Alex Blaze

The Top 10 Best Ballot Questions Ever

Filed By Alex Blaze | November 06, 2009 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Afghanistan, ballot initiatives, cast a ballot, Debbie Stabenow, funny, health care reform, humorous blog post, iraq, Joe Lieberman, jon kyl, list, maternity leave, politics, poll, question, Senate, survey, top ten list

If "Let the people vote!" is now the dominant, deeply-considered political philosophy, I don't see why we can't all dream about what we want to see on the ballot. There's no cow too sacred, so add in your ballot initiative ideas in the comments.

Here are a few federal policies I'd like to see on the ballot in 2012. There's no federal ballot initiative process (yet), but these are sure winners and there's no reason to think inside the box.

10. Cap bailed-out Wall Street execs' salaries to 150% the average American salary. The only thing the left, the right, and liberals and conservatives who aren't power brokers all agree on is that these folks aren't cool and don't deserve to make tens of millions of tax-payer money as a reward for destroying America's economy.

9. Allow people to take their water bottles on airplanes again. Look, we know that a water bottle can't hold enough liquid explosive to actually take down a plane. The ban on outside drinks is more akin to the ban on outside drinks in movie theaters - only there so that they can jack up the prices on Coke after security and make a handsome profit. Anyone who's been forced to endure a parched throat on an airplane because they would not eat their pride and pay $3 for a can of Sprite would vote for this.

8. Eliminate the Social Security tax cap. Social Security is plenty popular in American, and old people vote more than young people. The beauty of this one is that the Social Security tax cap only benefits people making over about $106K/year, and that number is small and getting smaller. It's a way to benefit people generally, elderly people specifically, at the expense of people who are already making a lot of money, plus it would virtually eliminate the estimated 1% Social Security funding shortfall over the next 75 years.

7. Increase the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour, then fix it to the inflation rate. Increasing the minimum wage is always popular. The only people who seem to oppose reasonable increases in it are millionaires like John Stossel who say things like "I can't tell the difference between $7.25 an hour and $50 an hour because they both sound like peanuts to me" because they don't like the idea of poor people having a say in how much they make. It takes money to live in the US, and there's no reason that people shouldn't have a right to vote on an issue like this.

6. Stop the escalation of conflict in Afghanistan. The war there is polling better than the one in Iraq, but people are still opposed to drawing up the conflict. If we really need a presence there, then let the neocons and Thomas Friedman make their case to the American people. The people need a voice in this system, which obviously their elected leaders, who insist on escalating the conflict, can't provide.

5. Provide free, universal maternity care coverage. 51% of Americans are women and 100% of Americans were born, so this one would be popular. While our government is filled with people like Sen. Jon Kyl, who doesn't think men should have to pay for things they "don't need" like maternity care, most Americans understand that infant mortality is bad and that women shouldn't have to shoulder the cost of our species's reproduction by themselves. Kids are a great way to sell ballot initiatives, and this one has "You want to kill babies and Mom!" written all over it.

4. Guarantee a maximum class size of 20, funded by cuts in the Defense budget. Do you support never-ending war or strong education? Sure, there'll be some fear-mongering, which might make this one harder to win, but it's not like it would ever get through Congress anyway. And remember: kids, kids kids. Reducing class size is one of the best ways to improve academic achievement, especially for minority students, and funding it nationally would reduce disparities in education between rich and poor school districts.

3. Make representation proportionate to state population in the Senate. This is a great idea for a national ballot initiative since, like asking a genie for more wishes, most people will vote to give themselves more votes. Plus it makes the organization fair, since I don't really see why certain Senators from states with almost no one living there (like North Dakota) can act like they can decide everyone else's health care future. We haven't voted on how the Senate is composed in a while, so why not give it a go now?

2. Pull out of Iraq. It's polling terribly because Americans want out. Sure, politicians have fun sending other people's kids to die and kill citizens of other countries in order to steal their resources, but Americans have been stuck with the bill, both in terms of human life and dollar bills. Sure, most people probably wouldn't vote against it because of any concern for Iraqis, but I still have enough faith in Americans that they'd come to the right conclusion. Let the people vote!

1. Create a strong, federally-run, required public option in health care that's open to everyone and can negotiate prices as it pleases. Nothing near that seems to even be on the table right now, but I wouldn't be surprised if it could win an election with the people. Americans overwhelmingly support the public option, and folks know that we're being looted by a system that costs over twice as much as other comparable nations' that provides less health care. I would have put single-payer up here, but that is too easily demagogued. This one's been demagogued for months now and is still popular, so it's a wingnut-tested winner.

Let the people vote!

And if you think that any of these ideas is half-baked, silly, or just bad policy, don't stand in the way of democracy! Let this go to the people and make your case to them. Because why should we stop at letting people vote on homophobic, transphobic, know-nothing, nativist, Ron Paul-esque, or anti-tax initiatives when we can open up the entire legislative process to everyone?

It's the self-esteem generation, and everyone can legislate on any issue now. The power of their baser instincts will guide them, and we can at least get items on the ballot to trump the baser instincts of our elected officials.

Or do you think that people might not be objective or knowledgeable to take on some of these topics?

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Interesting ideas, but #3 is a no-go. Not only does the Constitution explicitly grant each state equal representation in the Senate, but it also explicitly prohibits amendments to change that. There's a bit more detail on Wikipedia at .

I assumed this one would have to be a constitutional amendment on the ballot, but I didn't know that was prohibited by the Constitution. I'm looking through it, but can't find it. Could you repost the link, since it didn't seem to go thru.

I gotta tell you I hated this idea as well. The Senate is supposed to balance the House. Its a measure meant to create two governing bodies that have very unique makeups. By making them pretty much the same thing, there's no point in having a bicameral legislature at all. Other than one checks the other. Seems like out of all of these, this is the most arbitrary and frivolous. Not to mention its bullying, because you're dis empowering the little guy. We may not agree with them, but we can't deny that it sucks when the little guy, the minority has no say at all.

That's what keeps happening to US. We ought to be even MORE sensitive to it.

I like the fact the Senate puts ALL states on an equal footing. Sure there are some greater, more accurate distinctions in our nation--like regional distinctions (maybe there should be an equal number of Senators from Region 1 [the south, the plain states, parts of the midwest] and Region 2 [the northeast, the west and the Blue midwest states]) but it does even the playing field in some pretty great ways.

If we want to make our legislature better, we ought to try electing more parties! We could make parties form around a maximum of 3 issues. They would have to create strong, well parsed stances on each of the three issues, and everything else, they can't comment on. The issues most important to Americans would rise to the top, We could have the universal healthcare, pro-life, free education party, the free market, free guns, spay and neuter your pets party, the equal marriage, pro-choice, end carbs party... whatever resonates with Americans will get the most votes, and they will quickly pass their reforms and then disappear into obscurity while all of their elected members quickly scramble to find new, up-and-coming parties. It would be wildly volatile, but wickedly fun to watch

And it would be FAR more efficient than taking 35 years to get health care reform... and maybe even longer for Equal Marriage.

No. 3 is definitely a no. The whole reason for having a bicameral legislature in which one house was proportionate and the other was fixed was to ensure that states with smaller populations would have an equal say in matters of law.

Marja Erwin | November 6, 2009 5:02 PM

In other words, to ensure that people would have an unequal say. As in the arguments for rotten buroughs.

I wonder why everyone's getting caught up in that one. It's so far from "one person, one vote" that it's laughable, the Senate. Sure, states having equal representation may have made sense to people in the late 1700's, but today it's an outdated idea. We're not a collection of states, but a collection of people.

And, yeah, that might mean that there's no sense in having a bicameral legislature anymore, but I'm sure we could get by with just the House at twice the size.

Rick Elliott | November 7, 2009 1:34 AM

Christian Century magazine (a middle-of-the road publication) had a documented article that the ratio between the top executives and the everyday worker is 340/1. Only Britain comes close with a ratio of 25/1. There's something wrong here. The gap between rich and poor is widening. Historically that usually means a revolution may well take place.

alex, i like your list without doubt. though you may have erred on number 3, your heart is in the right place in thinking that way.

interestingly enough, i didn't see any glbt-specific measures being proposed here. is it that you don't want to scare all those who are so virulently opposed, or is it that these things simply make sense no matter what, and we don't always have to have our own agenda as the primary focus?

in any event, it's a thoughtful piece that warrants more attention. thanks.

The only thing more frightening that a country run by corrupt politicians is a country run by an ignorant citizenry (aka Americans). I'm just about done voting with my ballot and my wallet. I think I may have to vote with my feet soon...

if #3 were to happen wouldn't those smaller states eventually wither and die away?

with no power the north dakota's and alike would eventually morph into a one super state.

as for #7, $12 for flipping burgers? wow!