California's priorities and the problem therewith

Wow, it's been a while since I posted here. Did you have a nice holiday? Good. Yeah, mine was great--thanks for asking. And you're looking good--new hairstyle? Lose weight? I thought so. Sweet.

Anyway, I'm back, and I've got a bit of a rant for you…

I got the following email today (boldface is mine):

---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: UC President Mark Yudof <[email protected]
> Date: Wed, Jan 6, 2010 at 20:24
> Subject: California's priorities
> To: Lawrence Anderson
> Lawrence-
> I write to share with you some good news from Sacramento. Governor Schwarzenegger today proposed a dramatic change in the way public higher education is funded in California, a plan that if adopted could give UC a secure financial footing for the future.
> This is a bold and visionary plan that represents a fundamental restoration of the values and priorities that have made California great.The plan would provide a constitutional guarantee to fund public higher education at a minimum of 10 percent of the state's General Fund budget. I commend the Governor for recognizing that UC - the world's premier public university - is an investment in California and its people that more than pays for itself.

(rest of email snipped)

Now, I'm a graduate of the UC system, so perhaps I shouldn't begrudge others the chance to get the same education of which I am a beneficiary. However, I can't help but point out that the last thing California needs is another constitutional spending mandate. One of the reasons this state is in the dire straits it's currently experiencing is that we have tied the hands of the legislature by creating constitutional requirements to spend X% on schools, Y% on social services, and Z% on law enforcement. And, by the way, they can't raise property taxes to pay for anything because of Proposition 13.


How the hell is the government supposed to respond to changing needs? What if we need to rebuild freeways? What about bridges? What if we need to restore a waterway or improve an airport? What if we have a public health crisis that requires an immediate and widespread inoculation program? How in the name of all that is holy are we supposed to intelligently manage the state's finances when we've locked in the percentages?

Mark Yudof, this is most assuredly NOT "a bold and visionary plan that represents a fundamental restoration of the values and priorities that have made California great."This is a cowardly and buck-passing plan that continues the bad choices that have destroyed the finances of a state that was once the envy of America.Mr. Yudof, if you really believe the drivel that you spouted in this email, you're a bigger fool than the geniuses we inexplicably elect to represent us in Sacramento. I have no problem supporting public universities, but we've got to pay for it with commensurate taxes. Voting in spending mandates without paying for them by imposing corresponding taxation is the act of a political coward.

Not a Californian? You still might want to pay attention to this. What happens here tends to happen elsewhere eventually, and as American politics becomes more and more polarized, it's going to look like California politics writ large. Look upon our works, ye mighty, and despair…

Which brings me to my next point: on both state and national levels, despite the polarization and divisiveness, there is no longer any meaningful distinction in practical terms between the Republican and Democratic parties. Both of them spend like drunken sailors on leave and both of them are hopelessly corrupted by the money they receive from corporate entities and political action committees. For God's sake, the health care reform bill was emasculated due to the opposition of the man who was the Democratic nominee for Vice-President ten years ago, because he also happens to be the senator from Aetna--er, I mean Connecticut. My bad.

In short, both major parties have completely lost my confidence. We need to fix a lot of things in this country, which requires leadership, and we're not going to get it from the Republicrats--at least not the ones in power today. Political discussion in this state and in this country needs a serious jolt, and our elected leaders need to have the living crap scared out of them. American history shows that the two major parties embrace widespread and systemic change only when there is danger of a third force gaining the upper hand. The time has come to remind them that they serve only at our pleasure, and they have to earn their return tickets every two, four, or six years. It's time to bring forward and support alternative parties on both ends of the spectrum, such as the Greens, the Libertarians, and even the Socialists (among others). They may not be perfect, but they can influence the debate in meaningful ways, and serve as a warning to the established parties that they do not have a guarantee of permanent power.

I, for one, no longer intend to support either of the two major political parties until they demonstrate, through their actions, a commitment to serious, systemic, and thorough reform, and concern for the average citizen. I will accept nothing less.

And who knows? We might even break the deadly stalemate we find ourselves in today. And that would be a wonderful thing.