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Clearing the way to scorch the earth

Submitted by on Monday, 1 June 2009 2 Comments

Is this what you really wanted, Californians, when you stayed home in droves two weeks ago from a special election?

Did you really intend to send the message that massive and debilitating budget cuts are the “will of the people”?

Did you really want to see 220 state parks close, a million children thrown off health insurance, in-home care ended for senior citizens? At least people who complain about fraud in that program can quit griping, because if there’s no program, there’s nothing to defraud.

Did you really want to cut foster care and school buses for children?

Did you really mean to tell officials to continue to overlook deficiencies in the state’s taxation system, problems they’ve long known about but could ignore easily during the flush times of a dot com or real estate boom?

Yes, some of you probably did. But I suspect that wasn’t the goal of most of the 74 percent of California voters who decided to sit the election out. And what about the other 51 percent, who aren’t even registered to vote?

About 20 years ago in a state far away, a prominent politician had a ready answer for anyone who complained about taxes and government. Fine, he’d tell them. We’ll shut it all down for a year and see how you like that. When your schools are falling apart and services are ending, maybe you’ll be willing to pay.

He was speaking in jest. California, though, is thisclose to enacting for real what he was joking about.

The Republicans in the Legislature will stick to their “no tax” chastity vow and send everything down the tubes simply for the sake of having a good campaign platform, though at least one is saying the right things about not making education and vital services the first cuts of choice. He’s running for lieutenant governor, though.

Democratic leaders are flummoxed. Assembly Speaker Karen Bass even called Willie Brown to ask what advice he’d offer, and for once he was speechless. “He told me ‘None.’ That basically he had never seen a situation this bad before,” Bass told The Los Angeles Times.

It’s possible the budget slash and burn Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is proposing is one giant bluff designed to get Democrats to breathe sighs of relieve when they have to torch only a few acres instead of the entire state. If it’s a game, it’s a dangerous one, because it has the right wing of his party singing “Glory Hallelujah.” Once enraptured like that, the ideological pure will be even less inclined to compromise.

Did you really want to find out, though, Californians who were too disengaged or uninterested in what’s been obvious for months – that the state has serious financial problems – to bother to vote? Did you really want to let others put their own “will of the people” spin on your inaction.

Yes, some of you no doubt did. The rest will realize the dangers of that when they show up for a weekend at a park only to see the “closed” sign out or when their children return to a decimated school next fall.

And when that happens, run to the nearest elections office, library or Post Office. No time? Print a registration form and mail it in.

Then, the next time someone asks your opinion, tell them. Whether it’s on a ballot measure or a legislative election, let them know.

Because absent your input, people are going to put their own spin on what you’re thinking, and it might not be the right interpretation.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • badassdadblog said:

    With my correct email this time …

    I didn’t vote. And I’m ashamed I didn’t. And the tax and borrowing band-aids we were voting on were just that – band-aids. We need to abolish Prop 13 and completely reform (or perhaps abolish) the ballot initiative process while we’re at it.

    Meanwhile, I may do the most cowardly thing of all and just leave this state that’s been my home my entire life. I’m not sure I’m willing to subject my kids to what this place seems destined to become.

  • Debra said:

    Absolutely right. I’d planned on getting into Prop 13 in this post because it’s a huge drain, not to mention a huge shift in wealth to older generations. Similar systems have actually been declared unconstitutional in other states. I’ll get to that rant another day. As well as ones on the initiative process, not to mention the two-thirds vote on budgets.

    My husband has wanted to leave California for years, but I’ve always resisted. Ironically, he’s in the Army now and we’ll likely wound up stationed in … California, thus delaying the decision.

    I’ve “only” been here 10 years, but I came here because I love the state – its rich diversity in so many ways, from geography to ethnic to types of communities. But, ultimately, yes, I also fear subjected my kids to what I fear is about to happen