Jewish World Review March 12, 2004/ 19 Adar, 5764

Greg Crosby

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Consumer Reports

Robbing the Cradle for Votes | Just when we thought California couldn't get any goofier, the lawmakers in Sacramento have proven us wrong once again. A proposed amendment to California's constitution would give the vote to kids as young as 14 years old. That's right, 14 years old. 14 years old - like in the second year of junior high school (opps, I mean middle school. Sorry). 14 years old - like not being able to even shave yet. 14 years old - like not knowing how to deal with all those new hormones which are just starting to kick in. 14 years old - like trying to make up your mind if you want to spend your week's allowance on the new Britney Spears CD or on a large buttered popcorn, super-sized drink, and a box of Goobers at the multiplex.

If passed, the amendment to the constitution would give 16-year-olds a half-vote and 14-year-olds a quarter-vote in state elections. HUH? That's weird, too. I guess the thinking is, these kids aren't really full-fledged grown-ups yet, so we'll only give 'em a PERCENTAGE of a vote. A percentage of a vote based on age. Well then, why not give 20-year olds a three-quarters of a vote? 30-year olds can have a full vote. 50-year olds should get TWO votes. And if you make it to 80, by golly, you ought to get five or six votes!

Okay, now get this intelligent quote from State Sen. John Vasconcellos, who was among the four lawmakers to propose "the kid vote" idea last Monday: "When we gave the vote to those who didn't own property, then to women, then to persons of all colors, we added to the richness of our democratic dialogue and our own nation's integrity and its model for the world." This guy is equating giving the vote to women and blacks with giving the vote to children. Vasconcellos then went on to say it was time to further extend the vote. I think it's time for Sen. Vasconcellos to further extend his psychotherapy seasons. I don't know if Vasconcellos and the other three lawmakers behind this absurd amendment are Democrats, but chances are - they are. This sounds like just the wacky kind of thing that liberal Dems would support. And oh, by the way, it's no secret that teenagers and young adults tend to be more liberal than older folks. Young people in general are more idealistic than pragmatic. It would make sense, therefore, for Democrats to want to get youngsters in the voting booths. Democrats would benefit much more than Republicans in having the kiddies vote.

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It would take a two-thirds approval by the Legislature for this proposal to appear on the November ballot - fortunately. I don't think they'll get their two-thirds. Thank goodness Prop 56 was defeated in this last primary election; otherwise the Legislature would only have needed a simple majority to pass this foolishness.

Is this the only thing the state lawmakers have to think about up there in Sacramento? Oh that's right, it's not - Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg took some time out a few days ago to marry her long-time lesbian "partner" in a ceremony at San Francisco City Hall. State Sen. Shelia Kuehl, another openly lesbian legislator, hosted the festivities. Kuehl, by the way, introduced legislation which has led to banning soda machines in all public schools in California.

And California isn't alone in this. Forbes Magazine reports on something called "The Twinkie Tax" which is going on in states all across the country. Snack foods such as candy, cookies, soft drinks, and potato chips are being targeted by more than a dozen states looking to increase their revenue. States are doing this on the basis that charging a few extra cents per can or bag will trim their budget deficits and encourage the rest of us to slim down. It's the fat police, folks - hide your Ding Dongs.

It is true that obesity rates have doubled for adults and tripled for children in their teens over the past 20 years, but government legislation and increased taxes are not the way to go about getting Americans to cut down on their fat intake. Frankly, unless I'm stealing groceries out of the FBI's PX, it's not the governments business what the hell I eat.

New York is planning a new sales tax on sweets and snacks, on top of a bill to ban the sale of junk food from vending machines in public schools; Washington State, in which there is currently no food tax at all, will be introducing SB 5928 which will tax candy, exempting anything containing flour or requiring refrigeration. Other states such as Indiana, Kentucky, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Texas currently have statutes that provide that items such as candy, confectionary items, chewing gum, and other snack foods are not exempted from sales tax, as are other food products sold in those states.

Massachusetts is looking at a bill that will require restaurants to offer at least one healthy option on the children's menu. It's big brother telling us what to eat. That would be like the government requiring clothing stores to offer at least one formal dress outfit. Is it a nice idea for a restaurant to offer something healthy on its menu? - sure. Is it wrong for the government to pass a law demanding it? - absolutely! If you don't like what a restaurant is serving then go somewhere else. If parents want their children to eat healthy food, then go somewhere that serves it, or stay home and cook it for them. Why is that such a hard concept to grasp?

But wait. Come to think of it, maybe allowing children the vote isn't such a bad idea after all. You can be sure that if kids get a vote on it, there won't be any new taxes on junk food, soda pop and candy!

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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