Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent talk to the California State Association of Counties was more meandering and disjointed than usual, but the governor stuck to his talking points: Unless California voters approve tax extensions, they must get used to greatly diminished public services. Without at least the tax extensions, he said, “we will get a radical restructuring of what we are.”
This summarizes in a phrase the ideology of Brown, the Democratic Party and the unions that spent at least $30 million electing him governor. To them, California’s greatness does not come from our entrepreneurship. It is not based in any concept of individual freedom. It doesn’t stem from the state’s history or its people. It is about government. To cut any of it means a fundamental restructuring in who we are as a people. Cutting or reforming government, in their view, makes us less decent and less humane.
Americans used to understand that the private sector, whatever its faults, is where one finds innovation and where the customer is best served. To this state’s political players, the private sector is a scourge and the public sector — the mostly unaccountable, inefficient and irredeemable bureaucracies — form the heart of who we are as a people.
“Half of the babies born in our state are born through the Medi-Cal system,” Brown said at CSAC. He said that his fellow Democrats see the level of poverty increasing and a lack of adequate health care. They believe that “we as a people have a real obligation, a link to all the people of California.”
But instead of proposing ways to stretch public dollars or plans to root out waste and fraud in the state government, or to outsource services to improve efficiencies, Brown rambled on about problems in the private sector: “Look at the private sector, where the average CEO makes $20 million and compare that to elected officials.”
When pressed about the pension debt, public employee union officials and Democratic leaders always point to high salaries at the CEO level in the private sector, but it’s unclear what this has to do with waste and inefficiency in the public sector, which functions on tax dollars.
Consider this news from USA Today a few days ago regarding an estimated $62 trillion (yes, trillion with a “t”) that the U.S. government has run up in debt: “Corporations would be required to count these new liabilities when they are taken on — and report a big loss to shareholders. Unlike businesses, however, Congress postpones recording spending commitments until it writes a check.” The government has run up debt levels that amount to $527,000 per household.”
Yet to California’s leaders, the private sector is the real problem.
“If you don’t extend taxes, there is a real net loss in education and safety of our communities,” Brown said. Meanwhile, the governor avoids any meaningful talk about reforming those services the state currently provides, as if the state government is a model of efficiency and humanity. It’s maddening.
California and all states need some level of government. But government should not be immune to reform, competition and reductions. Brown’s choices are false. There are other options other than raising taxes or cutting services. A bigger government does not make us a better people. Until Californians recognize those points, they will face a never-ending call for higher taxes and a continuing decline in our state.
Steven Greenhut is editor of www.calwatchdog.com; write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.