Lost: One Moral Compass

During my first term in the California Legislature back in 1998, I was reminded regularly that the state budget is a moral document, setting forth the priorities and values of its people. If what we are seeing today is such a set of priorities, we have clearly lost our moral compass.

Passing out pink slips to our teachers while giving tax-breaks to multi-national corporations sets a sad standard in the annals of decency and short-sightedness. What is more important than our children and their future? Apparently to the right-wing Republicans who have taken a pledge against balancing the budget thoughtfully and fairly and who forced yet another such  boondoggle before agreeing to the February, 2009 budget,it is seeing to it that their big corporate donors (the real special interests in our state) get even more from California while giving nothing in return.

At the same time our governor boasts that he’s so cool with what’s happening that he is spending his evenings in his jacuzzi with his 8 inch stogie while people in wheel chairs are being arrested outside his office because they’re asking  for simply enough to maintain a level of human dignity while they fight to survive each day.  Yet, this apparently doesn’t offend enough that the media has barely mentioned the Governor’s directive to arrest these folks while he embarasses us all with his cigars and indulgences. It is shameful. Our lack of indignation is shameful, too. Where is our moral compass?

While in Washington D.C. recently, I went to the wonderful FDR Memorial, located within a stone’s throw of the Jefferson Memorial. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a man who set this country on a path of compassion and greatness with his effort to give every American the opportunity to live with dignity. One is reminded of this throughout his Memorial.

During a time not too different from today, he gave us hope and challenged us not to succumb to fear.His was a vision of possibility, dignity and kindness combined with the greatness to see that vision become a reality. His moral compass should have set the tone not just for several generations of Americans,  but for all generations when he said,

                            The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the

                            abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide

                            enough for those who have too little


Today, all we hear about is how we are taxed too much; that we have to do without; that we have to give big corporations more so they create jobs (a totally false premise since so much of their profit goes to greedy executives or to create jobs in other countries); that we should cut education, healthcare, close our parks, reduce services that protect our natural resources and protect our environment and public health, etc. The list goes on and on, but for those who have either forgotten the admonition of Franklin Roosevelt or the role of government to provide for the common good, it’s simply and ONLY about the money and shrinking government so it can no longer function.

While there is certainly a good argument that government cannot be all things to all people and that it must respond to the economic circumstances of the times, the Governor and the anti-government right-wing that has far too much influence in California (because of the 2/3 vote requirement for a budget) have taken this too far. To be OK with giving to those who have the most at the expense of those who have the least and even to the middle-class struggling to stay afloat means we have forgotten who we are as a people.

It is time to start talking about investing in our people and our future and regain our moral compass. And it should start with the Governor getting out of his jacuzzi and listening to those in steel chairs who are asking for simple dignity. Or better yet, he should remember the words of the man who governed from a steel-chair and did so with great compassion and success. That’s real leadership.

9 thoughts on “Lost: One Moral Compass

  1. It drives me wild when I hear these morons talking about our government as if it’s being forced on us from outer space. Nothing could be further from the truth! Without government, the vast majority of California’s population would have no say whatsoever in how their business is carried out. To the extent these creeps are successful in minimizing our government, our populace is dis-empowered. Everyone in California needs to hear and understand that because it also will mean a decent into a penury for them from which recovery will take a very long time.
    Arnold is not just another butt hole! He’s very dangerous to the welfare of our state and its population and because of that we have to take him on. We have no choice, we must conduct a PR war against him and the feckless ideology he espouses. We have to send him packing!
    “The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War

  2. I hope you all can support a grassroots effort to save the CSU. A $584 mil cut this year will bring the system to it’s knees…. Please join the one-click letter campaign.
    Dear Friend,
    I just heard that California leaders are making dramatic cuts to higher education — cuts that will undermine California’s economic recovery. These cuts jeopardize the future of our students who depend on access to higher education today to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow.
    This heavy burden directly impacts the quality of our students’ education and access to faculty-provided services. Will you send a letter to CSU Chancellor Reed, Governor Schwarzenegger, and key California legislators asking that they preserve funding for education?
    The university system has long served as a foundation for California business and economic growth as more and more jobs require a college degree.
    The prosperity of California depends on education. CSU students are tomorrow’s work force and they need quality education today. The Future is Now.

  3. Thank you Hanna Beth! For your clarity and courage to speak the truth. We need you to represent us and lead where there is no leadership. Right on, Liz

  4. At this point arguing with Arnold is like arguing with a mindless Cyborg from the future. Bold action is needed.
    Any other action is completely useless.

  5. Go Sue! Mindless, self-serving Cyborg is even more accurate. He should never have been allowed to oust Davis in that Republican backed recall that he sold to the voters with a lowering of the car registration fees. What an idiot, I read in the L.A. Times that the loss of registration fees has averaged $3 Billion a year for 7 years, there’s the 21 Billion we need right there! Plus, he illegally funded his own campaign and just paid the fines and took office! Spent more than any candidate ever to buy the Governorship…
    Now he wants to ‘privatize’ school bus drivers among other things. Gee, that’s worked out so well for our utility bills and the military… what a nightmare.
    When are we going to be able to stop lawbreakers from taking office?

  6. Thank you Hannah for speaking out. I think the democrats have to launch an awareness campign to let the public know what’s going, and educate the public, that taxes are the price you pay for living in a civilized society, and that those who benefit the most for all the thing taxes pay for like the infrastructure that allows business to function should pay their fare share, since they are the ones who can afford it and are profiting the most.

  7. HBJ:
    During the last thirty years, most particularly the last eight years, State budgets have been unbalanced structurally, unsound fiscally and unworkable politically. And while both Democrats and Republicans contributed mightily to this mess, it is a cold, hard, political fact that during the majority of this period, both houses of the State Legislature were controlled by the Democrats.
    The State’s fiscal chaos comes directly from Sacramento’s elites mis-prioritizing everything. Taxes, cuts, spending and regulations in California all currently arise out of the unaccountable and unrealistic expectations of a short-term legislative roster with no long-term strategy for private-sector job growth. Put simply, job growth incites rhetoric in the press releases issued by the Governor and State legislators but it doesn’t find its way into bills and analysis.
    During the last eight years, California lost 564,000 highly-skilled manufacturing jobs as the direct consequence of eight years of Sacramento’s neglect and abuse. To be fair, during that same period, the State gained about 255,000 service jobs, most of which occurred in the hotel and food service, government and health care sectors.
    However, the average wage of the more than one-half million, highly-skilled manufacturing jobs lost in this State during the last eight years was about $61,000. This was one-third MORE than the $40,000 average wage paid for the low-skilled private and public sector service jobs created during that same period. Is there any wonder that the standard of living for hard-working middle-class and working poor in this State has declined drastically during this period due to such heartless, soulless and foolish State laws, budgets and hyper-regulatory policies?
    Worse, Governors and State Legislators, representing both political parties, made conscious choices to pander to ex-urban and suburban districts disproportionately populated by a then growing and politically potent middle, and upper-middle class of educated professionals, many of whom worked for government. They did so by promising them an ever-increasing suite of popular State services without guaranteeing a sustainable source of State funding for those very services.
    The State’s funding is way too dependent on “boom and bust” sensitive taxes and fees to support this cornucopia of services. And worse, these same Democratic and Republican legislators who during boom-times doled-out what they knew would be temporary excess revenues to either increase these services and/or lower taxes, also gave out special interest tax breaks to political and economic elites who bankrolled their campaigns. Talk about cutting off the State’s fiscal nose to powder their respective political game-faces…
    Next, intended or not, the passage of Proposition 13 moved the locus of fiscal power from the cities, counties and school districts from our local communities to Sacramento. And since politics follows money, the non-elected bureaucrats in Sacramento exert a strangle-hold over more and more of the decisions made by local city councils, Boards of Supervisors and school district boards of trustees.
    As Willie Sutton, the Depression-era bank-robber once said in response to the question why he robbed banks, “..Well, that’s where the money is..” Well, until the recent mortgage melt-down and current recession, Sacramento was where the State’s money used to be, cause we all, willingly or unwillingly, sent more and more of our paychecks up their through the State’s Rube-Goldberg collection of taxes and fees..
    Unfortunately, too few in this State realized too late that what was marketed by the Sacramento Big-Five as their so-called balanced State budgets were no more than legalized Ponzi-schemes. In fact, the fiscal cabal which concocted the knowingly false and rosy fiscal assumptions used to advance the State’s last so-called balanced budget might be in competition with Bernie Madoff for the fiscal chutzpah of the year award.
    Worse, due to voter-imposed term-limits, non-elected, hyper-regulating bureaucrats in Sacramento are exerting greater and greater back-room control over the destiny of school children, disabled-persons, businesses, and entrepreneurs, driving them all towards mind-numbing stress, fiscal ruin and potentially life and death struggles. All the while cowardly hiding behind the thousands of pages of special-interest legislation passed and signed into law by the same Sacramento Big Five.
    Finally, and perhaps most ironic. “We the People” have contributed mightily to this by blithely passing mutually contradictory initiatives further constraining the ability our so-called elected representatives in Sacramento to practice creative thinking and adaptive management of the State’s resources in a 21st Century globalized world. After all, California is the seventh or eighth largest economy in the world. At least for now..
    California’s economic rebirth, private-sector job security, “green” leadership, and bold, but paid-for, government will start only with the acknowledgement that the most active part of any successful economy is a highly productive, American-based, Green-energy sourced and distributed wealth creating manufacturing community.
    It’s been far too long since California had a governor and legislative leaders, both Democratic and Republican , who spoke directly, plainly and honestly about the level of investments we need for California’s future, the fairest way to pay for those investments and the real reforms required to right the State’s fiscal ship. Instead, our Girly-Man Governator and his partners in Fiscal Terrorism, the notorious Gang-of-Four of Bass, Blakeslee, Hollingsworth and Steinberg, continue to fiddle while Sacramento’s fiscal and soon governance houses burn and crash around us all.
    In fact, as recently as mid-June, Mssrs. Steinberg and Schwarzenegger were more interested in exchanging Psilocybin mushrooms and Metal Bull-Testicles gag-gifts than reaching an acceptable middle-ground required to end this fiscal madness.
    I guess our current crop of Democratic and Republican Legislative and Executive leaders in Sacramento are more interested in playing sophomoric, Animal-house games with each other in order to prove their political toughness to their political cronies, special-interest contributors and minions then they are in leading this State toward a forward-thinking, fiscally-sound, socially-just and environmentally-sustainable future..
    As the old Pogo cartoon reminds us, “..We have met the enemy, and it is us!” We elected these folks, passed these initiatives, and this is what we got. Until enough of us feel the pain, reformulate the civic-brain, and reform the political train, we will have to struggle mightily with these Sacramento Legends in their Own Political Minds to regain control over our lives, treasures and political destiny as a State.

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