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Punishing the Poor, Soaking the Middle Class, Enriching the Rich — The Poverty of Our Politics

The Wall
Street Journal asks the question today
, “Public Unions: Is California Next? Serious
Californians, on the right and the left, know how much fiscal trouble they’re
in.”

Calling Wisconsin‘s public union fight “the battle of the century
in American politics,” writer Daniel Henninger notes Costa Mesa just fired half its city workers
and LA just negotiated a deal with unions representing most civilian workers
for increased employee contributions for pensions and health care. (
UnionsContractAnalysis.pdf)(CAO-ContractAnalysis.pdf)

The heart
of the story is San Francisco
where Public Defender Jeff Adachi got an initiative on the November ballot with
support from former Assembly Speaker and Mayor Willie Brown a measure that
would have forced public employees to pay a lot more for their pensions and
health care. It failed but the coalition Adachi put together is trying again.

“I’m
seen as a liberal progressive, a rage against the machine person,” Adachi
said. “If you care about social programs or the network of support
services, you have to understand that pensions and benefit costs are crowding
out all these services.”

After
talking with politicians on the left and right, the writer concludes: “Over the
years, the public unions ‘bought’ politicians from the smallest city to the
state capital in Sacramento.
California is
a blue state all right, but it just may be that it is turning blue with rage at
the inexorable destruction of its public life.”

What’s broken in California isn’t a secret. We can’t afford the government we have, not in our cities, our counties, our state. Our tax system is inequitable, our public servants cost too much. 

Yet our rage against the political machinery falls on the deaf ears of elected officials, beholden to unions, developers, contractors and other special interests.

As evidenced by the breakdown in negotiations on solving the state’s $26 billion budget deficit, it’s clear the politicians — left, and right– prefer gamesmanship to leadership no matter how much damage they do to the quality of our lives, our economic opportunity, our children, our futures.

They are more than willing to punish the poor, soak the middle class and enrich the rich.

But when it comes to solving the people’s problems, they are nowhere to be found. They disgrace themselves by their indifference to the public interest, their pandering to special interests.

Nowhere is this more evident than in LA where the annual renegotiation of civilian employee union contracts has left many in the workforce enraged at the prospects of making no financial progress when all factors are weighed over the next few years. 

Like the last two contracts, this deal hailed by city leaders as a “landmark” does very little to actually solve the problem of soaring deficits and pension and benefit costs that can never be met.

The consumer-driven high-growth economy that masked the escalating costs of government for so long is never coming back. 

The politicians cling to a hopeless fantasy of an economic miracle just around the corner. It isn’t going to happen. It is we who must change and face the new realities and rebuild our society in a more humane way that emphasizes the well-being of the people, all of the people.

Gov. Jerry Brown put on the table the outline of what must be done in this era of crisis: Waste and inefficiency must be reduced. The cost of entitlements must be reined in. The richest among us must pay higher taxes; it is their duty. Public workers must make major concessions, far greater than the ones they have so far been willing to take.

In the short term, we need to raise revenue and cut spending.

From what we see happening at City Hall, in Sacramento, in the nation’s capital, it seems clear enough that the politicians will not do what is right and necessary until they have created a catastrophe that awakens us to their folly.

It is only a matter of time whether we do nothing or continue our struggle to take back control of our government institutions and restore democracy to America. The only question is how much damage will be done, how much unnecessary suffering there will be, before the day comes when sanity returns.

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14 Responses to Punishing the Poor, Soaking the Middle Class, Enriching the Rich — The Poverty of Our Politics

  1. Anonymous says:

    Rome was not made in a day. Altho’ we have not
    reversed things, people are responding and the bureaucracy is getting a bit nervous, otherwise who knows where they might be by now after all these years. The Governor is getting a bad time, but he might surprise them, he has nerve.
    Let us all keep the pressure on. It is not
    worse, it just is not healed yet. Wide-spread
    countrywide the pressure is building.
    Fankly, I think we shall win. Yes, I do.

  2. Leslie says:

    Adachi said. “If you care about social programs or the network of support services, you have to understand that pensions and benefit costs are crowding out all these services.”
    The above statement is a false premise. It only takes into account ‘cutting’ to balance the budget.
    The City must not only look to negotiate paying 2nd 3rd Tier Retiree’s and how much is fair and the City must also look to recall tax benefits, paid for by constitutions.
    What is fair for union employee who retires? Let’s see. Let’s see how Marijuana Tax and Oil Revenue do, to fight back the budget debt, the poor decisions investing Pension Funds.

  3. Scott Zwartz says:

    I voted for Brown and I believed him when he said he would abolish the CRA’s — foolish me.
    The CRA’s with their Kelo powers of eminent domain live on and their theft of tax dollars continues. In LA, the CRA/LA took in $272 Million and next year it looks like it will take in close to 1/3 of a Billion. That means every 3 years, CRA/LA will steal ONE BILLION property tax dollars.
    The City just voted to give 1/2 the City Hotel tax to the new Wilshire Grand Hotel.
    Why would any sane person vote for more taxes when the politicians turn around and give the money to billionaires?
    You don’t hear anyone suggest that the hotel tax be cut in half in order to attract more tourism and businessmen. No, in fact, they City will propose to increase the hotel tax and then give 1/2 of that to the billionaire owner.
    Once upon a time long, long ago, cities taxed businesses to provide benefits for the people. Now we tax the people to give benefits to the businesses.
    But let’s beat up on the union guy with 4 kids and ignore the billions of tax dollars we give the the mega-wealthy. There is a systematic transfer of wealth from the bottom 98% to the top 2% and no one seems to give a damn.

  4. KK says:

    Scott: Your issue with not getting rid of the CRA rests solely on the shoulders of the Republican party or the party of No. How they managed not even to support Brown’s Initative on the CRA proves EXACTLY how petty this has become. Apparently, it is more important to not give Brown a victory than to do what is right for California. I am thoroughly disgusted.

  5. Anonymous says:

    KK: whether you like or not but people of your “progressive” thinking are responsible for the sad state we are in both in LA and CA. Aside from the republican support of CRAs which I am against, what do you mean — “to do what is right for California”???? Why is that citizens and taxpayers, paying more taxes — why is this right??? I applaud the Republicans who finally scrambled enough courage to firmly say No More Taxes. The democrats had full contol of budgets in LA and CA and the only thing they understand is how to soak a few remaining productive taxpayers. What part of “there is no more money” don’t you, Brown, Villar, etc understand? And if finally the state begins reducing the huge monster that was created on the backs of taxpayers and with their money, guess who’s going to be on the winning side? Yup us! Not the whores in Sac, not the welfare recepients, the other numerous and various leech groups. And yup Brown will look bad since he showed exactly who he is — just another whore to the unions.

  6. Anonymous says:

    6:07: Forget the aside and give me a good reason NOT to support the dismantling of the CRA? Because it is being proposed by the wrong person? This ” all or nothing” thinking is just an opportunity to whine, not a serious attempt to fix the state’s problems.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Who cares who proposed to dismantle CRAs? 9:07 does it give a warm feel that it was boy Brown — sure he’s right and the Republicans are wrong. Ok but getting rid of CRAs alone won’t solve the state budget problem. Spending must be rolled to the years before the crazy money of dot millionaires started flowing in. The state must leave within its means and this is what Brown and other union/special interest whores in Sac refused to do.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Who cares who proposed to dismantle CRAs? 9:07 does it give a warm feel that it was boy Brown — sure he’s right and the Republicans are wrong. Ok but getting rid of CRAs alone won’t solve the state budget problem. Spending must be rolled to the years before the crazy money of dot millionaires started flowing in. The state must live within its means and this is what Brown and other union/special interest whores in Sac refused to do.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Can we START with getting rid of the CRAS? Rather than pissing and moaning because the state’s problems are not solved immediately, how about getting rid of one really bad apple? Games are won by singles and doubles, not home runs and it is childish in the extreme to insist otherwise.

  10. Anonymous says:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-mayor-tickets-20110402,0,169019.story
    ROFL — just $42,000 for thousands of tickets! and no taxes for these “gifts”.

  11. Anonymous says:

    “Villaraigosa faced a maximum fine of more than $167,000 but was offered a smaller amount because investigators concluded that his violations were unintentional and that he made a “good faith” attempt to comply with the law, according to the agreement”.
    He did everything to circumvent the law and the sleaze Latham & Watkins advised him how to do it. We knew the scumbag would not be punished.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Ron I know you have big ideas that go beyond pitting working class haves and have nots against each other. Defined benefit public pensions and health care plans should be the model. You cut healthcare costs by elimingating the middle man and establishng a single payer (Medicare for all) system like conneticut is attempting. The middleman also has his greedy hands in public pension systems through non transparent hedgefunds and private equity schemes. Also, remember most public employees do not receive social security pensions.

  13. Anonymous says:

    11:40 remember that most public employees don’t pay into Social Security as well.

  14. Anonymous says:

    At all levels, taxes are going into a hole and Civil Service has been replaced with Civil Entitlement. As a taxpayer and homeowner, my funds go to the county yet I am being forced to buy a hydrant and do whatever the Fire Dept considers their discretion no matter how that affects my financial state all the while holding my house hostage. State taxes are high and the state is holding funding from local agencies thus causing a trickle-down of cuts to citizen services while some municipalities add taxes/fees – I had to pay the school district $11k in order to get a construction permit. So, I have paid thousands in permits, fees, bought infrastructure for my neighbors, went further into debt, and will pay more in property taxes while my income taxes do not seem to be coming down. Yet, politicians have a self-interest, keeping their own funding coming in. Notice how those who cannot get a job elsewhere seem to end up as career-politicians? We have a Quality Assurance and Performance Evaluation system in place and that is the vote. We need an involved and informed electorate. Anyone who can speak truth to both Power and the People is what we need; the People are not afraid to hear we are economically screwed and need to tighten our belts but Power actually believes they are doing us a favor by getting rich at our expense. I believe they sometimes refer to that as creating jobs; however, the real money comes in from my job.

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