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Ad nauseam

POSTED October 26, 2010 8:33 p.m.

Election season advertising campaigns are always insufferable, but this year is the worst in recent memory.

I’m not quite certain when politicos decided election season was the appropriate time to bamboozle an unwitting public. But now every advertisement is a 30-second assault on our intelligence, proclaiming half-truths as gospel and intentionally misleading voters about measures that will drastically affect the future of this state.

Take, just as one example among many, the Yes on Proposition 25 campaign.

If you’ve somehow, blissfully, avoided the advertisements dominating the airwaves, suffice it to say the Proposition aims to increase the likelihood the state budget passes on time. As the ads proclaim, Prop 25 would cut lawmakers’ salaries should they not pass the budget by a deadline.

But should the proposition be passed by hordes of voters excited at the prospect of hitting lazy lawmakers in their pocketbooks, those same voters would likely be surprised next June when only a 50 percent majority is needed to pass a budget.

No, this drastic change – cutting the percentage vote needed to pass a budget from two-thirds to one-half – isn’t explicitly mentioned in any of the Yes on 25 television ads I’ve seen. And with good reason, as the proposition would essentially hand full budgetary power to the party controlling the State Assembly and the State Senate.

As the Democrats have held both the Senate and Assembly uninterrupted since 1996, it’s plain to see who Prop 25 would really benefit. But, of course, there’s no mention of any of this in the campaign ads.

I’m not entirely against Prop 25, mind you. I think there are definite advantages to passing a budget on time. Not to mention the positives of a budget which isn’t rendered ineffective by “compromise” driven language that simultaneously increases spending and cuts taxes, balancing finances through loopholes that will never truly reduce California’s budget gap.

The issue is that it’s utterly irresponsible to attempt to convince Californians to support this drastic change in our state’s governance without so much as a passing mention of what the measure would do.

If someone wants to change the budgetary process, fine. Let’s just have an open conversation about it first.

Unfortunately, more and more campaigns seem unwilling to discuss what their measures truly entail.

Yes on Proposition 23 advertisements claim the measure will save jobs by temporarily postponing an “energy tax.” In truth, the measure has the potential to forever “postpone” a law intended to control air pollution, as the law would not go back into effect until statewide unemployment falls to 5.5 percent for an entire year. And the Yes on 23 advocates make no mention of the green jobs which may be eliminated along with the “energy tax.”

Do these advertising experts assume that an easily swayed public will simply nod their heads, check the appropriate box, and then forget about what they were promised? They must, just as they assume people will not read the Voter Information Guide, dutifully prepared by our Secretary of State, which carefully outlines each measure in depth.

I’m not sure what can be done about these misleading campaigns.

Perhaps a mandated five seconds of each advertisement should be spent on a state-approved explanation of the measure. Maybe campaign spending limits should be set so low as to effectively ban television advertisements. Or perchance we could do away with these pesky propositions altogether if those politicians we send to Sacramento could decide on issues themselves.

There’s no easy answer. So, for now, the onus lies with the voters.

We need to stand up and say no to these half-true advertisements. We need to issue a wakeup call for advertisers who think the common man shouldn’t be bothered with the details.

In our democracy, it is we, the voters, who have the power. Let’s take the time to find out what a measure is really about and make an informed decision, rather than ceding our right to those with the money for advertisements.

If we don’t know what we’re voting for, then why are we voting at all?

To contact Alex Cantatore, run a multi-million dollar ad campaign, which is either inaccurate or misleading, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com, or call 634-9141.

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