Twentieth century philosopher Albert Camus once concluded that “there is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.“
Today, as voters examine some of our state’s more costly propositions, it would appear as if California has come to terms with the futility of its existence and stands only moments away from choking back the barrel of a gun.
Of all the propositions on today’s ballots, it is perhaps Proposition 6 that makes California’s suicidal tendencies most evident. Prop 6, also know as the Safe Neighborhoods Act, seeks to allocate close to $1 billion of state funding in its first year, and over $500 million annually, to correctional programs across California. The measure would also deem any youth over the age of 14 convicted of gang-related felony unfit for juvenile prosecution, forcing them to be tried as an adult. Ultimately, Proposition 6 means more state funding and high incarceration levels for California’s already over-funded and over-crowded prison system.
Examining this proposition should have you asking two questions: How does all of this boil down to California symbolically sucking face with a shotgun? And why should college students care? These two questions conveniently share an answer, and as with most issues in our world, concerned citizens simply need to follow the money in order to find it.
The astronomical amount of state funding that Proposition 6 calls for on a yearly basis would be drawn from what is known as California’s General Fund. Such a drastic increase in correctional spending would require state money to be directed toward the construction of new prison facilities, and reallocated away from “less important” programs such as K-12 Education, Transportation and Housing, Environmental Protection, and last but not least, California’s public colleges and universities.
Meanwhile, as voters debate whether or not to toss another billion dollars of state funding into the financial black-hole that is California’s prison system, the University of California is faced with a $33.1 million deficit resulting from mid-year cuts made to the state’s budget. UC Davis‘ share of this debt will total somewhere around $5 million, resulting in potential staff layoffs and further financial burdens being placed on the student population. Keep in mind that the deficits created by these mid-year cuts come in addition to the $417 million deficit produced by Schwarzenegger’s January budget. Also keep in mind that the total budget deficit currently plaguing the nine UC campuses is less than the annual increase in corrections spending proposed by Proposition 6.
Here lies the cause of California’s self-imposed death sentence – corrections are valued higher than education. Instead of allocating $500 million towards increased educational spending to help keep potential criminals in school and off the streets, the state would rather use that money to build new prisons and fill them with the same youths who received the sub-par education that California has to offer. It’s no coincidence that California boasts one of the nation’s highest incarceration rates, while its schools continuously rank as some of the worst in the nation.
Today, as California stands on the brink of economic ruin, measures such as Proposition 6 threaten to be the shot that ends it all, and it is the responsibility of those who enter the voting booth to decide whether or not to pull the trigger.
JAMES NOONAN hopes Californians realize how much they have to live for and vote no on Proposition 6. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.