Many years ago when I was teaching Sunday School I asked the kids why it was important to tell the truth. I remember this young boy immediately raised his hand and waived it so vigorously I was afraid his arm would pop out its socket.
“Yes,” I asked, “Why is it important to tell the truth?”
“Because some day it is going to make a difference. And if you have lied before, they are not going to believe you when it matters most.”
Someday it is going to matter that our state leaders are not being honest with us. And the sooner we require them to do so, the better it will be for all Californians.
For example, in 2012, polls showed Proposition 30, an initiative that would substantially raise taxes on all Californians, was going to lose. The proponents were able to turn the election around by promising: Prop. 30 provides billions in new funding for our schools — money that can be spent on smaller class sizes, up-to-date textbooks and rehiring teachers.\
So how have they actually spent our money? K-12 school spending this year is 0.1% higher than it was 7 years ago. That is right, one-tenth of 1% more!
Health and Human Services (Obamacare) +147%
Payments to retired public employees + 37%
Department of Social Services + 10%
Payments to current public employees + 8%
That is disgusting. But it does not stop there.
Recently the legislature wanted to reduce the vote required to pass a budget in the legislature from 2/3rds to a majority. But polling showed voters were not willing to agree to this change unless the legislature agreed not be paid their salaries if the budget was not balanced. The latter element became the centerpiece of the campaign: “Your legislator will not get paid unless they balance the budget,” they promised.
What the legislature did not tell us was the legislature itself would decide whether or not they actually balanced the budget! That is like my wife asking me to do something and I get to decide whether or not I have done it. Try that at home with your significant other and let me know how that works for you!
Here is how it has worked out for the people of California. (Spoiler alert: not well).
The legislature and the Governor currently are trumpeting the claim this year’s budget is balanced. Yet, to balance the budget, the Governor and the legislature left out the $3 billion they owe for retiree health benefits and the $3 billion they owe retired teachers. That’s right, to balance the books they simply ignored the fact they owe an additional $6 billion!
If you are a business owner and tried to balance your books that way, you could go to jail. If you do it as a public official – you brag about it on the floor of the Assembly.As you watch Assemblywoman Skinner laud the “extraordinary” work of her colleagues, keep in mind not only are the legislators getting paid when they did not balance the budget; three of her “extraordinary” colleagues have been charged with crimes ranging from conspiracy to traffic weapons, to corruption to perjury – and they too are being paid their full salaries!
Reader Imagineering Quiz: There is an old saying: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Finish this sentence: Fool me thrice, ______________________. [Keep it clean.]
We know how to turn this around. We faced a similar situation at the beginning of the 20th Century. Then, under the leadership of (a) courageous leaders like Hiram Johnson; (b) a press corps that made the connection between (i) the outrageous conduct of public officials and special interests and (ii) how it adversely affected the people’s lives; and (c) a dedicated group of citizens who were committed to shifting power to the people; they created a state so exceptional it eventually became known throughout the world as “the California Dream”.
Our goal should be no less; to shift power from the sclerotic, dishonest, corrupt institutions to the people; to make the California Dream an achievable goal for all hard-working Californians.
To do so will require us to change our perspective. It is not about left vs. right. It is not even about Democrat vs. Republican. It is about those committed to a better future for all Californians vs. the defenders of the status quo. It is about those willing to fight for California’s hard working families vs. those who do the bidding of the special interests.
And while there are many different roads we can go down to achieve this goal; none of it is possible until we (a) call out our officials when they lie to us, (b) hold them accountable to the promises they made to us, (c) spend the time to learn what candidates, irrespective of party label, are committed to these principles and (d) support them when they run for office.
If we do, we can really proud of our state once again; but more importantly, we will be making a real difference in the lives of millions of people.