On Super Tuesday, after a blast of last-minute organization, Rick Santorum won the North Dakota caucus. I spent a strange and happy chunk of my kid-hood in the city of Minot, barely an hour from the Canadian border, and I attended the St. Leo’s parish school downtown, just blocks south of the Souris River and the giant red neon sign of the Bridgeman Creamery. Because this was also a time when my parents happened to be grassroots crusaders in the anti-ERA, anti-secular humanism textbook battles of the late 1970s, I feel a sense of déja vu to see Santorum win in North Dakota.

This is another way of saying I watch him win and feel about ten years old.

It’s Election Season across the USA,  which means there’s a lot of terrific television programs on to distract you from voting. Complicating matters, the howling ads interrupting those terrific television programs often distract from the real issues at stake: how exactly is the government wasting your hard-earned money this time around?

This handy guide attempts to clarify the tangible benefits of government programs to you, the humble internet-faring, presumably young/hipsterish taxpayer, via three basic categories: government programs that help, government programs that are probably screwing you over, and government programs that nobody understands.

GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS THAT HELP

Emergency Services

I’ve always romanticized being a cop, so when a life of office work snared me I turned to 911 to vicariously live my dream job. In the past three years, I’ve used 911 to call in a Mexican teen receiving a blowjob in the children’s park across the street from my house (in broad daylight on the Fourth of July), a Mexican covered in blood leaning against a elementary school wall, and another Mexican writhing on the sidewalk with cuts on his arm and a hospital band on his wrist. Not to make unfair generalizations, but the nation of Mexico owes me a few tacos on the house.

Department of Defense

You can’t ignore the DoD’s perfect record of preventing foreign invasion of American territory, Pearl Harbor notwithstanding. Also, we could be drafted at any time—Iran lobs one nuke at Tel Aviv, and the laws will change overnight—so I’ll use the remainder of this space to underscore my nearsightedness, flat feet, lengthy track record of conscientious objection, extreme allergy to gunpowder, and heartfelt affection for United States military personnel.

Health Care

Seven years ago, Blue Shield rejected me because I’d had a wart on my thumb two years prior. I had to go without formal health care for a year, instead procuring medical advice from night-shift pharmacists, hippie free clinics, and the internet. It was a thrilling experience, in the same way climbing up a sheer rock face in a thunderstorm while juggling chainsaws is thrilling. Pretty much anything would be an improvement.

Roads

Until you get that jetpack up and running, you’ll likely take roads to get around. Personally, I find that while my local Northern California roads are ranked among the worst in the nation in terms of quality, they should be ranked first in the nation in terms of breathtaking scenery. Moreover, my regional snow-removal teams are second-to-none, making premium powder skiing accessible even in a blizzard. Here’s to roads for making it happen.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Did you see that picture Arnold posted making fun of Sarah Palin looking for Russia from Alaska? I totally retweeted it.


GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS THAT ARE PROBABLY SCREWING YOU OVER

Social Security

It’s an open national secret that Social Security won’t exist in forty years, right about the time we’ll need it. However, my generation is getting accustomed to living shittier, and we aren’t putting up much of a fight on this one. Thus, I toss Social Security in the same pile as pensions, reasonably priced health insurance, three-martini lunches, regular churchgoing, four-week vacations, affordable concert tickets, and marriage for life—myths invented by our ancestors and passed down over the generations to pacify the masses.

Subsidies

On the one hand, Doritos and gas are cheap, fostering a nation dominated by lazy flab-asses. On the other hand, organic vegetables and solar panels are expensive, fostering a snooty elitist minority that isn’t much fun at a Super Bowl party. I won’t rest until everyone in American can enjoy a lively Super Bowl party dip of organic guacamole at a fair price.

Bank Bailout

Let’s say you’re at a casino. One distinguished gentleman—let’s call him Charles Barkley—steps to the high-roller table and proceeds to lose a fortune on Pai Gow Poker. As a result, the casino asks all the other patrons to float Charles a loan to cover his bartab, hotel suite, steak dinners, and escort services. Just another reason why I consider the NBA unwatchable.

Iraq

All that fighting, the lives lost, the nations in turmoil, the enormous expense—and we didn’t even get the oil. Plus, Avatar totally should’ve beat The Hurt Locker at the Oscars.

Investment in Innovation

Think of all the terrific advances of recent times, everything from the iPod Nano to the iPhone and even the iPad or—could it be true?—the Verizon iPhone. Not a single one was invented by the government.


GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS NOBODY UNDERSTANDS

Taxes

An unimaginably boring topic, especially for a nation lagging in math and science as badly as this one. Thus, we primitively revert to the Law of the Limbo Stick: lower is always better, unless you’re really rich and about to die.

Medicare and Medicaid

Always remind me of Tweedledum and Tweedledee.


SACRAMENTO, CA-

For the past several hours I’ve been staring into the darkness and begging myself to shutup so I can get a bit of needed rest. But I’m too anxious and my mind is racing. I don’t think I’ll be sleeping until this damn election is over. It’s not so much the presidential election that has me worried. It’s all of these ballot measures that are so important but have somehow been forgotten in the higher ratings mud-slinging and fear-mongering of the presidential candidates (Don’t get me wrong though, I’m still completely freaked out about the presidential election, especially after seeing all the crazies on TV and YouTube).

I cast my ballot about three weeks ago by mail and was then able to convince myself that I had done my part and I would just have to wait for the results. That was, until tonight (or, last night, as it were). I went to a Proposition Party with my boyfriend. No, this was not a party where people proposition you. It was a party where each person was given a ballot proposition to research and discuss with the group so we could each make educated decisions about how we will vote on Tuesday. And that’s when I realized how truly scary this election is, at least here in California.

The people who write these ballot measures are probably happy as pie that the presidential election has stolen the spotlight because some of their propositions are going to get passed just because people don’t know enough to vote them down. Before I voted I took the time to read the voter’s guide so I had a pretty good grasp of the issues when I voted (and I’m proud to say that I didn’t change my vote on any of the propositions after having them explained in more detail). However, those initiatives on which I voted ‘No’ are much scarier to a left-leaner like myself than I had previously thought.

Take Proposition 4, for instance. This initiative is a California constitutional amendment to make it illegal for anyone under age 18 to get an abortion without the doctors first notifying an adult relative. Or, in extreme cases, the girl can take her case to court and ask a judge for permission to get an abortion. Now, I can see how parents would think this is a great idea. And, really, it does sound pretty good on paper. I know I’d want my daughter to tell me if she was going in for an abortion.

But then, I’d hope my daughter and I would have an open and understanding relationship and that she’d be coming to me to help her through such a difficult decision. There are girls out there who don’t have that type of relationship with their parents (I know I didn’t) and whose parents would likely punish them and force them to make a different decision. And there are the cases of abuse. Or the cases where the girl would rather commit suicide than to face telling her parents.

Even so, I can see how parents can be worried that their daughters wouldn’t come to them with such a serious decision. What bothers me about this amendment is the small print (well, OK, the big print too. I obviously voted on this before I knew about the small print, but the small print would have changed my mind had I been leaning toward a ‘Yes’ vote). Small print: This amendment gives parents the right to sue doctors up to four years after they find out about an abortion, even if their daughter tells them after she’s an adult. This will likely raise legal and insurance costs for those doctors who perform abortions – even before they ever get sued. Also, this amendment would make public all judicially decided non-notification of parents, putting judges’ jobs in jeopardy if they judge too often in favor of girls seeking abortions.

And what about the whole going in front of a judge to ask for an abortion? Even though I know I have the right to choose, I still know abortion is an unpopular decision in America and I would not want to face the protesters and the public on my way to court. Nor would I want this to become a public matter. I can imagine that making the choice to abort a fetus is not an easy decision for anybody. And I, for one, would want it to remain a very private matter (isn’t this what got Roe v. Wade passed in the first place?). Forcing teenagers to make this public, even if just to their parents seems to violate everything the Roe v. Wade decision put in place.

Californians voted against this proposition in 2005 and 2006. Both times I sat at my computer refreshing the results screen every two seconds to reassure myself that the measure would be defeated. Luckily, this time around Proposition 8 (the gay-marriage ban) has somehow usurped the attention of the religious right and has kept the anti-abortion legislation out of the spotlight. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t still going to be voting on it. And the fact that we haven’t been hearing much about it really scares me because it could be keeping the closet pro-choicers in the dark as well.

And this is just one of the issues that’s been going through my head all night. I’m still horrified by the abundance of anti-gay-marriage people there are still in this state – one of the bluest states in the union. In 2008. When I first saw the gay-marriage ban on the ballot I thought, “Yeah, but this is California. There’s no way that would pass.” But the last few weeks have really shown me how wrong I was. I’m terrified of these Yes on 8 people – not just because they’re voting Yes on 8, but also because so many of them seem to believe taking away civil liberties is the only important thing on the ballot this election season. I’ve seen interviews with some 8 supporters who say they don’t even plan to vote for president because that’s not what’s important right now. The presidential election. Not important. But taking away the right to marry is?

There’s also Prop. 3 and Prop. 9. And Prop. 6 and Prop. 7. There are so many propositions that sound great at first, but just below the surface there’s something there saying, “Neener, neener, neener! We got one past you!” And now I can’t sleep at night.

I know the world will keep turning if the election doesn’t go the way I want. I know all of the propositions will be challenged in court, regardless of which way they go. Or they’ll end up on the next ballot, yet again.

And I know we’ll survive four more years with an ineffective president.

I just want something more.

-Becca

P.S. I’m curious about what’s going on in other states. What are some of the big propositions you’ve got on your ballots?