California's Direct Democracy Troubles

  • Aired:  12/05/11
  •  | Views: 140,965

John Oliver investigates Amazon.com's attempt to overturn a tax law designed to reduce California's $26 billion deficit. (5:18)

( CHEERS AND APPLAUSE )

>> Jon: WELCOME BACK.

OH, THE HOLIDAY SEASON, 'TIS

THE SEASON.

THE HOLIDAYS ARE UPON US WHICH

MEANS WE HEAR AT THE DAILY

SHOW TURN OUR ATTENTION TO THE

NEEDIEST AMONG US: GIANT ON-LINE

RETAILERS.

THEY'RE SUFFERING AND NOWHERE

IS THE SITUATION MORE HEART

BREAKING THAN IN CALIFORNIA.

JOHN OLIVER HAS MORE.

>> Reporter: CALIFORNIA IS IN

TROUBLE.

THEY'RE FACING A FINANCIAL

ARMAGEDDON.

AND IT'S LARGELY BECAUSE OF

ONE THING.

DIRECT DEMOCRACY.

>> THEY THROW ISSUES ON THE

BALLOTS AND PEOPLE VOTE FOR

THEM WITHOUT ACTUALLY KNOWING

WHAT THE RAMIFICATIONS ARE.

>> WE HEAR THAT DIRECT

DEMOCRACY IS ON WONDERFUL BUT

WHAT IF IT'S NOT.

>> Reporter: WITH JUST 500,000

SIGNATURES CALIFORNIANS CAN

PUT ANYTHING ON THE BALLOT

RIGHT PAST THE LEGISLATURE AND

MAKE IT LAW.

IT'S A DIFFICULT SYSTEM TO

UNDERSTAND UNTIL YOU TALK TO

STATE DEMOCRATIC CHAIRMAN JOHN

BURDEN.

>> IT'S TOTALLY (BEEP) UP.

IT WAS PUT IN PLACE TO PROTECT

PEOPLE FROM THE SPECIAL

INTERESTS.

IT'S NOW BECOME A TOOL OF THE

SPECIAL INTERESTS TO SCREW THE

PEOPLE.

>> Reporter: I'M NOT SURE IT'S

NOT AS BAD AS YOU'RE SAYING.

>> IT'S GIVE YOU A REAL (BEEP)

EXAMPLE.

THE TEAM (BEEP) BECAUSE

THERE'S NOT ENOUGH MONEY FOR

THE SCHOOL, NOT ENOUGH MONEY

FOR STATE SERVICES.

>> Reporter: HE'S TALKING

ABOUT PROPOSITION 13 WHICH

MANDATES THE PROPERTY TAXES

CANNOT BE RAISED MEANING THAT

THERE'S NOT ENOUGH MONEY TO

PAY FOR THINGS LIKE

PROPOSITION 98 WHICH MANDATES

THAT CALIFORNIANS DRAMATICALLY

INCREASE SPENDING ON

EDUCATION.

SO THE STATE PASSED A LAW

SAYING THEY DON'T HAVE TO PAY

FOR THINGS THAT FE PASSED A

LAW REQUIRING THEMSELVES TO

PAY FOR.

>> PEOPLE SAY HOW COULD THIS

HAVE HAPPENED?

WELL, IT HAPPENED BECAUSE THEY

BOUGHT A BAG OF BULL (BEEP)

AND VOTED FOR IT.

>> Reporter: YOU CUSS MORE

THAN A WEST COAST RAPPER.

>> WHO?

>> Reporter: BUT CALIFORNIA

HAS A SOLUTION TO REDUCE ITS

$26 BILLION DEFICIT, A NEW LAW

REQUIRING ALL E-COMMERCE

COMPANIES LIKE AMAZON.COM TO

PAY STATE SALES TAX.

WHAT DID AMAZON DO?

>> AMAZON LAUNCHED AN

EXPENSIVE CAMPAIGN TO OVERTURN

THE LAW THROUGH A BALLOT

MEASURE.

>> Reporter: THAT'S RIGHT

AMAZON.COM IS USING-- WHAT

ELSE? -- BUT DIRECT DEMOCRACY

PAYING FIRMS TO COLLECT NAMES

AT $3 PER SIGNATURE.

ITS DEMOCRACY AT ITS FINEST.

ACCORDING TO REPUBLICAN STATE

ASSEMBLYMAN TIM DONNELLY.

>> THIS IS FREEDOM.

FREEDOM TAKES ON MANY FORMS.

>> Reporter: WHAT ARE YOU SAY

TO GO THE CRITICISMS THAT THIS

IS BEING HIJACKED AS A PROCESS

BY MAJOR COMPANIES?

>> IN THIS CASE THE LITTLE

GUYS ARE STANDING ON AMAZON'S

SHOULDERS.

THEY'RE SAYING YOU KNOW WHAT?

WE JUST WANT TO BREATHE SOME

FREE AIR.

>> Reporter: THAT'S NOT

OVERSTATING IT?

>> NO.

I NEVER OVERSTATE IT.

THE PEOPLE DON'T WANT TO PAY

ILLEGAL TAXES.

THEY CERTAINLY DON'T WANT TO

PAY ILLEGAL TAXES THAT WILL BE

USED TO SUBSIDIZE ILLEGALS.

I DON'T THINK THERE'S ANYTHING

WRONG WITH THAT.

>> Reporter: HOW CAN YOU GET

AN AMAZON SALES TAX BACK TO

ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS.

>> IN I CAN TIE ANYTHING TO

ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION.

>> Reporter: WHAT IF I WERE TO

SUGGEST AN INITIATIVE THAT MAY

31 SHOULD FOREVER BE REFERRED

TO AS TIM DONNELLY IS AN

(BEEP) DAY?

I MEAN, I WOULD NEED 500,000

SIGNATURES.

>> I DON'T THINK THAT WOULD BE

THAT HARD IN THIS STATE.

>> Reporter: I THINK THAT'S

PROBABLY TRUE.

IT SEEMS A VIRTUAL CERTAINTY

THAT AMAZON WILL BE PAYING NO

SALES TAX IN CALIFORNIA NEXT

YEAR.

WHY CAN'T PEOPLE BE HAPPY WITH

THIS VICTORY FOR THE BIG

LITTLE MAN?

>> THE (BEEP) SHOULD AMAZON

ESCAPE WHAT WE'RE SHUTTING

DOWN SCHOOLS, SHUTTING DOWN

HOSPITALS, FIRING TEACHERS AND

COPS AND FIREMEN, SCREWING

MENTAL HEALTH PEOPLE BECAUSE

THEY DON'T WANT TO HAVE A GOD-

DAMNED SALES TACK LIKE

EVERYBODY ELSE.

>> Reporter: IT'S THE AMERICAN

DREAM.

YOU WORK HARD.

YOU MAKE BILLIONS AND THEN YOU

CAN HAVE A VOICE.

>> YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING.

>> Reporter: IT'S WHAT THIS

COUNTRY IS BUILT ON.

>> MY DAUGHTER GAVE ME A

KINDLE FOR MY BIRTHDAY

PRESENT.

AND I WILL NOT USE IT BECAUSE

OF THESE GOD-DAMNED PEOPLE AT

AMAZON.

I GO TO MY BOOKSTORE AND BUY A

GOD-DAMNED BOOK AND READ IT.

IT'S THAT SIMPLE.

I CAN READ IT TAKING A CRAP AS

OPPOSED TO LOOKING AT A KINDLE

OR A COMPUTER TAKING A CRAP.

>> Reporter: OKAY.

CLEARLY THE DIRECT DEMOCRACY

SYSTEM IS SLIGHTLY FLAWED BUT

HOW DO YOU FIX IT?

>> YOU COULD FIX IT SEVERAL

WAYS.

TO QUALIFY AN INITIATIVE THE

STATUTORY INITIATIVE IS 5% OF

THOSE WHO VOTED AT THE LAST

GUBERNATORIAL ELECTION.

>> Reporter: HOLD ON, HOLD ON.

LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT.

THE ONLY WAY TO STOP 500,000

SIGNATURES FORCING LEGISLATION

THROUGH IS TO GET 500,000

SIGNATURES TO STOP IT?

>> EXACTLY.

(BEEP).

>> Reporter: IT SEEMS ONLY

CALIFORNIA VOTERS CAN SAVE

THEMSELVES FROM THEMSELVES.

WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN

SIGNING AN INITIATIVE TO ASK

PEOPLE TO STOP BEING ASKED FOR

SIGNATURES?

>> YES.

>> Reporter: YOU'RE AGAINST

DOING EXACTLY WHAT YOU'RE

DOING NOW, RIGHT?

>> RIGHT.

>> Reporter: THERE'S NO NICE

WAY OF SAYING THIS.

CALIFORNIA IS... WHAT'S THE

WORD?

>> (BEEP).

>> Reporter: EXACTLY.

>> Jon: JOHN O

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