I Am Curious (Meg)

Republicans, ever the stately bunch, has a candidate in place to replace California's Arnold Schwarzenegger, star of Kindergarten Cop.  It is Meg Whitman, known as the head of eBay.

In keeping with California's tradition of unpleasant looking governor's, Meg looks to be part man, party cyborg and part walking dead.  She carries herself well, and you can say what you want about eBay, but who doesn't love a site where you can get a DVD for a penny?

Meg started an ad campaign earlier this month that was meant to get her name out there.  The campaign is being paid for by herself because she has millions at her disposal, which of course keeps her in touch with average Californians.  Her ad campaign, which has the mandatory talking points, focuses on creating jobs, cutting government spending and fixing education.  Who can argue with that?

Meg, whom I'm sure will be looking for a presidential run if she wins, is, luckily, no Sarah Palin.  She is, however, your typical politician.

One of Meg's well-thought out plans for creating jobs kind of goes against cutting government spending.  Meg wants to get rid of 40,000 state government jobs.


Eliminate 40,000 jobs that have healthcare benefits, retirement and pay a living wage.  We all know the private sector offers those things in abundance, so those businesses that aren't hiring now will be hiring under Meg's plan and offering all those same opportunities and benefits.

Again.  Brilliant.

It's more race to the bottom where the ultimate result is economic slavery in the form of debt and check-to-check survival.  Unions will be gutted (a good thing for anti-labor forces).  The average joe will think that less government jobs means less taxes (which I can find no evidence of ever having happened as that money saved just goes to other projects).  And now, people struggling to find decent paying jobs in an economy that cannot be fixed by government alone will now have even more competition.  Some of those displaced workers will most likely go on government aid, thus increasing the burden on that system.

A race to the bottom is always messy.

Meg will be unable to create enough viable jobs to absorb that load.  It is nearly impossible for reasons such as lack of public faith, lack of funds, generations of short-term thinking, and a political system at odds with itself.

I agree that changes must be made.  I don't think that cutting jobs is the answer.  Not now.  Not with the economy this bad.  Cutting government spending, however, is essential.  Just as essential as raising taxes by a slight percentage, actually enforcing taxes on corporations, and creating new taxes from things like decriminalization of pot and prostitution.

So where will government spending be cut?  First, it's important to see what Californians think.

A series of polls down earlier this year showed that California's citizens want control over the budget.  They don't trust the politicians to do it.  I don't trust them, either, but if you continue to examine the polls you quickly see you also can't trust the people because they actually have little to idea what the state spends its money on or how it gets it.

Not good for people who want to make the economic decisions.

Most Californians said the money to run the state comes from the sales tax, with personal income tax, corporate taxes, and car fees coming into place in that order.  In 2009 55% of California's revenues actually came from personal income taxes (remember those 40,000 jobs, Meggie).  Next up, at 31%, was sales tax, 10% corporate tax and 2% from car fees.

Yes, the public was off, but not by that much.

So what does the public think California spends money on?  49% think prisons get the most money.  24% said health and human services (which is more than welfare).  That is followed by K-12 education and then higher education.  The spending does not follow the public's line of thinking, though.  (And for the record, I thought prisons would be high [not first] on the list, too.)

Forty-one percent goes to K-12 education (which, when based on the how bad our school system is, Meg is right in thinking education needs to be fixed).  30% of the money goes to health and human services.  Thirteen percent to higher education and 10% to prisons.

As far as health and human services go (and in full disclosure, I am part of that system ), when the economy goes down the toilet, the need for those services goes up.  Cutting them takes a dire situation and makes it critical.  It's like having a terrorist attack and thinking that is a good moment to close hospitals, shut down fire stations and fire the police.  You can't yank away the life vest in the time of most need.

Our schools are constantly doing fund raisers, yet they get the most money.  What is wrong there?  Mismanagement of funds?  An overburdened system?  That's something for another time.  This is about Meg.

Meg wants to cut government spending, a move I think a lot of Californians would agree with (including myself to a degree).  The interesting thing, though, is that government spending in California has been cut ... drastically.

California is spending billions less now than it did four to five years ago.  Billions.  And we are still in a crisis (perhaps aided in part by budget cuts made by those who don't pay attention to the long term problems).  Where must those cuts come from?

If the state gets most of its money from personal income taxes, cutting jobs is not the way to fix the problem.  Not only must we concentrate on keeping the jobs we have, we have to create new ones.  If we create new jobs, personal income taxes go up, all the programs get more money.  To create new jobs we have to make California attractive to businesses.  Government infrastructure jobs need to be created, and they must be created with long term thinking in mind.

If we can modernize the way the state government runs, we can save money in the long term.  Going paperless saves on paper costs, copier repair, toner replacement and so on.  Creating that system creates jobs.  Changing all government buildings to use green technologies with solar and rain water collection, along with eco-friendly roofs saves energy and water bills and helps to clean the air.  It also creates jobs to create these things.  The money for these things is already in the budget, it's how it is spent that creates problems.  Government would do best to ask its employees how to save money.  They have wonderful ideas.  Since they are in the trenches they can easily see where time (money) is being wasted.

Meg's three tier plan for a better tomorrow is only spot-on on two points.  Fixing education and creating jobs.  Her plan for cutting government spending sounds good until you realize that taking 40,000 well-paid jobs out of a system that relies upon that personal income tax money is like cutting one's throat.  If she seriously thinks she can turn this state around, she needs to realize that drastic actions combined with short-term thinking is what got us into this position to begin with.  If we set up a system that looks ahead ten years, getting to that point will start to solve the problems.

Making pot (and really all drugs) and prostitution legal instantly creates new jobs and more personal and corporate income tax.  Remember, over half of California's revenue comes from those personal income tax dollars.  Over half.  Cutting 40,000 jobs or creating thousands of new ones?  It seems simple to me, but then again, I'm no Meg Whitman, and I'm not buying my way into the government, which poses another question.

Democrats are the ones always accused of throwing money at problems.  Aren't Republicans a little worried that the approach Meg is taking to her campaign (throwing money at it, and willingly stating that she is willing to throw a lot of money at it in order to drown out the other candidates) perhaps indicative of how she'll approach running the government?  I know what she says, but actions speak louder than words, and those Republicans who think cutting funds is the answer may want to give a second look to someone who thinks throwing money around is a viable way to run things.

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