Read any newspaper on any given day and you're sure to find
at least a half dozen news stories about government agencies
complaining that they don't have enough money to provide all
the important "services" supposedly demanded by the public.
They need more money, or else the public will undoubtedly
No matter how much more money the state spends, it is never
enough. During the first four years of the Davis administration,
general fund state spending increased about 40 percent - well
above the increase in inflation and population growth.
The Democratic Party is organized around two central principles:
1) Government is too small. 2) Your taxes need to go up to
pay for more programs. If Democrats had their way, we would
all direct-deposit our paychecks into the state and federal
treasuries, and we would get everything back in in-kind services.
That's not much of an exaggeration.
The Democratic-controlled Legislature last year introduced
100 different bills that would have raised taxes by $60 billion
- and that was in the thick of the budget mess. The same old
crowd is proposing the same old solutions as you read this.
Government continues to increase in size and look for ways
to get a hold of more of your money. Notice the initiatives
circulating for the November ballot that would add taxes on
your phone bill and a surcharge on millionaires, and increase
property taxes on corporations.
The state's liberal establishment is convinced that anyone
who doesn't want to turn over more money to the state is greedy
We all know how government spends its money, yet when times
are tough the defenders of big government insist that any
cutbacks at all - or even slowing the rate of government growth
- will be the end of Western Civilization as we know it.
Despite the approval of a $15 billion bond to cover the Davis
administration's overspending, the state still has a structural
deficit of about $7 billion (the amount it overspends each
year on ongoing programs).
The obvious answer to the problem is cutting government.
But proposed "draconian" cuts usually are only reductions
in government's rate of growth. We all know government is
enormously wasteful, and that it does many things it has no
California spends only a fraction of its massive general
fund budget on infrastructure, yet as soon as there are tough
times big-government supporters claim that any reduction in
their spending will cause traffic jams.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last week gave interviews to various
media outlets, in which he discussed the state's ongoing budget
crisis. During the interview, the governor told the Los Angeles
Times: "I'm going through wishful thinking that I'll never
have to go there [raising taxes]. Because I just don't like
it. I try to work around and find ways so we don't have to
The Times and much of the state's media pounced on such words
and played up the governor's apparent softening on tax increases.
They are thrilled at the possibility the governor has seen
the light and might raise taxes rather than control spending.
Times columnist Steve Lopez expressed optimism that the governor
will now do the right thing. After all, Lopez argued, Californians
are vastly undertaxed. We're 19th in the country in overall
state and local taxation, and the United States is "27th among
30 developed nations in taxes as a percentage of gross domestic
Actually, California's tax climate is the eighth worst in
the nation, according to the Tax Foundation. Only our property
taxes are relatively low. But perhaps America's relatively
low rate of taxation - if one considers it "low" to pay the
U.S. average of 30 percent of our total income in all forms
of taxes - explains our relatively high level of affluence
and freedom, but that's an issue for another day.
As Lopez argues, without increases, the governor "will be
governor of a state where traffic stops altogether, public
school teachers pray to God almighty for textbooks, college
students get locked out, legions of the uninsured limp into
overcrowded emergency rooms, and the L.A. County sheriff releases
thousands more drunk drivers and wife-beaters because he can't
afford to keep them locked up."
Such scare tactics are typical. But do you really think that
even if we increased taxes astronomically that officials wouldn't
lobby for more? Look at how the state spends the money it
already has. Perhaps liberal elites haven't paid attention
to the ongoing prison guard scandal, or to the effects of
the outrageous "3 percent at 50" retirement benefits granted
to powerful public employee unions, or to the wasteful, special-interest-driven
way that government lavishes benefits on those with political
Last week, I wrote about the Orange County Sanitation District
voting to spend $400 million in ratepayer dollars to pay for
a treatment system that study after study shows is unnecessary.
The proposed cost already has increased 10 percent since last
The city of San Diego is running a $1.4 billion pension fund
deficit because of unaffordable benefits that supervisors
granted to unions.
Take a look at the Taj Mahal City Hall in Mission Viejo,
or any number of other wasteful government projects.
That's how government spends your money.
Private companies, when faced with tough times, trim the
golf-course memberships for executives, hold the line on salaries,
and root out fluff and unnecessary expenses rather than sticking
it to customers, who can go elsewhere.
The government's first line of defense after it overspends
is to stick it to taxpayers, who have no choice but to pony
up the dollars and accept the lousy services government always
dishes up (e.g., the DMV).
There used to be a time when being a public "servant" meant
a lower salary in exchange for better benefits, a lighter
schedule and more job security. But who says they can't have
I looked at a salary schedule for the South Orange County
Community College District, which shows many professors earning
over $100,000 a year for a short week with summers off. A
top-earning professor there earns nearly $166,000 and many
earn in the $115,000 to $140,000 range. Salaries of six figures
are not uncommon even among cops and firefighters.
Ever get the feeling that government employees are the elite
and we're simply their servants, there to work harder so they
can live off the fruit of the land? Instead of thanks, we
get more whining and complaining, more accusations of being
Look at how local governments lavish subsidies on chain stores.
Look at the way school districts, which in California spend
a not-too-shabby $9,000 a year on each student, waste their
dollars on project-labor agreements and other union featherbedding
scams. Check out how many assistant superintendents are employed
at your kids' school district the next time administrators
claim that if you don't vote for a bond that music, arts and
sports will have to be slashed and burned.
Yet to unthinking supporters of government, it's not about
the waste, the abuse, the poor spending priorities, the arrogance,
the greed of public employee unions or other influential lobbies.
It's about you: your refusal to give the government more
money anytime it says it needs it.
You shouldn't be intimidated by such arguments, and we should
all hope Gov. Schwarzenegger isn't intimidated by them either.