Friday, October 1, 2010

California Dreamin'--What a Freakin' Nightmare

Not that anyone else on the North American continent cares but that bastion of culture in which I live, California, continues to remind me more of a break-away former Soviet Republic or what used to be called a Banana Republic in Central America than the “Bear Republic” which joined the union in 1850.

It’s going on 100 days now that the State has been without a budget. OK, so let’s take a pause here to consider how the rest of this is going to go: Do I degenerate it into the profanity laced rant, which those wonderful guys and gals elected to the Legislature in Sacramento so thoroughly deserve? Or do I remain somewhat academic and philosophical, staying above the putrid political parsimony? I’m not sure yet.

Oh, to hell with it. Here’s the bottom line: The State of California is without a budget. It’s been 100 days. The amount of budget deficit the Legislature and Governor have to close is $19 billion. No progress has been made. The longer it goes the worse it gets. And no one seems to care in Sacramento. There is absolutely no thought or consideration given to the citizens and taxpayers of this state. Elected officials apparently couldn’t care less about the needs of the citizens and taxpayers of this state.

And the media devotes scant attention. There was a story in the paper today (San Diego Union Tribune) which was one column wide and maybe 8 inches long on about page 6. Of course the amount of attention given to Meg Whitman’s “scandal” of having employed a domestic worker who may be an illegal immigrant garnered plenty of front page attention.

You know, California has a long tradition of referred measures showing up on the ballot on all manner of different issues. I can think of 2 which might be more than welcome.

The first would be the “None of the Above” Amendment to the State’s Constitution. All State and local elections would require an additional option and box for each position on the ballot. That would be an option to vote for “None of the Above”. If “None of the Above” wins, then that contest would have to start over again from scratch. None of the candidates who were on the ballot could run for the office again in that election. Just a thought. When I think of choosing between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman, I crave and yearn for a “None of the Above” option.

The other is a throwback to something that was a legislative tradition for decades in both the 19th and 20th centuries in many states. It would be the “Cover the Clock” law. If the Constitutionally mandated date for a balanced budget is not achieved the clock in the chambers of the legislature will be covered at 11:59 p.m. on the deadline date. That way the clock, officially, does not move.

Date and time are legally frozen until the members of the Legislature perform their duty. Oh, by the way, that also means that the budget for the Legislative branch stops at that point in time too. Legislators do not get paid. They do not get their car allowance. Their staffs do not get paid. And so forth. Let the Legislature be the first to sacrifice for its own intransigence and incompetence.

The bottom line, quite frankly, is that these people just really, flat out, don’t care. It’s all about power and the trappings of the office rather than safeguarding “the people’s” money and providing the best public service at public expense possible. By the way, I’m totally OK with the idea that you might think that na├»ve. And, finally it seems that lameduck Governor Arnold Swartzenegger has pretty much given up. He ran for the office to clean up Sacramento and bring fiscal responsibility back to California’s government and has dismally failed. He’s neither brokering nor leading an effort to solve an impasse or to create the prudent fiscal policy that California’s dire economic straits require.
I just can’t wait to see the TV commercial next year of some scruffy guy opening up a box delivered by FedEX and taking out the Deed to the State of California and then proudly proclaiming, “I got it on E-Bay”. Hmmm, problem solved.

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