President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that read “The Buck Stops Here.”
In an interview with legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow, he explained that, as president, he was responsible for all the decisions of his administration and wouldn’t “pass the buck” to someone else.
In California, political leaders have elevated “buck passing” to an art form and are adept at making excuses for their litany of failures.
For example, progressive state and local leaders decry rising crime rates but they are the ones responsible for effectively hamstringing law enforcement to such an extent that most crimes in California go either unreported or unpunished.
Even worse, as videos of gangs raiding stores appear daily, progressive legislators have introduced a bill, Senate Bill 553, which prohibits store employees from interfering with criminals in the act of shoplifting. (The California Retailers Association mocks the bill as an open invitation for thieves “to come in and steal.”)
Another example involves illegal immigration. Governor Gavin Newsom railed against Florida officials for sending a few dozen undocumented migrants to California and even went so far as to suggest Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis be arrested for kidnapping. Even left-leaning law professors thought this was foolish. But it was Gov. Newsom himself who noted that California, as a sanctuary state, would welcome undocumented migrants. So what was he expecting?
When it comes to the crisis with homelessness in California, our political leaders need to gaze in the mirror. The governor blames local governments for not building more housing units and issues threats – mostly to conservative cities – with ever increasingly draconian mandates. But he doesn’t make the same threats to localities where he is popular, like Marin County.
True to form, progressive politicians rarely accept responsibility for homelessness, which is driven in large part by rampant drug addiction and associated mental illness. Indeed, the problem is compounded by pushing decriminalization of drug dealing, not just drug use. Progressives just shot down proposed legislation imposing stricter penalties for selling fentanyl.
But the gold star winner in “passing the buck” could be seen in testimony last week before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce. The hearing was ostensibly about the U.S. Department of Labor’s budget, but the elephant in the room was the $32 billion in fraudulent spending by California’s Employment Development Department which, at the time, was overseen by the person testifying, Julie Su.
Su is also President Biden’s designee to be the U.S. Secretary of Labor, but her nomination is floundering both for her progressive views on labor policy – she does little but parrot union talking points– and for her failure in addressing California’s historic bungling of EDD.
California’s own Congressman Kevin Kiley, pressed Su on whether she accepted any responsibility for the unemployment fraud, but Su deflected and offered nothing more than a word salad of non-responses.
Although Su pointed to a state audit report that recognized both the unanticipated volume of claims and the lack of usual controls associated with the federal relief program, the same report was more damning to Su in assigning responsibility: “Despite repeated warnings, EDD did not bolster its fraud detection efforts until months into the pandemic.”
The report also said EDD’s response to the fraud was “massive missteps and inaction.”
Citizens of both California and the nation at large are entitled to accountability and less “buck passing” from politicians. But we also shouldn’t forget that, ultimately, the buck stops with us, the voters. Californians won’t get the accountability we want until we start electing people who aren’t afraid to accept the responsibility – good or bad – for their actions.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.