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trum. That is where you seem to have some very good persuasion, Professor Abraham, because you are saying that it is a two-edged sword and there are going to be some things that no one will like.
South and North Carolina are not going to like losing their tobacco subsidies, but then again maybe we are going to lose all agricultural subsidies. Maybe we will do away with the bureaucracy in one swoop, which would be a tremendous thing, I think, in this society. The fact of the matter is that this is something we are going to live with and pay for. Gradually it would evolve into a system that might very well work with education.
The testimony today has been very, very informative and interesting to me.
Professor Berg, I appreciate having read your statement, the facts and figures that you have brought out.
However, we would be happy to receive any additional information the three of you would care to submit in written form. It could be incorporated within the record. I would ask unanimous consent that be done.
Senator ABOUREZK. Without objection.
Senator HATCH. I would submit that what works on a State level might not be illustrative of what is going to happen on a Federal level. In fact, I do not think it will be.
Mr. BERG. May I respond?
Senator HATCH. Yes, I would like to hear your response.
Mr. BERG. It is difficult for any of us, particularly social scientists, to sit here and predict that it will or will not happen and I do not think we professionally could do that.
Senator HATCH. No, but you have statistics that lead you to something.
Mr. BERG. I would not make that prediction. I would suggest, however, as a social scientist that I have not seen any empirical evidence presented by any of my colleagues with differing views and that includes my distinguished colleague Peter with whom I have argued in the past on this issue, I do not see any evidence that it will operate differently at the Federal level. As a social scientist, if I cannot find evidence to the contrary, then I think I will continue to have confidence in my own position which is based on an examination of over 50-years experience in 23 States. I think there is some basis for this view.
Also, I think that is a fundamental part of our tradition. It may be that in some areas we are getting back to what I believe was characteristic of this country some years ago. The States were in some cases somewhat of a proving ground for the kinds of things that can go on at the Federal level. Historically, around the turn of the century I think that was the case in some policy areas-for example, social security, but I do not want to get into that.
In any event, I do not see evidence to the contrary and if I cannot find evidence to the contrary, I am not persuaded by philosophical arguments.
Senator HATCH. It is more than that though. Let me give you an illustration.
Recently one of the major weeklies came out and said in essence that the middle class in this country is sick and tired of supporting everyone. In their own self interest they are saying:
We just don't want to pay any more welfare. We are just going to cut them out whether it hurts them or whether it doesn't because we want to think of ourselves for a change.
Why couldn't they say:
We are just not going to support the aged any more with this unwieldy. overburdened unfunded debt of the social security program. We are going to start thinking about the middle class that pays all this burden.
I could see some terrible dislocations.
Mr. BERG. In this case there is some evidence. For example, we have had several property tax initiatives reach the ballot in the State of California that, without question, would have been highly beneficiary to a middle class homeowner. It would have clipped them in other ways perhaps because the money to run Government is going to have to come from somewhere such as from a higher sales tax. The measure also provide very special favors to others in the State, particularly large industrial concerns. The immediate response was, my gosh, if it gets on the ballot, the overburdened property taxpayer is going to opt out because it is going to cut his or her property tax.
That has not been their response the three times that this type of measure has been on the ballot. The first one I recall was in 1968. The legislature very hurriedly put another one on the ballot almost exactly the opposite, so we voted on 1 and 1A. The voters responded in what I thought was the non-self interest position and defeated the initiative. They have done that consistently.
Former Governor Reagan had a similar proposal in 1973 in a special election. It was highly appealing in terms of looking at it on its surface. You would get some money back. What came out of that debate and election, however, suggests that the public is more aware of the kinds of solutions that are going to have to be enacted to solve the tax problems of the State than commonly believed.
I think there is some evidence that the so-called mass middle class, which I believe is burdened in some cases, will not cut off the poor at the pass, so to speak, by the initiative process. That is the kind of evidence to which I refer.
I do not see that kind of evidence offered as a very persuasive argument on the other side.
Senator HATCH. That is interesting.
We appreciate the testimony that all of you have brought before us. It has been provocative and I think very interesting.
I am particularly glad, Professor Bachrach, that you are here because we have not heard any antitestimony today. Yours is extreme interesting and I think in many ways very right.
The problem is if we are going to have this kind of legislation, what is the best kind to have. I rather like the idea of forcing the Congress to vote once it hits a certain point. They would have to vote within a certain period of time. It would have to be a reasonable period so Congress could have hearings and really do the best that we could on it. That might be a way of getting things before the
Congress that never have a chance to come up because they are held up in committee or stopped in committee.
I submit there would be a whole new spectrum of political ideology, which may not be bad, a whole new spectrum of activists in our society and a whole new group of millionaires. The free enterprise system would benefit greatly from this amendment.
In any event, I think you would find, with the innovative American mind, we might even create some new political science doctrines which might be extremely interesting for the whole country.
I have really appreciated hearing your testimony, gentlemen, and being with you, Senator Abourezk, whom I respect.
Senator ABOUREZK. Thank you all very much. We appreciate it. The hearings will resume at 10 o'clock tomorrow morning in this room. Ralph Nader will be the first witness. There will be groups from Massachusetts; from the State of Washington; from Los Angeles, Calif.; from North Carolina; and from Washington, D.C., to testify tomorrow.
The final two witnesses today are Roger Telschow and John Forster, co-directors of Initiative America. They are accompanied by Bill Harrington.
This is the group that has been promoting very strongly the idea of a national initiative. They have gone around the country and campaigned. They are conducting at this time a citizens grassroots campaign in favor of the initiative.
We would like to welcome all of you to the subcommittee hearings. If you are ready to testify, please proceed.
TESTIMONY OF ROGER TELSCHOW, CO-DIRECTOR, INITIATIVE AMERICA; ACCOMPANIED BY JOHN FORSTER, CO-DIRECTOR, INITIATIVE AMERICA, AND BILL HARRINGTON, LEGISLATIVE COORDINATOR, INITIATIVE AMERICA
Mr. TELSCHOw. Thank you, Senator.
I will be the only one of the three of us giving testimony but Bill Harrington and John Forster are here to address any questions that may be appropriate for them to answer.
First of all, there are several clarifications I would like to make. One is on the 3-percent requirement in Senate Joint Resolution 67. It was getting a bit confusing in some of the discussion. The actual intent of the bill would be a requirement of 3 percent of all those voting in the last election for President. That requirement would total about 2.5 million signatures. In addition to that, those signatures would be required to be distributed over at least 10 States at the 3-percent level. Therefore, signatures would have to be collected. in a minimum of 10 States. In addition, the overall figure would be about 2.5 million signatures.
The overall figure is so large that most States will have to participate in a petition drive, thus eliminating the possibility of regional domination of the process.
I would like to make a comment on Mr. Bachrach's testimony that citizens are not ready to make decisions on complex social issues. I disagree with that strongly. I think the same kind of argument
was probably used when there was a drive to gain women's suffrage in this country. I think the argument was probably circulated that women are in the house all the time doing housework, so how could they possibly know how to vote on political issues? The same argument has probably been used for blacks or any other segment of the public which once was nonvoting.
Initiative America is a national network of citizens, many of whom have used the initiative process at the State level. Our organization worked to draft and gain House and Senate sponsorship of the voter initiative amendment. Since introduction, Initiative America has worked to educate citizens about the amendment. Next year, we will continue to work toward its ratification.
Today's discussion relates to many other discussions throughout history. Let me give an example of that.
In the 13th century, King John signed the Magna Carta amidst fear and apprehension of the consequences. Sharing royal authority to even a limited extent with the barons was not only unheard of, but it was also a very threatening precedent. Throughout the history of political self-determination, leaders have, however-a step at a time-shared an increasing amount of decisionmaking authority with the people. Each evolutionary step came with reluctance and even fear.
Throughout the last two centuries, the Constitution of the United States has been amended to bring greater power to the individual citizen. Voting rights have been extended to all races, particularly former slaves. Senators are now directly elected by the people. District of Columbia residents are permitted to vote. Women and 18-year-olds now vote. And poll taxes have been abolished.
In fact, 6 of the last 10 constitutional amendments have extended the citizens' right to vote. The people have traditionally gained a stronger and fuller role in State and Federal decisionmaking. Yet, as each of these amendments were considered, opponents warned of disaster, a breakdown of our governmental system, a tyranny by the majority, and so on.
Initially, there will be predictions that a Federal voter initiative is unworkable, that it is a potential danger to our society, and that the people plainly can't be granted such powers. But then a Federal voter initiative will become a reality, just as past amendments to extend voting rights have. There are many reasons for believing that this amendment will succeed:
First, in response to introduction just 5 months ago, hundreds of citizens have written our office and hundreds more have written Senators and Congresspeople, wanting to know how to help promote this amendment. Interest in the amendment has far exceeded the expectations.
Two, the amendment is "pro-people." An additional means for public access to Federal Government is welcomed in the face of a prevailing sense of powerlessness and disillusionment on the part of Americans.
Third, as stated above, companion amendments to the Constitution set an evolutionary trend compatible with a new voter initiative right.
Fourth, modern-day mass communication, almost universal literacy, and voter awareness of the issues make voter initiative more practicable than ever before.
Fifth, this national effort is aided by efforts in some 10 States to gain State-level initiative powers. Last November in the District of Columbia a landslide 83 percent of voters requested initiative powers.
With over 70 years of use at the State level, initiative powers have never been taken away. Though State adoption was initially viewed with skepticism, initiative is now an integral part of 23 States' lawmaking.
A national discussion has begun on the question of trusting the American public to share in some Federal lawmaking. Granting the voter initiative right is a major step toward renewed trust between the people and Government. This can be summed up as follows: "When the Government puts more trust in the people, people will put more trust in the Government."
As Congress debates the voter initiative amendment, opposition to the amendment will use primarily the following arguments:
First, voter initiative will enact bad laws. People will vote emotionally.
If citizens are charged with voting on candidates, then they must certainly be trusted to vote on issues. The history of State initiatives shows that citizens enact just as good laws as politicians do. The legal language is just as sound; the laws work just as effectively; and the public votes with restraint by passing only about one in three initiatives reaching the ballot.
Initiative votes are widely debated. Opinion leaders evaluate them and advise voters. Initiatives are subjected to far greater scrutiny than laws considered in the legislature. The result is that people are tricked by special interests probably less often than politicians themselves are.
Second, too many issues will be on the ballot. Frivolous issues will be voted on.
Putting to rest the myth that California votes on 20 initiatives each year will best dispose of this argument. In fact, in the last 10 years, an average of less than two initiatives per year have appeared on the California ballot, whereas the legislature itself has submitted about 10 per year in the form of constitutional amendments and the like. California and other States use initiative only in special circumstances, when an issue is of broad concern. Frivolous Federal issues would not survive a petitioning requirement of 2.5 million valid signatures as proposed in the bill Senate Joint Resolution 67.
Senator ABOUREZK. Excuse me just a minute.
I have to go to a conference committee meeting right now. The staff counsel, Kevin Murray, will conduct the hearing and finish up. I want to apologize but something "hot" just came up.
Mr. TELSCHOW. OK.
Mr. MURRAY. Go ahead, Roger.
Mr. TELSCHOW. The third argument used against the process is "Special interests will use initiatives to get their way."
Special interests already have excellent access to the existing legislative process through political contributions and lobbying. There