Government for the Government

If Abraham Lincoln were delivering his Gettysburg Address today he
might feel compelled to conclude "… that government for the
government shall not perish from this earth." He was "Honest Abe"
after all.

Let’s take a look at how Sacramento really operates.

Those in power in the Capitol — as well as many local politicians
— make skillful use of those who rely on government services to
advance their spending agenda. They use children the disabled the
elderly and others who appear vulnerable to justify increasing
taxes. When reasonable arguments are made that higher taxes in an
already high-tax state could lead to fiscal ruin and less for
everyone politicians and bureaucrats use these dependent classes as
human shields.

But who really is at risk if spending is curtailed modestly or if
the rate of increase is limited? A number of years ago David Doerr
who is probably California’s foremost expert on tax policy observed
that during budget negotiations 90 percent of those testifying in
support of greater spending are the providers not the recipients
of state services. If the ratio has changed at all it is surely

According to the US Census Bureau California has the highest paid
public employees in the nation. Additionally our state has the
highest paid Legislature. And it is not an exaggeration to say that
for these folks the number one priority of governing is taking care
of state employees lawmakers and their friends. In short they look
after themselves.

Eighteen years ago Californians tired of the arrogance of career
politicians approved term limits. Term limits remain popular as
evidenced by the recent rejection of Prop 93 which would have
substantially weakened the original limits. While no panacea term
limits have resulted in several modest but important improvements.
For example our Legislature now looks more like a cross section of
the California population and no longer can a single entrenched
lawmaker exert a stranglehold over legislative affairs for years on
end. But despite these improvements politicians still find ways to
take care of their own after they are forced from office.

The November election helped by term limits has resulted in the
flushing out of 34 Assemblymembers and Senators out of a total of
120. Will the displaced representatives return to the private sector
and live under the laws they have passed? When pigs fly!

The existing legislative leadership has already begun the bi-annual
process of providing welfare to their outgoing colleagues. Assembly
Speaker Karen Bass has just appointed termed out Assemblyman John
Laird to the Integrated Waste Management Board. The job pays
$132178 per year. On the Senate side President Pro Tempore Don
Perata has selected the soon-to-be-jobless Sen. Sheila Kuehl to
replace former Sen. Wes Chesbro who was appointed to the panel
after he left office in 2006 but who no longer needs the cushy job
because he has just been elected to the Assembly. Other members of
the Waste Management board include the wife of another former
lawmaker and a former scheduler for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger —
and this is just one board out of many.

For those who may have wondered why the state spends millions each
year on scores of little-used and often worthless boards and
commissions that pay handsomely for only a few hours of work each
month these appointments may provide clarification.

So as our political class shrieks and bellows that without major tax
increases there will not be enough to support the needy remember
on their list of the truly needy they rank No. 1.

Jon Coupal is President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
— California’s largest taxpayer organization — which is dedicated
to the protection of Proposition 13 and promoting taxpayers’ rights.

This column appeared in The Orange County Register on December 3 2008.