With 40 ballot initiatives to explain, the California Voter Information Guide for this November’s general election is the size of a small textbook. If we are going to legislate via direct democracy, why do we need elected representatives?
If there are really 40 issues so critical to governing the state and of such importance to all Californians, why don’t Californians let their elected representatives address them? Maybe because the Legislature is in permanent ideological impasse and is predominantly populated with self-serving politicians owing greater allegiance to various clients than to their districts’ constituents.
Of these clients, the public employee unions often garner the greatest fealty from politicians because they work in a mutually beneficial symbiosis — both creatures being enriched at taxpayers’ expense.
The most critical issue currently facing all government is financial shortfalls. Government cannot sustain the irresponsible levels of spending in which it has chronically indulged. The most problematic overindulgence by California’s government has been on itself. Both elected officials and government employees, the latter through their unions, have drained state and local treasuries to award themselves lavishly unreasonable pay and benefits, especially retirement benefits, well above those of the private sector and increasingly beyond the capacity of taxpayers to support.
Unfunded public pensions continue to be the main financial threat and leading cause of bankruptcy for both state and local governments. The gluttony in government, by government and for government is destroying good government.
Of course, the government gluttons are telling us that the dire financial conditions are due to revenue shortfalls caused by the grinding Great Recession. Yet, today’s state government revenues are 30 percent higher than they were 10 years ago. The problem is that government spending over the past 20 years has significantly exceeded revenue growth — increasing at a greater rate than both the population and inflation together.
The number of state government employees over that period skyrocketed along with their compensation packages. When teachers are paid $68,000 per year (the second-highest level in the nation) for nine months of work, and cops, firefighters and prison guards are paid more than $100,000 per year and allowed to retire in their 50s with or near full pay and health care for life, budgets eventually get strained.
Because their pay and benefits are now so exorbitant, we cannot afford to have as many teachers, cops and firefighters on the job. And, as public employee compensation increasingly commands more of the public treasuries, government starts charging fees for services that our taxes should have already covered. Parks are closed, music and art programs in schools go away, and college tuitions mercilessly increase beyond the means of more and more people.
If the unions were not in the way, we would quickly find that there are plenty of capable candidates for teaching positions, public safety positions and for almost any government job who would gladly accept those jobs for reasonably less than the extortionist compensation levels that public employee unions and complicit politicians have hornswoggled out of the taxpayers. The average annual pay for a private-sector worker in California is $42,000.The average annual pay for a California state government employee is about $80,000.
How do you put a stop to such gluttony? Certainly not by continuing to provide the feast, but a yes vote on Propositions 30 or 38 does just that; while a no vote on Proposition 32 allows public employee unions and politicians to facilitate their pernicious symbiotic relationship. It continues the practice of extracting compulsory dues from union members to support the election of politicians, who will in turn support the unions’ insatiable demands for higher compensation.
Until government pay and pensions are adjusted to reasonable levels, not only for future public employees but also for some of those currently on the job or retired, we should not agree to any further tax increases. Californians are already among the highest taxed folks in America. We have given enough.
Keep this in mind as you consider your ballot and those candidates running for office. Unfortunately, there are no third-party candidates running for our U.S. Senate and congressional seats or for our state legislative seats. Although many of the choices among the duopoly candidates for these seats are as unappealing as a choice between a root canal and a colonoscopy, consider which candidates are more likely to continue the pathological partnership between elected officials and public employee unions, and which are more likely to believe government’s financial shortfalls are a spending problem, not a revenue problem.
Finally, for the presidency, if your choice is based on the belief that a president can fix the economy, then you are wasting your vote. Neither President Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney has a magic wand. I will not waste my vote on either of these men. I will vote my conscience and vote for the candidate who supports and will defend the fundamental freedoms upon which this nation was founded, and who advocates fiscal responsibility in governing, and who would end the empire building with its endless wars and draining of treasury. I will vote for Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party.
You, of course, are free to waste your vote on either of the duopoly candidates, but remember that when electing Republicans or Democrats, expectations are typically upsets waiting to happen.