With the University of California in free-fall and students responding with a passion not seen in years, the question cannot be ignored any further: What is it going to take to generate more revenue for the State of California so we can educate our best and our brightest young people to take the economic and political reigns of this state in the years and decades to come?
To add to the crisis, the LAO’s office this week announced the likelihood that California will see a $20 Billion shortfall in the year ahead. No longer can the right-wing fringe use its cute but dishonest phrase that we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. (Of course, the truth has never gotten in the way of a good RNC-created soundbite, but that’s another story). Even these obstructionists can no longer say, at least with a straight face, that state government is filled with waste, fraud and abuse. While that has been their mantra for years, they’ve never been able to locate it. Their one “victory” has been to destroy the Integrated Waste Management Board—a Board that actually succeeded in its mandate to reduce waste–but its been an easy target. So now that it has been successfully destroyed, where are the billions of spending excesses that will balance the budget without the need to increase the state’s revenues to pay its bills? Bottom line: There ain’t, but it makes a great sound-bite, doesn’t it?
What is real is that our state’s revenues have fallen from a high of $105 Billion in 2006 to about $80 Billion this year. The current projections predict our state coffers continuing to slide for the next several years, thanks to the failed economic policies of the past decade under the failed leadership of George W. Bush that have left the country and California is particular, reeling from lost jobs and foreclosed homes.
How are we going to fill that gap—and still provide the services that the public wants—the education system that our state needs to remain competitive nationally and internationally? How are we going to pay for the prisons and public safety personnel we demand?How are we going to weed out the greedy CEO’s and corporate polluters who don’t hesitate to decimate our communities or destroy our resources for their own profit?
The right-wing fringe has been working to bleed the state dry, thus privatizing everything from our universities to our prisons (already partially accomplished), to our freeways and water systems. Why does this matter? Because their only interest is profit, not people.
We must figure out ways to meet the severe economic challenges created by an almost decade-long national policy of indifference and uncontrolled corporate greed and corruption in the private-sector. We must also work to stimulate job growth by educating a creative and competent work-force through our once outstanding University and Community College systems.
But whatever we do here in California, we can’t return our state to its former prominence until we rid ourselves of the undemocratic and burdensome super-majority rule. We are a democracy where our government is supposed to be based on the principle of majority rule. Today a small minority is able to defeat the will of the majority which calls for the wealthiest corporations and individuals to pay their fair share. Instead, they continue to call for–and receive tax breaks for the biggest and richest corporations. By further draining our state’s coffers, our students are forced to pay those taxes by increasing their fees to attend college, by closing the doors to higher education and the hope and opportunity for the future of our people and our state.
So-let’s return California to majority rule, close tax loopholes of billions of dollars given to the largest and richest corporations, require oil companies to pay an oil extraction tax like they pay in every other oil drilling state in the country—that’s Alaska, Texas, Louisiana and Florida—not exactly big tax-oriented states— and use that money to fund our education system.
Stopping the bleeding won’t be easy in an economy decimated by under-regulated banks, Wall Street and other financial companies that took the opportunity to destroy the American economy during the Bush administration’s watch. The answer is simple: bring back majority rule and California will put its house back in financial order without further destroying the institutions and programs that made us the envy of the world.
Until we do that, the bleeding will continue. Without majority rule, Big Oil, multi-national corporations and the uber-wealthy won’t be required to pay their fair share. The simple fact is that we can’t afford to carry these special interest groups any more. We need to invest in our children, not big corporations, if our state is to survive and flourish. Let’s stop the bleeding now—and hope it isn’t too late.