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.