Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.
Let us dispense with the debate on “civility” by resort to the Blind Partisan’s Dictionary:
Civil discourse: 1. the arguments of one’s opponent, robbed of passion, imagery and persuasiveness; 2. one’s own arguments, characterized by passion, imagery and persuasiveness, in accordance with the importance of a given issue.
Hateful rhetoric: the cogent arguments of one’s opponent.
Is it not contradictory that members of Congress, who days earlier swore to uphold, protect and defend the Constitution, followed the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords with attacks on First Amendment rights?
In the Golden State: Our once and present governor, Jerry Brown, has proposed $12 billion in budget cuts, which Democrats are calling “painful.” One must ask: Painful to whom? The answer is they will be painful to the state employees who will lose their jobs, and to the assumed beneficiaries of truncated programs.
There are some who will argue we should retain programs we can do without precisely because of state employee job losses. And they will trot out some sad-eyed program beneficiary, who will be incommoded by the cuts, to weep before the television cameras.
But when our compassionate legislators sit down at the abacus to calculate costs, they never seem to include the social and fiscal effects of continuing needless programs. Nevertheless, the leadership of the Legislature’s majority Democrats is swallowing Brown’s proposals like a dose of castor oil, its bitter taste ameliorated by the molasses of proposed tax extensions. Republicans, of course, like the cuts but abhor the tax proposal.
We modestly suggest that while inflicting pain, Brown look at:
The Legislature. We’re kidding, of course. There is no hope of reducing the cost of this august body. Members of the Assembly and state Senate are not disposed to find the waste in their budget, which totals more than a quarter of a billion dollars.
Ultimately, California can gain fiscally responsible lawmakers only by returning to a part-time Legislature. Of course, the Solons then would have to find employment. But surely California’s gargantuan economy, even with its high joblessness, can provide gainful work away from Sacramento for a mere 10 dozen attorneys, union shills, community activists and widows of former legislators.
Although the Legislature is hopeless, Brown certainly ought to examine the cost to the state of maintaining its “superagencies.” These are layers of bureaucratic lard lavishly applied in past years to state entities that somehow had done all right on their own. The superagencies’ ostensible purpose is to prevent duplication, provide coordination, et cetera, through a litany of unproven and unprovable virtues.
Look at the $100 million supporting the secretariat of the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency. This aggregation of hacks and paper pushers allegedly oversees 17 operations, from Alcoholic Beverage Control to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The budget text says BTH provides “financial and programmatic regulation important to an efficient marketplace and community development, assistance in ensuring patients’ rights, and transportation infrastructure for the safe and efficient flow of people and commerce.”
Unfortunately, the only discernible achievement of the BTH secretariat is to suck up money and provide a repository for political patronage.
Brown has made a feint at featherbedding by eliminating the Office of the Secretary of Education, saving a little over $2 million. He should look as well at the Office of the Secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency, which “provides the Governor with the highest level of advice on state health, human services and related budget policy issues” and “the highest level of leadership and oversight of the agencywide efforts to promote the health and well being of a growing and increasingly diverse California population.” One suspects this “leadership” might be rendered for less than the proposed $5 million.
The governor merits bouquets for a $4.5 million reduction in the budget of his own office, so he must get by with only 185 staffers and a paltry $13 million. He also plans to reduce the staff of the first lady, but, frankly, the expenditure for this unelected “officer” should be all but eliminated. If the Legislature wishes to be generous with our scarce funds, let her have a secretary and, occasionally, a driver.
In closing, let us repeat our call for a real-world solution to California’s water problems. It’s a solution that also would be a boon to the economy: Save the Delta smelt! Wipe out the striped bass!