What is the purpose of government?
Is it to provide for the collective needs of the citizenry that the people cannot provide individually for themselves, or is it to exist for the purpose of improving the lives of those working for the government itself?
This is an answer that California is determined to learn. According to former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, as reported by Bloomberg, half of the state’s budget is devoted to government employee salaries, health care and pension benefits and other compensation. According to the Census Bureau, in March 2011 there were 671,942 full time public sector employees in California. The state also employed an additional 310,298 part-timers for roughly a million workers. The Census estimates in 2011 California had a population of 37,691,912. The 2011-12 state budget was $85.9 billion. So if what Bloomberg reports is true, 2.7% of the population of California is gorging on 50% of the budget while the remaining 97.3% makes do with the rest.
The public sector unions, of course, see nothing wrong with this situation. Bloomberg reports:
“At the time we accomplished our biggest gains, I actually felt I was losing the recruitment war,” (Jon Hamm, chief executive officer of the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, the union for CHP officers) said in an e- mailed statement. “I think it is clear that when our biggest gains were negotiated I did not feel they were ‘excessive;’ in fact, almost the opposite was true.
So the high compensation was necessary to recruit the best and brightest. Where have we heard that argument before? With CEO pay, another group whose pay some, such as the Soros front group ThinkProgress, have argued is unjustifiable. Note to Lefties: When you start using your opponent’s defense as your own, guess what? You have become your opponent.
Albert Einstein reportedly said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (I think this guy says it best.) When Democrat Gray Davis took the governorship the state had $12 billion surplus. Gray immediately went on a spending spree, throwing money at every possible Democratic constituency in existence. He did the job so well the damage outlasted his successful recall from office and blighted the terms of the governors who followed him. But instead of revolting against their politicians they keep electing the Democrats over and over again. Today the state is a one party Democratic state. There is no opposition to these policies that enrich the few while causing the many to suffer. The California GOP lacks any power to fight the continued plundering of the state by the rapacious minority of public sector workers belonging to unions who support the Democratic party alone.
Californians choose this of their own free will. It is a damning testament to Democracy, one that undermines faith in the form of government elsewhere in the country. It would be easy for conservatives and libertarians who believe in the separation of federal and state power and live in the remaining 49 states to write the state off as a basket case and wash their hands of its problems, but doing so ignores the sheer economic weight of the state. At a GNP of $2 trillion, 1/7th the entire US, the state’s economy is tied with Italy’s for eighth largest in the world. We may smirk as the EU struggles to maintain its cohesion and even compare California’s fate to the supposedly lazy Greeks, but California’s economy is 5 1/2 times the size of Greece’s. That means we have over five Greeces, an EU sized mess, in our own American back yard. An economically dysfunctional California isn’t just a threat to itself, it could wreck the American economy for years.
It is only a matter of time before California goes cap in hand to Washington DC, and when it does it will be met with howls of protests from conservatives and libertarians – and rightfully so. But the truth is California isn’t going to go away; we can’t kick it out of the Union the way the Germans are contemplating doing to Greece, but at the same time we can’t ignore it either. It is in our own interest and the interest of the country’s to help get the state back on its feet and to do so while balancing the needs of its people while getting them in touch with the responsibilities they shirked in the past.