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Ray Haynes

Mr. Haynes is an Assembly member representing Riverside and Temecula. He serves on the Appropriations and Budget Committees. [go to Assembly Member Haynes website at California Assembly][go to Haynes index]

Fourteen Or Fight!!!
...and other weird rights...
[Ray Haynes] 4/6/04

Proving again that no wacky Hollywood storyline is too bizarre to become legislation in California, Senator John Vasconcellos has introduced a bill to give children as young as 14 the right to vote. I believe this idea was first put forward in the 1968 movie Wild in the Streets. In this campy film, a politician trying to manipulate the youth vote calls for lowering the voting age to 18 (voting age was still 21 at that time). The mega-pop star he enlists to help him ups the ante at a rally with a demand that 14-year olds be given the right to vote. Under the pressure of his new hit song “14 or Fight!,” the California legislature passes a compromise measure lowering the voting age to a much more sensible 15. In the end, the youth movement takes over, people over the age of 30 are put into retirement camps where they are forced to eat food laced with LSD, and I suppose everyone lives happily ever after.

While I have known some teenagers who are fully capable of discussing political issues and making rational decisions, there are reasons why they as a group are deprived of many privileges in our society. They may not sign contracts or get married under their own name until they are 18. They are restricted in the hours and facilities they can work in as well. They may not purchase a handgun or alcohol until they are 21. Right now to buy a cigarette in California you have to be 18, but some of the same people who want to lower the voting age to 14, want to raise the smoking age to 21.

This is because historically teenagers and younger children have not proven themselves to be as careful in their reasoning, responsibilities, restraint, and long-term planning as adults—and we adults haven’t always set the bar very high ourselves.

In addition, any parent out there will likely agree with me that amongst many teens, there is a sense of entitlement that rivals that of the worst welfare queens. Most of us with teens can vouch for the teen-declared right to cars, allowances, staying out late, going to parties, choosing their own friends, choosing (though not paying for) their own clothes, et cetera. Children in our society are brought up mostly receiving what they need (and frequently what they want) with little expectation of anything being given in return. To them, the whole world is “free”, because while somebody may have had to pay for what they got, it wasn’t them.

When you finally leave school and your parents’ home, reality often hits hard. Suddenly, every want comes with a price tag. Poor decisions may have more severe consequences than they did when your parents were always there to bail you out or pick you up. Your allowance becomes a paycheck—one with multiple itemized deductions for state taxes, federal taxes, and some money-sucking acronym called FICA. There are many young socialists who become Republicans overnight when they get their first real adult paycheck and see the difference between the amount they thought they were getting paid (gross wages) and the amount they actually get to spend (net pay).

Not everybody suddenly matures when they get out of their parent’s home and out of school and gets a job. I wrote an editorial years ago about a proposal in California to make cable television a right. There’s an adult in Germany suing his government because he thinks their health program ought to provide him with prostitutes and porn when his wife is travelling. The right not to be offended is an ever-increasing right in the courts and legislature of California. In fact, the state legislature has been regularly compared to a bunch of children over the years—a comparison NOT intended to be flattering, despite what Senator Vasconcellos may have thought.

The major issue here though is the maturity level. The reason teenagers can’t sign contracts and get credit cards without parent co-signers is because they are more easily deceived, and less likely to read the fine print. There are many people and organizations that want to take advantage of that characteristic of teenagers, and politicians are one of them. The ability to march them in a bloc down to the polling place in the school gym to vote for new school bonds, higher teacher salaries, and new environmental regulations is making them salivate.

So while many liberals are concerned about businesses preying on our youth, with VISA, big tobacco and the beer companies trying to mislead them into irresponsibility, the truth is that politicians want to do the same thing, and politicians are much better liars than businessmen are. Do I think that letting 14-year olds vote will result in we oldsters getting locked up in LSD-spiked retirement camps? No, of course not. But like “they” say in the movie: Better safe than sorry! CRO


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