set the agenda or win the vote. I don't want Democrats or Republicans to have that kind of power over my life. I happen to agree that government has no business dictating on moral values such as abortion or contraception... either restricting them nor requiring private insurance to cover them. Now excuse me, I need to go back to watching Fox News.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Example needed, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Nov 19, 2019 at 6:53 pm

Good stuff by Dan above.

But geez, couldn't op come up with a better example than Trump?

No one, not even his supporters, believes Trump when he promises something. What greenie would beleive him even if promised free solar on every roof?

Sheesh!


 +   9 people like this
Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Nov 20, 2019 at 6:58 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Giving government less power automatically means giving corporations more power:to pollute, to suppress competition, to act as monopolies, to hide profits and shelter them from taxation, none of it good for the public at large. While we should never allow government to infringe on our personal freedom, which those calling for less government generally don't seem to be bothered about at all, we should realize that less government in the manner the Right demands, actually means less personal freedom and more corporate dominance. When taxes are being cut for the top one percent, the society still has dire needs, good schools and good infrastructure to name just a couple, and those who don't get the tax breaks ending up paying for those needs, not those enjoying "less government".


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 20, 2019 at 8:26 am

I am no expert in any of this, but I think a good example of government v corporations is the PG&E debacle. In this situation, we the people are pawns in the shenanigans. For someone who is in the affected areas and losing their power for the fourth time in several weeks, the fact that a service provider is doing something akin to holding their customers to ransom for supposedly good reason, yet at the same time they are admitted that their equipment could have been the cause of 2000 fires.

Government does have to take a stand to protect the people en masse, so they need to have some powers. But at the same time, there has to be an understanding that they are serving the people who voted them in rather than to ignore or override their best interests.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by DIana Diamond, a resident of Midtown,
on Nov 20, 2019 at 11:09 am

DIana Diamond is a registered user.

Perhaps we could focus a bit more on the wisdom of voting for a candidate based on his/her views on a variety of issues rather than just one issue. As Anon said above, "Single-issue voting is polarizing and self-destructive." Agree or disagree?


 +   6 people like this
Posted by mauricio, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Nov 20, 2019 at 3:31 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

And because the government has no power, atherefore no will to regulate social media giants, the constitutionally mandated practice of free elections, without which we cannot be a free democratic nation, is corrupted, and elections are stolen and subverted. Just another example of what happens when government is stripped of its power to protect the public from corporations and bad actors. The power vacuum that "limited government" create never remains empty, rather, it is filled immediately by for profit corporations and bad actors who usually cooperate with them. The last thing those corporations and bad actors have in mind is the good of the people.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Citizen realist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 22, 2019 at 1:45 am

@Dan,
"Wow... now I am a right wing talking point."
I didn't say that, Dan. I don't know you. The old false dichotomy of republic versus democracy, when in fact we are a democratic republic, i.e., a republic AND a democracy, is an old rightwing talking point. Whether you are one or not is up to you.

"when you give government the power over your lives you deal with the consequences."
Having a well-functioning government of, by and for the people is our best defense against plutocracy and other power structures that destroy freedom. Our nation fought a revolution for that form of government. We fought wars because we believed it was the best way in the world to allow freedom. Round about Nixon, Republicans decided they'd had enough of civic responsibility and having to deal with the honing forces of government of the people, and chose to overtly try to destroy that government and replace it with plutocracy. It wasn't a secret conspiracy, it was even given a name. Fast forward to the present, and the Rus sians have capitalized on how effective the one political party was at eviscerating their own once well-functioning form of government and ... what's the phrase? drowning it in a bathtub. (And no, I'm not talking about whether a certain person is potus or not.)

I personally haven't found it to be so freeing that so many of our institutions simply don't function. The guardrails are not bolted down. When you can't enforce an insurance contract, for example, no matter what you do, because the reality isn't what people think before it happens to them, that has a profound impact on a person's life.

We had super high marginal tax rates on top earners during the Eisenhower administration, and that was generally considered to be a golden age of prosperity for our nation, including among the wealthiest. Ike believed in balanced budgets (and being honorable and telling the truth...) and investing in our nation. The wealthiest benefit from the massive public investments that create the nation we have, and all the many things they could not have paid for themselves that enabled their wealth: the court system they disproportionately avail themselves of, the infrastructure, the stability because of our military and commerce, the technological advancements from public investments, the roads, the ports, the airports, the treaties and diplomatic infrastructure that enables trade, the education infrastructure that educates the workers, the public health system, etc etc etc. When they are in a position to pay back, they should consider themselves lucky that they could exploit such resources then repay the country for enabling their opportunity.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Citizen realist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 22, 2019 at 1:46 am

@ Diana,
"Perhaps we could focus a bit more on the wisdom of voting for a candidate based on his/her views on a variety of issues rather than just one issue. As Anon said above, "Single-issue voting is polarizing and self-destructive." Agree or disagree?"

I disagree that we have the luxury to consider the views of the candidates anymore. We are now at a point in which the leader of the country can credibly claim to be able to shoot someone on the street and get away with it, and the entire political party on that side of the aisle will be the reason. It's ironic, isn't it, that the party that claims to believe in competition has worked so hard, even to the extent of becoming the party of Liars, at being immune from any competition, to the point that they'll protect their grip over the good of the nation.

About 39% of the public isn't single-issue voting, they're worshipping Republican politicians like they are God, it's naive to talk about single-issue voting. If people want to change things, they have to get the vote out on the other side, with the sober realization that there is a “too late" when it comes to addressing global warming, providing good affordable healthcare (which all the rest of the advanced world does). and saving our nation's reputation and global alliances.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Citizen realist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 22, 2019 at 8:55 am

Clarification
It's ironic, isn't it, that the party that claims to believe in competition has worked so hard, even to the extent of becoming the party of Liars, at being immune from any competition, to the point that they'll protect their grip ON POWER over the good of the nation.

What have we become when the whole party's defense of abuse of power is that p0tus was too incompetent to have done it and that he conducts foreign policy based on completely debunked conspiracy theories and is that easily manipulated to damage our civil service for personal reasons " and the GOP-worshippers buy all of it.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Tax much?, a resident of Mountain View,
on Nov 23, 2019 at 10:15 am

@citizen realist “ The wealthiest benefit from the massive public investments that create the nation we have, and all the many things they could not have paid for themselves that enabled their wealth: the court system they disproportionately avail themselves of, the infrastructure, the stability because of our military and commerce, the technological advancements from public investments, the roads, the ports, the airports, the treaties and diplomatic infrastructure that enables trade, the education infrastructure that educates the workers, the public health system, etc etc etc"

Interesting perspective but totally misrepresented. Are you seriously suggesting that everything you mentioned was paid for by the taxes of the poor? No...replace “the wealthiest" with “the poorest" in your quote. And you can add to that all the charitable donations and philanthropic endeavors. Do they get tax benefit by doing so? Of course...but does society benefit from these donations? Absolutely.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 23, 2019 at 11:07 am

Posted by Tax much?, a resident of Mountain View,

>> Interesting perspective but totally misrepresented.

The wealthiest benefit from infrastructure paid for by everyone. Gas taxes and sales taxes on gas taxes? Anybody who drives, including the poorest, pay those taxes. Property taxes and sales taxes paid for by everyone. In fact, generally, state and local taxes are regressive.

Although I disagree with some of their approach, I find the data in this Forbes article interesting:

Web Link

The article discusses the following:

"Economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California at Berkeley have a new book that has generated an enormous amount of attention. One key conclusion: The richest 400 families in the US paid an average effective tax rate of 23 percent in 2018, while the bottom half of US households paid 24.2 percent of their income in taxes. "

The article discusses how refundable Federal tax credits should be handled. The article concludes that,

"Arguments about methodology shouldn't mask Saez's and Zucman's bigger point: Incomes of the very rich are rising faster than for all other income groups. And the TCJA cut the taxes of high earners by more on average than for low- and moderate-income households, as a share of after-tax income. But that doesn't mean that “billionaires paid a lower tax rate than the working class." "

The very wealthy are doing very well indeed right now.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Mike Barr, a resident of St. Claire Gardens,
on Nov 23, 2019 at 4:59 pm

"The richest 400 families in the US paid an average effective tax rate of 23 percent in 2018, while the bottom half of US households paid 24.2 percent of their income in taxes"

And the wealthiest and their corporations use a huge percentage of the commons that's paid for by everyone else.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Tax much?, a resident of Mountain View,
on Nov 23, 2019 at 7:15 pm

Gee. 23% of, say 2 million (and believe me, this is the low end of the ‘wealthy') = $460,000
vs 24.2% of medium income (2017 was $32k) = $7600.

How is this confusing?


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Mike Barr, a resident of St. Claire Gardens,
on Nov 23, 2019 at 7:17 pm

"How is this confusing?"

I'm confused as to your point, other than throwing numbers around. Are you defending billionaires getting tax cuts and adding trillions to the deficit?


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Tax much?, a resident of Mountain View,
on Nov 24, 2019 at 7:54 am

I'm saying that 23% of the wealth of the top 400 is far and above more than 24% of the rest. I'm saying that the wealthy contribute more than their fair share. And I'm not one of them so it's not that I'm trying to claim anything personally. I do however know quite a few and they are incredibly generous and giving, of both their time and their money, I'm just really tired of people getting down on “the rich".


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Mike Barr, a resident of St. Claire Gardens,
on Nov 24, 2019 at 9:49 am

ahhh, got it. You are "tired" of Americans questioning how much money the rich pay now versus what they paid under Kennedy, Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton etc...

Gosh, sorry that makes you so "tired". Today may be a good day for a nap. While you're snoozing and recovering from the effect of such troubling thoughts, the rest of us will discuss what made America great: public investment for all paid by a progressive tax system.

"The richest 400 families in the US paid an average effective tax rate of 23 percent in 2018, while the bottom half of US households paid 24.2 percent of their income in taxes."

My other friends: one local group that a remake will help is the middle class and upper middle class, who truly have a heavy tax burden, without all the lawyers and tax ploys available to billionaires.

For example: I know of no one making a couple hundred grand a year that hides income in the Caymans.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Citizen Realist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 25, 2019 at 9:21 am

>>“ The wealthiest benefit from the massive public investments that create the nation we have, and all the many things they could not have paid for themselves that enabled their wealth: the court system they disproportionately avail themselves of, the infrastructure, the stability because of our military and commerce, the technological advancements from public investments, the roads, the ports, the airports, the treaties and diplomatic infrastructure that enables trade, the education infrastructure that educates the workers, the public health system, etc etc etc"

>"Are you seriously suggesting that everything you mentioned was paid for by the taxes of the poor?"

What has that got to do with anything? These PUBLIC INVESTMENTS were paid for by the PUBLIC. The wealthiest depend on these investments, including access to markets, etc, so they should have to pay back when they are successful. No one is asking them to pay anything near, proportionally, what *I*, as a non-wealthy person pay in proportion to household income. But we could be fiscally responsible the way Eisenhower was and ensure our infrastructure and public assets are maintained in good condition, for example.

Everyone in my economic stratum that I know locally saw their taxes rise in 2017, in many cases, life-alteringly, crushingly. I have never seen so many homes for sale in this area in November in decades. It's not going to make housing here affordable, but it is going to mean bargains for the investor class. Hmmm, remind me again of the background of the people in power right now who came up with this situation?



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