On Monday evening The Daily Show took on California's ballot initiative system with a segment called "California's Direct Democracy Troubles."
While correspondent John Oliver is usually the comedic heart of these shorts, John Burton, chairman of the Democratic Party in California, stole the show. In one exchange, the foul-mouthed politico held forth on everything from the ballot initiative system ("it's totally f**ked up") to Proposition 13 (a property tax law that has "f**ked up the state forever") to the state's inability to pay for education (the voters "bought a bag of bulls**t and voted for it.")
Oliver's reaction? "You curse more than a West Coast rapper."
Oliver then delved into Amazon's battle against California sales tax as an example of how direct democracy could be "hijacked" by large corporations.
Governor Jerry Brown had signed a bill earlier in 2011 that would begin collecting sales tax from the online giant, Amazon. In response, the internet retailer severed ties with almost 25,000 California businesses that sell on their platform and launched a referendum campaign to overturn Brown's new law with a ballot initiative.
Amazon has since reached a compromise with California; in exchange for dropping the referendum campaign, Amazon doesn't have to pay sales taxes until at least 2012, according to the Associated Press. In the meantime, Amazon is lobbying for federal legislation that would solve the issue once and for all.
But don't think that Burton is satisfied. "Why the s**t should Amazon skate when we have a state that is shutting down schools, shutting down hospitals, firing teachers, firing cops, firing firemen [and] screwing mental health people?" he asked. "Because they don't want to have a goddamn sales tax like everybody else!"
Burton's so angry with Amazon that he refuses to use the kindle his daughter gave him as a gift. Instead of the electronic reader, he's sticking with books. Besides, says Burton, "you can read it taking a crap" -- unlike those pesky tablets.