Here are three things that you can’t legislate: prosperity, honesty and common sense.
Both in the aggregate and in the particular, the California Legislature seems to be attempting to defy the laws of economics and reason. By legislating.
Let’s take the aggregate. I have written ad-nauseum about the cumulative burden of higher taxes, fees and endless regulations on businesses. With awesome regularity, the Legislature passes bills that are barriers to economic recovery, that force businesses to expend resources to comply that otherwise would be reinvested or used to hire new employees. AB 32 is the most recent, comprehensive and egregious example. The way to ensure prosperity is for government to get out of the way and allow businesses to unleash their creativity, innovation and initiative. Excessive government regulations hinder these qualities, and suppress or kill job creation. To prosper and expand our economy, we need to reduce these barriers to growth.
Let’s take the particular. The very best way to ensure honesty in any government activity – whether it is campaign donations, the legislative process, or government operations – is transparency. Sunshine is the best disinfectant for any system to act in a clean manner. Secrecy enables corruption and breeds distrust.
Take for example the recent $54 million dollar state Parks Department scandal. Governor Brown recently announced that his own state-led internal audit of all 560 special funds has been completed. In a little over two weeks. A two week government audit? That’s the fastest state government has ever moved. Why can’t state agencies budget and operating expenditures be put on-line? Everything else on the planet is. We are the most technologically advanced state (in many ways) in the most technologically advanced country in the world. Voters and taxpayers have every right to have direct access to information about how their elected officials are funded and how their money funds the operational mechanisms of government.
But the hidden state Parks “surplus” looks like mere shabby bureaucratic mismanagement compared to the recent passage of a so-called “trailer bill” and its sinister intent. SB 1018 which was created in secret, gives vast and unchecked powers to a newly-created corporation that will be able to levy billions of dollars in fees upon businesses with no public oversight into its mechanisms. Oh, and all of its directors will be political appointees. This clandestine agency was surreptitiously birthed to manage the fines and fees necessary to implement to aforementioned AB32, greenhouse and carbon emissions bill. What will all of these revenues be spent on? Maybe on the Legislature’s latest taxpayer-funded obsession? A $68 million dollar High Speed Rail to pretty much nowhere? Unfortunately, we don’t have time to go into that in this column; the HSR to oblivion is a topic worthy of a disquisition all its own.
Finally, let’s take the ridiculous. Exhibit A, the raises Legislators gave to their staff’s in the middle of one of the worst recession and jobs crisis in the state and our nation. It defies common sense. Various explanations were given, among them that staffers who received the raises also received “increased responsibilities.” This at a time when employees in the private sector are asked to take on more responsibility for the same amount of money, or even less money, for the privilege of having a job at all. In the private sector, operating under the rules of economics and reality, you can only pay your employees if you have revenues coming in. In the Legislature, operating under the much looser guidelines of economic delusion funded by other people’s money, no such reality exists.
If they had the time, taxpayers might be outraged. But they are busy working, taking kids to school and trying to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table in this incredibly anxious economic moment. Truly, the average Californian doesn’t have enough time in the day to do all this, and read the paper or listen to the news or check the internet to see what the Legislature of the State of California is doing to them everyday.
But, elections have consequences. They give these same Californians the opportunity to examine the consequences of these Legislators’ votes on their lives –in the aggregate and the particular – all of their votes affect every single one of us in the process of our daily lives. On the job, at the gas pump, in the grocery store, and at our kitchen tables. So, come November, when voters are looking for relief they should look hard at their elected official’s voting record – a virtual roadmap of their beliefs.
You can’t legislate relief. But you can vote for it.