Thursday, October 29, 2009

Anti TABOR scare tactics

Next Tuesday in Maine there's a vote on the Tax Payer Bill of Rights, known as TABOR, which is currently in effect in Colorado. It's a system that would limit government spending increases based on inflation and population growth.

This morning I heard a laughable anti-TABOR radio ad. With a scary music playing over a series of "rural" sounding voices listing horrors like making the parents of student athletes pay for some of the equipment, or college students having less of their tuition subsidized; this gem stands out

I'm a Colorado physician and I can tell you that TABOR was a mistake... [then after a very rough edit jump] child immunization rates have plummeted.
Can you say post hoc ergo propter hoc? (Well, I can. Even with only one Latin class under my belt.) Maybe falling immunization rates have other causes, such as, I don't know, a growing pseudoscience movement specifically telling people not to vaccinate their kids.

You think?

From what I've seen, all of the anti-Tabor forces do is take any negative changes that occurred after TABOR was passed and blame it on TABOR. It's like getting a haircut, falling asleep at the wheel, and then suing your barber.

Maybe TABOR and immunizations are related, and maybe state funding is the culprit. Colorado's libertarian Independent Institute doesn't think so.

Detractors also claim that TABOR limits Colorado's health spending and that things are so bad that the state ranks last in childhood immunizations. These bogus claims are based on willful misinterpretation of the National Immunization Survey, a telephone survey of the immunization status of children under age 3. Estimates of coverage rates in states with relatively small populations are estimated from small samples and are subject to error. The Centers for Disease Control note this in the information they publish with the surveys. In 2002, the point estimate of coverage for Colorado for a couple of the vaccine series was lower than any other state. However, when the errors caused by small samples were considered, it was likely that Colorado had immunization rates that were similar to other states like it. As one would expect if mere statistical variation caused the low ranking, 2005 immunization data put Colorado nowhere near the bottom. (Thanks to for the link)
Another weird charge against TABOR is that sometimes "it got so bad voters suspended it." I'm sorry, but do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Letting voters suspend it is part of the TABOR experience - it was designed that way as a safety feature in case something remarkable comes up. It's like scolding a fighter jet manufacturer for a pilot ejecting from the cockpit. The ejection seat was a feature, the dogfight with a MIG was the real problem.

How's TABOR doing now in Colorado? Depends who you ask. A recent poll said the majority want it to change, but not go away altogether. In 2008 Colorado voter's rejected a chance to gut TABOR when they denied Amendment 59. It sounds like voters think it's not perfect, but a step in the right direction.

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