California Budget Woes

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been reading more (LA Times) and more (SF Chronicle) news articles about California’s deficit. This is something of great concern to me. What infuriates me even more, however, are the comments to those articles, which are so misinformed and filled with rage and hate. So, instead of jumping into that pointless arena, I’d like to share my thoughts here.

The reasons for California’s deficit are structural and many. There are large mandates written into the state constitution — often by voters — and there are other mandates that are imposed by the courts. This limits what the legislators can do. There is also the notion different pots of money — that is, money that is legislatively allocated for a particular purpose that cannot be used for other purposes. These aspects are often not know by most people. I’ve heard (although I haven’t verified) that the only real discretionary spending is about 9% of the budget, and that goes to prisons and schools. If that’s the case, it is scary, as right now people seem to be willing to spend more on prisoners than students.

So let’s look at some of the comments that infuriate me..

Don’t blame me, I didn’t vote for this idiot !!!!!

  • This is a common complaint. It’s the governor’s fault. Why did we reelect governor moonbeam? And so on. The reality is that the governor can do very little by himself (this is true for Obama as well). He can propose ideas (which he has done). He can use executive orders. He can exploit the bully pulpit. But the real onus for doing something is on the state legislature, who has proven themselves loath to cut in certain areas. They cut schools because they believe the money can be made up with tuition. But that doesn’t work for prisons or social services, so the schools bear the brunt of the burden. The culprit here is the undue financial influence of lobbyists, and the unintended side effect of term limits: that politicians are always running for office, and thus need to raise reelection funds.

Answer: National Guard, fix bayonets, march every non english speaking parasite across the Mexican border. Let THEM pay for their own citizens.

  • Illegal immigration. This is often blaimed as the root cause for California problems. The “illegals” (which is often a code word for the hispanic who is different from me — I never see complains against Canadians) are costing our schools, are filling our welfare roles, are filling our prisons. Rarely do I see facts, and when I do, often they are from biased sources. Snopes refutes a lot of common claims, But there are costs that cannot be denied. The question is: what can the state do about it. Many costs (such as AFDC) are Federal programs administered and paid for by the state: thus the state has their hands tied. Often, the problem is not due to the laws on the books (after all, we all agree it is illegal), but lax enforcement of those laws–often due to the cost of law enforcement and deportation. So what is the answer here? In reality, the answer is not “deportation”, it is legalization. Remove the fear of deportation, make them legal, get folks paying taxes and helping support the services they use. But mention any notion of this, and a large conservative lobby flies up in rage. Illegal immigration is like Marijuana: the answer is to legalize and tax, not keep it illegal and pay through the nose to enforce policies. That, however, is a Federal-level decision.

Let’s just spend another billion or two on High Speed Rail.

  • High speed rail is a common whipping boy. However, what the people complaining about High Speed Rail forget is that it is being paid for with funds that were exclusively authorized for that purpose. We have the choice of not spending them, but we can’t take that money and use it for something else.

Were tired of hearing the sky is falling, meanwhile California is locked into these high paying union agreement with the Prison, Guards and others. If California declares bankruptcy, they will free themselves from the shackles of these lucrative union obligations and pensions and will have breathing room to begin again.

  • Well, first and foremost, states are not legally permitted to declare bankrupcy. Let’s talk about those union agreements and the prison guards. I’ll agree that the pension arrangements in these agreements are often egregious, and that unions have often moved beyond their original purpose. The problem is, however, that the governor cannot change them alone.  He has made proposals to deal with the pension mess–and the legislature has let those proposals die. We do need to fix the pension problem. Ideally, the approach should be to have a stronger tie to length of service to the state: I have much less of a problem paying a full pension to a 20 year employee than a 5 year employee. We also need to address ridiculous provisions in union deals that are more protectionist than cost effective. But I rarely see the discussion at that level. Further, such actions often require long-term negotiations and don’t solve the problem immediately.

California needs to get the Socialists out of office but the people who don’t care, people who work for the state and those on welfare all vote for these idiots.

  • Many commentors seem to believe “socialists” are running the government, without knowing what socialism is. According to Wikipedia, “Socialism is an economic system characterised by social ownership and/or control of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy, and a political philosophy advocating such a system. ” I have yet to see California (as a state) owing the means of production, or having the workers making the decision of what and how to produce. Rather, we seem to have the opposite, where there is excessive influence of for-profit companies and concerns.


  • This is a common complaint. No more taxes. The answer is cutting. It’s not. If you have a household and you’ve cut your expenses, what do you do? You don’t solve the problem by cutting more. You get your family members to go out and get jobs: in other words, you bring in more income. Solving the deficit problem means addressing both sides of the equation: reducing expenses where you can, and bringing in more income where you can. That means enforcing laws on the books (pay your use tax folks on those online purchases), as well as raising taxes. It is foolish to look only at cutting as the solution to the problem.

You guys can spend thousands of dollars per week on fancy shoes that you might wear once ,but you can’t afford to provide the people who do the work that provides you with your excessive income with even basic services.

  • There’s a lot of class warfare here at work. We hate the rich “politicians”, we hate the rich “union bosses”. Yet, these same people want to vote for a group that wants to further intrench the power of the “rich” — but this is the rich of private industry that they like. Why is one acceptable and the other not? Note that I’m not saying both are acceptable. I think we need a part-time legislature — they spend far too much time on pointless and costly bills just to show they are useful. I also agree that many union leaders often line their pockets at the expense of their members. But we also need to increase taxes on the very wealthy so that they can do their share as well.

These are just some examples. Everytime I read comments (which I must stop doing), I have to remind myself that comments often reflect the 10% radical lunatic fringe, and many people get their jollies by commenting and being critical, instead of doing something.

California does have problems. They aren’t easy to fix, because they are all defended by special interests who often have more sway than the individual voters. We need to fix Prop 13 — not to change the tax rates, but to do a periodic reset so that people are paying taxes on a realistic valuation of their properties… and businesses pay taxes on the value of their properties. This might actually result in a reduction of overall rates. We need to fix the pension system (and more importantly, pension abuse and union rule abuse). We need to increase state funding. We need to address the illegal immigration problem in a cost effective way, but this is more of a Federal problem than one under state control, other than enforcing rules on the books. Most importantly, we have to realize this isn’t a “liberal vs. conservative’ problem–we need to realize that the problem is politicians (of whatever party) working more for particular interests than the good of the state as a whole.

Music: Dear Edwina (Original Cast): Put It In The Piggy