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Daniel Petry: California’s Very Own Greek Tragedy

California is broke, and the only way to fix the budget is to eliminate public-sector unions, consolidate departments and stop providing services to illegal residents

With the inability of our political leaders to make the really tough decisions, we are closer than ever to the disintegration of the social glue that binds our state together.

Daniel Petry
Daniel Petry

There are four basic services that California needs to fund: fire, police, education and infrastructure maintenance. Period. Anything more is a luxury, and in today’s economic reality, an expense that can’t be handled.

The Republic of California is broke, out of control and more than $30 billion in the red with hundreds of billions in unfunded union pension payouts coming due. Teachers, fire personnel and police are being furloughed. All the while, our state politicians scamper around in a seemingly drug-induced haze thinking that the tooth fairy is coming to save them.

I say step aside and let the grownups handle this. Here are a few suggestions.

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy created a monster by signing Executive Order 10988, allowing the unionization of the federal work force. It created the modern-day Democratic Party and changed everything in the U.S. political system by opening the door for the rise of a unionized public work force in many states and cities.

This led to the incredible expansion of public employee unions: the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Service Employees International Union and the teachers’ National Education Association. They have grown in power to the point where feeding the public unions’ wage demands has strangled other government responsibilities. And when these same unions are funding the campaigns of the same politicians who would be negotiating their pay packages, the result is disaster. It has ruined our ability to have a useful debate about any other public functions.

As a result of the dominance of public-sector unions, state expenditures for mental health, the environment, housing and higher education have fallen drastically. The physical infrastructure in California is literally falling apart. But look at those public wage and pension-related outlays. They are growing ever upward.

First off, begin the process of eliminating public-sector employee unions. Or peg all pensions, salaries, benefits to comparable private-sector norms. Major concessions must be renegotiated with existing agreements. The key here is that the state’s side of the negotiations would not be conducted by anyone who has a connection to the unions. This would allow California to reallocate resources to more pressing needs.

Second, consolidate the state’s Health & Human Services Agency, the State Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Emergency Medical Services Authority, the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, the Department of Aging, the Commission on Aging, the Department of Public Health, the California Medical Assistance Commission, the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board, the Department of Developmental Services, the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Rehabilitation into the Department of Health Care Services.

Lay off 70 percent of the employees from the consolidated departments, and reduce the total department budget by 60 percent. This would save the state an estimated $8 billion a year. Save an additional $5 billion by eliminating, cutting by 90 percent or privatizing the following:

» Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs

» Department of Rehabilitation

» State-Local Realignment

» State Independent Living Council

» California Senior Legislature

» Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission

» Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board

Lastly, funding health care, education, housing, and food stamps for illegals is insane and about as close to treason as you can get without actually betraying the citizens of this state. But California legislators do their best to do just that.

I know that the something-for-nothing crowd is going to yell racism. But don’t you love the fact that a significant portion of this state’s budget supports the health and human services of not only needy Californians, but for more than 3 million illegal aliens who find their way across the border? It’s great that even if we are broke we find a way to pay for essential medical, dental, mental health and social services for many of the most vulnerable and at-risk illegals. All to the detriment of our own. Aren’t we so compassionate?

Yes, indeed. These programs touch the lives of millions of illegals and provide access to services that promote their health, well-being and ability to function in our society. And I know that emergency room doctors, nurses and administrators love the fact that they need to put a “tome-un-número” dispenser at the entrance of every hospital emergency room. ¡Hey hombre, está libre!

We can thank Sacramento as well as a clueless hate-America mentality for allowing the cost of education, health care and incarceration of illegal aliens to cost you and I more than $10.5 billion per year. Exactly what percentage is 10.5 of 30? Thirty-five percent?

And that doesn’t include the expenses that are difficult to measure, such as special English instruction, school lunch programs and welfare benefits for American workers displaced by illegal aliens.

But, hey. It’s not costing you, anything is it? It’s covered, right? Those teachers, firefighters and police officers can rest easy that they lost their jobs because we are so compassionate. Really, what’s a Californian’s job loss to the greater good of a noncitizen?

Look at all those extra votes the pols have access to. Oh, and wait, I forgot. They do the work Americans won’t do.

I know you’re thinking that beyond taxes, these workers’ production and spending contribute to California’s economy, especially the agricultural sector, and that illegals are the backbone of the state’s nearly $28 billion-a-year agricultural industry — not including the part that Democrats are trying to destroy by cutting off their water.

So, illegal immigrants displace American workers by taking low-skilled jobs, and they keep wages low by creating an overabundance of workers and stifle innovation by reducing the need for mechanized labor. Hmmm. Well, the dirty little secret is that with an essential product, it will get done one way or another. Those “evil” employers would have to pay better wages or invest money on mechanization.

But wait just one minute, Daniel. Those hardworking illegals pay taxes! Yep. They pay about $1.7 billion in taxes and consume more than $10 billion in services. That certainly sounds like new-age progressive math to me. But let’s bring it down to earth with an example.

Let’s say there are two able-bodied men. One is legal, the other is not. Both are married, have two children and live in California. Both also work in the same trade. The legal worker makes $25 an hour, and the illegal is paid $15 an hour under the table.

OK. Let’s take a look at the numbers. The American works a 40-hour week and makes an annual gross income of $52,000. With federal and state taxes deducted, he takes home about $31,000. Our illegal also works 40 hours a week and takes home $31,000. Before you scream, “Aha! See, he makes less,” remember that our illegal friend is getting paid under the table and pays no taxes. He still has $31,000 in his pocket.

Our American buys medical insurance for about $7,200 a year. That leaves him with $23,800. Our illegal gets full medical and dental coverage through the state and local clinics at no cost, so he still has $31,000.

With the income our American makes, he’s not eligible for food stamps or welfare, so he forks out another $6,000, leaving him $17,800. Since our illegal has no documented income and knows how to game the system, he gets food stamps and quite possibly even welfare. Now you can see what’s coming. Our illegal still has $31,000.

The American can’t afford a mortgage. So he rents and spends about $9,000 a year, leaving him $9,000 from his initial $31,000. Isn’t compassion fun? Our deprived, discriminated, profiled and downtrodden illegal tries for and gets a $500-per-month federal rent subsidy. He pays out that $6,000, leaving him — you guessed it — $31,000.

But all is not over for our patriotic Californian. You see, he drives. He is required by law to have car insurance (for all you liberals, this is different than Obamacare mandates; he wouldn’t have to pay for car insurance if he didn’t own a car) and maybe pays out $2,000 a year for auto insurance. Boy, that nest egg is getting smaller. He now has $7,000 remaining. Our illegal says, “We don’t need no stinkin’ insurance!” and still has close to $31,000.

Well, with his remaining $7,000, our guy has to stretch it out to pay for utilities, gasoline, etc. Our illegal does the same, but he has $31,000 to play with and can send some out of the country to family members — maybe to pay for their way up here to enjoy the benefits of being a noncitizen. But all is not over. 

The children of both men attend the same school. The American pays for his children’s lunches while the illegal children get a free meal. The illegal children have an after-school ESL program. Our lucky American children get to go home. Keep in mind that both of our workers enjoy the same police and fire services, but the American paid for them and the illegal did not. It’s a sweet deal, isn’t it?

We just laid off thousands of educators? It is estimated that illegals in the K-12 system consumed about $7.7 billion last year. I’m sure the teacher unions have really thought this through. And union members, how do those pink slips look now? But, hey, we are a compassionate people — even if we are bankrupt.

Come on, didn’t we address this situation in 1994 when California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 187, which sought to limit liability for mass illegal immigration? Oh, yeah, I forgot. Since then, state and local governments have blatantly ignored the wishes of the voters and continue to shell out publicly financed benefits on illegal aliens.

— Santa Barbara resident Daniel Petry is the CEO and founding partner of Petry Direct Inc., a 20-year-old management firm that specializes in content production and marketing management. He attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, class of 1976, and received a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Colorado.

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