Once again, the Daily Show sees fit to make fun of us, and this time it's the entire state of California that takes the brunt of their comedic reportage. On last night's Daily Show, they looked into the ballot initiative sponsored by Amazon.com to overturn the state law requiring online retailers to pay sales tax in the state which was a prime example of how the direct democracy thing in California has become perverted and regularly used by corporations and special interests to their own benefit.
Amazon launched a massive signature campaign earlier this year, trying to collect 500,000 signatures at $3 a pop (from professional petitioners), to put an initiative on the ballot overturn ABX1, the state law that's requiring them to pay state sales tax back to the state like any other retailer. The initiative seemed likely to pass, with their money behind it, however Amazon ultimately backed off the initiative knowing that they were fighting a losing battle nationally. California, Texas, New York, Illinois, Tennessee, and some other states have already passed laws requiring online retailers to pay sales tax.*
But it was kind of a close call, and that's mostly what the Daily Show segment is about.
"It's totally fucked up," admits CA Democratic Party chairman John Burton. "[The ballot initiative process] 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."
"I'm sure it's not as bad as all that," says cheeky correspondent John Oliver.
"I'll give you a real bad fucking example," replies Burton. "Prop 13 has fucked up the state forever because there's not enough money for the schools, not enough money for services..."
... And it goes on. Also, because of the Amazon bullshit, Burton refuses to use the Kindle his daughter gave him as a gift. "I go to a goddamn bookstore and buy a book. It's that simple."
* This post has been corrected to reflect that Amazon backed off their ballot initiative effort in exchange for a delay in having to start to pay tax in CA.