Monday, January 11, 2010

Crashing through rock bottom

Everyone has faced some sort of self -inflicted trouble in their lifetime. For most people, myself included, we can listen to all the advice, all of the folks trying to tell us how badly we are screwing up, but we just don't want to listen. We know deep down we are screwing up. However, human beings can rationalize their way into any type of behavior, no matter how destructive. With enough self delusion, we can justify anything.

Anyone who has had a friend or family member with a drug or alcohol problem, or any other type of addiction can tell you, when they are in deep, they have to hit rock bottom before they will change. Here is the problem, how do you know what rock bottom is? What may shake your being right down to your core, may not phase another person. We all have different levels of rock bottom.

For some, just one bad or even uncomfortable experience is enough. A youth caught shoplifting, and is allowed to sit in a detention cell to contemplate his new hobby for a few hours, may lose the desire to see the inside of a police car ever again. One of his peers may look at the experience as no big deal, and continue on that path, right into prison. Like I said, rock bottom has many forms.

If we turn this analogy toward California's budget, we can see this play out on a much larger scale. The politicians under the dome in Sacramento have been through Juvenile Hall, County Jail, State Prison and for the past two years have been in super-max, solitary-confinement cell. Nevertheless, they still think they are innocent. They are quick to lay out a laundry list of reasons why they are not responsible for creating this mess. In other words, it’s not my fault, I was framed.

As California voters, we are also responsible. We keep giving them get-out-of-jail-free cards. These come in the form of state bonds and by reelecting them back to Sacramento. How any of these people have kept their jobs is truly amazing, or at least it would be if they did not sit in hand-crafted, safe districts. If these politicians were our children, we would let them sit in their cells to finally find rock bottom. Instead it is us, their tax-paying constituents, who are facing rock bottom.

Under the leadership of this group, they have spent us into massive debt, driven private businesses away from our state with higher taxes and crushing regulation, and now we are dealing with an unemployment rate over twelve percent. We are also staring at a looming twenty Billion dollar deficit.

The state legislature, along with the Governator, refuse to recognize rock bottom every time they hit a new one. Each year, they resort to one-time budget gimmicks, temporary accounting tricks and massive borrowing to balance the budget. And that budget, filled with incredibly optimistic forecasts is only good for three months, until the next quarter's revenue figures come in, and the budget is shown to be the sham it is.

The politicians have busted through the last three rock bottoms only to find new ones. 2010 is it, this is bedrock, there are no gimmicks left, and California’s bond rating is at junk-bond status, the lowest of any state in the union. Well, that is not entirely accurate, we are tied with Louisiana for the lowest credit rating.

Now is the time to admit to ourselves what our state has become, and we must have the courage to change it.

So what do we do? First, if your current legislator voted for this last budget deal, send him or her packing. Hey, good luck getting a job in the private sector now that you have done your best to drive private sector businesses away from our state.

What am I saying? Any legislator that does lose their seat will just change hats and become a lobbyist working the other side of K Street. Be that as it may, vote them out. They are not serious about fiscal responsibility; they are only concerned with keeping their campaign contributors happy. This must change if we are to revive our anemic economy and get private sector businesses to not only stay, but expand in California.

Okay, now for a little homework, fire up your computer this week and go to Once there, type in your city or assembly/senate district, then look for the top contributors. It is very enlightening. You will see who your local politicians truly represent, and in most cases, it isn't you.

Is this the year we send a message? Is this the year we stop complaining and get involved? Is this the year we look past the millions spent on TV advertising and learn the facts about who is really running the show down at the capitol? Is this the year we say we have had enough?

1 comment:

TomOfTheNorth said...

Howdy Walt,

I was looking for a list of Hazardous Occupations to use for an upcoming essay and your post from '05 on the topic popped-up in my search. I enjoyed your take on the topic so I swung over to this latest post to see what you're talking about these days.

Apparently we're on the same page with the only exception being that you're in CA and I'm in MN. So I thought I would offer you my solution as put forth last week. While it is directed at addressing the National problem, the solution is scalable to the State and even Local level:

While the idea is presented as Satire, I've yet to see a better one. I hope you enjoy it!