While Rome Burns We’re Looking at Paris

I doubt when the Founding Fathers considered creating a democracy where an informed public decided its political, social and economic destiny, they had any inkling it would end up more interested in insipid gossip than real debate about what would affect the lives of those whose opinions and decisions would direct the fate of a nation and its people.
But here we are with more ink and video spent on Paris Hilton, Anna Nichole Smith and other irrelevant trivia than on whether we are willing to feed the homeless, educate our children and clean up a world we are polluting into oblivion. Why bother discussing these important, complex and critical situations when we can bury our heads in the sand and argue about whether Paris should do 45 days or 23 days in jail for being an over-hyped and talentless party-girl and thus wreaking havoc on the values of hard-work and responsibility we try to teach our children?
As Rome burns and the dream of a well-informed public drowns in this nonsense or the corporate take-over of the press, rendering it little more than pandering and propogandizing for the powerful and wealthy, we sit idly by. Democracy can only work if the people who are given the awesome responsibility of self-governance know what they are doing when they make their choices.
To remedy this, several on-line sites, including Speak Out California, are committed to providing information and honest discussion about just what IS happening in the halls of power; just what financial and political decision-making is taking place with our hard-earned dollars. To ensure that more Californians have access to that information, we’ve initiated what we hope will be a weekly (or bi-weekly)summary of the goings-on in our state capitol. We’re calling it, ” While California Dreams “. We launched our first edition this past weekend and hope you’ll take a look at it here http://ga4.org/speakout_ca_dreaming/notice-description.tcl? newsletter_id=10533153 For the reasons discussed in this blog, we think it’s very important to provide an alternative to the cut-backs we’re seeing in the mainstream media as it down-sizes to increase corporate profits.

Just this past month the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) came out with a shocking report on the state of ignorance we live in as Californians, knowing virtually nothing about how this state operates. Of course civics and political science can be dry topics to some, while exciting and fascinating to others (like yours truly and people who read these kinds of blogs). That’s why Heinz makes 57 varieties of soup (or used to….I dont’ see their products in the market much these days). Regardless, there are some basic elements of government that each citizen should know, especially when asked to vote on them–and guide the future of our state. They’re fairly simple issues like:
What is the largest single area of state government spending? (Answer for anyone who is interested: Education)
What is the maximum number of years a legislator can stay in office under the current term limits laws?
(Answer: 14). Only 1 out of 100 know the answer to that question. This information is important because there will be an initiative next February calling for the terms to be reduced, but also increased. Confusing? It will be, and even more so if you don’t have the simple knowledge asked in the question above.
And to add insult to injury, while our Governor insists on bonding and borrowing the state out of debt, only a third of Californians know anything about how these bonds are repaid. Most people don’t realize that these bonds are like any other borrowing….they have to be repaid and repaid with interest. With this kind of knowledge, it’s no wonder we can’t even talk about raising taxes….why do that when you can just borrow the money without any consequence?
We have a serious gap here in our knowledge and understanding of how this state operates. While certainly not as much fun as, say, watching Paris Hilton in handcuffs, or men falling all over themselves to proclaim they fathered Anna Nicole Smith’s baby, it’s time for the people of California to wake up and demand to know what they should know about how the state is run, how much money it really costs and how we’re going to put out all the fires created by our ignorance and indolence.
If we aren’t willing to take just a little time to gather the facts and consider the options available based upon them, our children and grandchildren will likely look back at our generation and time and wonder why were we so focused on Paris while Rome was burning. We hope with our “While California Dreams” weekly update, we can do our small part to make sure that doesn’t happen. Check it out and let us know what you think. It’s here http://ga4.org/speakout_ca_dreaming/notice-description.tcl?newsletter_id=10533153