"Cut Welfare, public housing and job programs. I’m tired of paying for worthless lazy scum bags who spread theirs legs and make us pay for their kids."

That’s "Sandwich8’s" thoughts on the budget. Not something regrettably leaked from a private email, but a comment purposely posted to a public website.

Whether it’s an article on the budget crisis, the lottery, health care, retirement income, or an increase in California’s teen birth rate, we need all Californians to think about real ideas and embrace genuine solutions to the state’s problems.  Here are some alternatives to the prevailing themes that most readers of California’s newspapers and blogs embrace in their online comments:

Theme: Most elected officials take bribes ("are crooked").
Alternative suggestion: Elected officials just want to be popular and get re-elected to political office.  Taking bribes is usually not an efficient way to accomplish this; most legislators in California probably aren’t even offered bribes.

Theme: Public policy doesn’t really matter; we’ll get screwed either way.
Alternative suggestion:  You can at least support the lesser of two (or three or four) evils.

Prevailing Theme: EVERY problem is related to illegal immigration.
Alternative suggestion: Immigration brings benefits and costs to California, and we can discuss it with an adult vocabulary.  (And immigrants are people, too.)

Prevailing Theme: Using CAPS increases the validity of my opinion.
Alternative suggestion:  If you have to use CAPS, you probably shouldn’t say it.

Commenting on a San Francisco Chronicle article on the increase in California’s teen birthrate, "Chronic08" and "Crustyoldseaman" succinctly combine these themes:

"Illegals drop babies; Stupid Gringo pays for it, wonders why there is a budget deficit. SFGate, you suck."

"Lovely. More ignorant trash (of ALL colors and creeds) spitting out more morons they can’t raise."

One reader plans his/her suicide:

"My plan is to take my life voluntarily if I get cancer or some other condition that would create disability. I have no family to take care of me. My suicide note will be a letter to the insurance company, saying that my death will save them money so I am doing them a favor…."

The comments sections are rife with public policy solutions in the form of (what I hope are) modest proposals to deal with the issues of the day:

"The state has property it can sell. It can sell oil leases off the coast. It can offer inmate labor to farmers and others in need of strong backs and weak minds. Log state forests. Trees grow back."

"Instead of increasing taxes on liquor, cigs, cars, boats, millionaires, etc. We should raise the sales tax on diapers, formula, cribs, baby clothes, etc.

"UNTIL WASTE AND CORRUPTION IS CLEANED OUT, THERE IS NO,NO,NO reason for a tax increase. That will only enable the crooks more."

Since some people would be fired from their jobs or chastised by their children for saying such things, these opinions almost certainly come to us courtesy of the relative anonymity of the Internet.  They are also the real thoughts of real people, and I didn’t just choose the most shocking, most offensive ones for exhibit.  

There is so much energy online, and the Internet gives us all a genuine opportunity to engage in honest, well informed and much needed debate. Let’s use it.

Comments, anyone?