Pension Funds Recovering – It Wasn’t Unions After All!

Do you remember the big buildup of stories in the right-wing press, and all the “reports” and “studies” from right-wing and Wall Street-funded “think tanks” and “institutes,” all warning that public-employee unions and were causing pension fund costs to soar? They all claimed that all the cities and states would be bankrupt because of the outrageous pay and benefits that government workers receive?
Remember that?
And remember how it led to a campaign in several states to gut union rights, and gut public-employee pay and benefits?
And have you noticed that the whole things has sort of gone away? It isn’t in the news now? All those stories that were in the press and all the “experts” who were on the talk-radio programs have quieted down?
It was almost like it was a marketing campaign for a movie of a new Apple iPhone, wasn’t it?
That’s because it was exactly that. It’s called “Shock Doctrine” tactics.
Anyway, in the news: from July, California pension funds post big annual gains,

California’s biggest pension funds reported that a booming stock market and private-equity gains helped them post their largest returns in over a decade.
The California Public Employees’ Retirement System pension fund grew 20.7% in the fiscal year ending June 30, its best return in 14 years. The California State Teachers’ Retirement System fund, known as CalSTRS, increased 23.1%, the best it has done in a quarter century.
Both pension funds, which rank as the two largest in the nation, have been in a period of recovery since massive losses during the financial crisis.
… Both pension funds benefited from the stock market’s revival since the depths of the financial crisis in March 2009, when major stock market indexes fell to 12-year lows.

20.7% gains. GOSH, maybe it was the recession and not public-employees that made pension returns look so bad! Ans when the stock market went back up, the whole “problem” turned around.
Today, Washington Post, State, local pension funds continue to recover,

State and local pension funds continued to recover this spring from the depths of the Great Recession as their gains from investments and from higher annual taxpayer contributions lifted their holdings to their highest levels in three years, the Census Bureau reported Thursday.
The assets for the nation’s 100-largest public-employee pensions systems rose more than 1 percent during the second quarter, to $2.8‚ÄČtrillion, the Census Bureau said. The increase contributed to a nearly 18 percent gain in holdings over the previous year.

18% returns nationally. The Post says credits reforms requiring employees to put more in, but that would have nothing to do with the returns the funds are getting today.

Treating our Farm Workers Fairly– Senate Bill 104

 Dylan Anderson is a member of United Farm Workers Internet Communications team. The UFW has been fighting to bring dignity, respect and decent working conditions to our state’s hard-working agricultural workers. Below is his request for Californians to stand-up for these workers. If you are willing to help assure this measure becomes law by signing the petition linked at the bottom of this piece, the long and hard fought battle to achieve these important goals will be closer to reality.

Recently, both the California Senate and Assembly passed SB 104, “The Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act.” Introduced by Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), SB 104 would give the state’s more than 400,000 farm workers an alternative to on-the-job polling place elections to decide whether to join a union. The new option would allow them to fill out state-issued representation ballots in their homes, away from bosses’ threats and other interference.  If a simple majority – more than 50 percent — of workers sign the ballots, their jobs would be unionized. 

 

Now the bill is going to Governor Jerry Brown. If he does not sign SB 104 into law, farm workers will continue to face unbearable conditions and pressure. Many workers don’t have access to basic things like shade, water, heat training or even breaks during the hot summer days. And nothing will change. Wage and hour violations will continue. Overexposure to pesticides will go unchallenged. Sexual harassment will remain rampant and the health crises caused by a lack of sanitation and lax safety standards will continue to plague farm workers.

 In an effort to put pressure on Governor Brown to protect farm workers, UFW has created an online petition to gain support. 

 You can find more information on SB 104 here:

http://www.ufw.org/_board.php?mode=view&b_code=news_press&b_no=10158&page=1&field=&key=&n=743

http://www.ufw.org/_board.php?mode=view&b_code=cre_leg&b_no=9206&page=1&field=&key=&n=5

 

This video segment does a good job explaining why SB 104 is so important:

http://www.ufw.org/_board.php?mode=view&b_code=res_multi&b_no=10019&page=1&field=&key=&n=264

 

                            To sign the petition, go to:

http://action.ufw.org/page/s/sb104petition?source=web

 

As always, we at Speak Out California would be interested in your thoughts and comments.

Church and State: How Bad Religion Gets It Wrong on Government

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Rev. Peter Laarman has been working with Speak Out California’s sister organization, Renew California, to bring the progressive community together to form a more effective coalition of groups, organizations and individuals who believe that we have a responsibility to each other to make this a better California and world so our children will have a better world in which to live and thrive.
Competent journalist friends of mine have been doing good reporting lately on the unholy intersections between conservative religion and conservative political ideology within Tea Party and Republican circles. Whereas lazy corporate media types tried to convince us that the Tea Party marks a break with Religious Right dominance inside the GOP, it was always obvious to serious observers that an anti-tax gospel has been a major feature of Religious Right teaching for decades. And thus it was equally obvious that the smarmy Ralph Reeds of this world would surely find their place in any new Grand Coalition of anti-government activists.
As Jeff Sharlet has chronicled in two brilliant books, the single most powerful religious group in U.S. political life–the secretive conservative Christian group known as The Family–got its start by mobilizing powerful captains of industry to oppose the growth of unions and to resist pro-union legislation during the 1930s. It’s not really hard to show how bad religion and a virulent anti-government ideology have functioned as soul mates, if you can pardon the expression, for a very long time.
An interesting test case arose in Alabama eight years ago when conservative Republican governor Bob Riley, a born-again Southern Baptist, tried very carefully to make a biblical case for changes to a notoriously regressive tax system in that state. Gov. Riley’s changes would have benefited the lowest-wage paid workers in that state and would have made more affluent people pay a bit more. The so-called Christian Coalition rose up to crush Riley’s initiative like a bug.
Likewise, we don’t need to go far to find conservative religious leaders here in California who stand ready to rally the faithful against any move toward fairer and more progressive taxation. These leaders apparently believe that grotesque social inequality is part of “God’s plan” and that reforming a seriously flawed tax code that contributes to growing inequality is somehow satanic.
I have been calling this “bad religion,” but I should be more precise and call it what it really is: domesticated religion–religion that has become captive to peculiarly American ideas about the sanctity of private property and the unquestioned moral virtue of entrepreneurial culture. It is religion that forgets the essential point that we belong to each other–and that we truly are each other’s keepers. Noted environmental writer and activist Bill McKibben sometimes refers to American Christianity as “Franklinity” on account of the huge numbers of U.S. Christians who believe that Franklin’s “God helps those who help themselves” can be found in the Bible.
The good news is that the more toxic expressions of the anti-government gospel will be slowly losing their power. Younger white evangelical Christians are almost as likely as other young adults, for example, to see a positive role for government in lifting people out of dire poverty and in providing opportunities for all to thrive. Younger Catholics are rediscovering the noble social justice teachings of their faith. Conservative Christians in communities of color are consistently less hostile to government than their white counterparts–and their numbers are growing.
And there is more good news from the organizing front. Together with a number of interfaith partners, I have been working for the past year to create a “network of networks” called California Faith Action that will do two things. It will rally people of good will from all faith traditions to advocate much more powerfully for the needs of young Californians and of the most vulnerable Golden State residents. But California Faith Action will also bring communities of faith more directly into the arena of systemic or constitutional reform to ensure that an ideologically-committed political minority cannot continue to blight our state’s future.
We have already discovered that one of the most powerful tools in our Faith Action toolkit will be simple basic information on issues like wealth distribution, comparative tax rates and tax trends over time, and how various voter-approved initiatives and ballot measures that were perfectly well-intentioned at the outset have turned out to have perverse results. As I tell faith audiences throughout the state, our issue in California is not really a Left-Right issue, but a Top-Bottom issue in which enormous corporate and private wealth has effectively “seceded” from the state–causing the rest of us to fight for crumbs.
This is language that people of faith can understand. Among the Abrahamic faith traditions, Judaism and Islam have always put support for the common good at the very center of ethical concern. They have always challenged the power and prerogatives of private wealth. My own faith tradition, I regret to say, is the one that became excessively domesticated on these shores: subordinated to the deeper-level American creed of acquisitive individualism, with more of John Locke than of Jesus Christ in the mix. But moderate-to-conservative American Christians cannot escape the reality that Jesus preached and practiced solidarity with the poor and warned against the perils of private accumulation at the expense of the commons; Jesus did not show contempt for the poor while deferring to the rich and powerful. Somewhere deep down all Christians, even the more conservative ones, also recognize that private charity is ultimately no substitute for public justice.
What we will be saying through California Faith Action is that government, like private persons, cannot serve two masters. It cannot serve Mammon and be worthy of our respect, let alone God’s respect. It must serve the common good–and in so doing also serve the will and purpose of the Creator, who (according to the great Hebrew prophets) takes no delight at all in our ritual expressions of piety but is supremely delighted when human beings show solidarity for one another and thus honor the divinely-bestowed dignity of each child, woman, and man.
Rev. Peter Laarman is Executive Director of Progressive Christians Uniting in Los Angeles. He leads an interfaith team developing a new statewide network called California Faith Action.

Hannah-Beth’s Radio Show

Hannah-Beth Jackson has a radio show, Speak Out with Hannah-Beth, on the air Saturday mornings at 9 on News Talk KTMS 990 AM in Santa Barbara. She has been interviewing some great guests.
You can listen The list of podcasts is here, and includes:

… and many others.
You don’t need a special podcast player to listen, just click the links when you get to the page you want.

Isn’t it time we got the message?

In following the horror of nature rearing its awesome and unlimited power upon our friend and ally, Japan, it becomes ever more clear how fragile our hold is and how potentially insignificant we are in nature’s plan. So the question is: why do we continue to taunt her power? We build in flood plains, fire zones, ignore the true signs of global warming and talk about building more nuclear power plants. When will be get the message?
These are all things we can do something about. We can stop building in flood plains and high fire areas, we can address the sources of global warming and climate change and change our behaviors (if not too late). These are conversations we’ve been having regularly, especially in California and this is good. Ignoring the fact that the Koch brothers, their other oil and coal-burning billionaire buddies deny and lie about the changing climate, the importance of their carbon-burning products and their impacts on the planet, we know that they are in this strictly for the money. Truth and nature be damned.
But what we haven’t been talking about and are facing immediately and dramatically, is what happens when nature challenges the “safety” of nuclear power plants. Ninety miles from where I live, in Santa Barbara, is PG&E’s San Luis Obispo’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, so aptly named as its meltdown would create a hell for those of us downwind. How many are downwind? Well, you start in Santa Barbara and then go straight through Los Angeles, down the coast to San Diego and you get a sense of the magnitude of danger such a situation would create. Oh, and did I mention that Diablo is sited on an earthquake fault? No biggie…….
Of course, it IS big and the fact that Japan has 54 of these facilities is no less mind-boggling as Mother Nature has shined her often harsh countenance on the Rising Sun many times over the past decades and the latest on March 11, 2011 (not to be ignored is the human imposition of nuclear destruction on this nation in 1945).
With all sources of electricity to cool the nuclear reactor rods out-of-commission—back up diesel generators badly damaged by the earthquake, and an estimated 8 hours of battery time to keep the rods cool enough so they don’t melt and release radioactive material into the atmosphere, we are either facing or will face-down a Chernobyl/Three-Mile Island incident. So the next time we start talking about building more nuclear power plants, let’s remember that Mother Nature can neither be fooled nor beaten when her powers are unleashed.
There are many lessons to be learned from this incident. Most important is that we are powerless in the face of nature’s wrath when unleashed. We live in earthquake country in California. So, why are we cutting emergency facilities, the people who are our first-responders and otherwise destroying the very government that will be called upon if and when we face the inevitability that nature will act harshly — perhaps tomorrow, perhaps decades from now but inevitably? And while we ponder this, we need to prepare. And while we do that, let’s remember that nuclear power is not harmless and no amount of protection we develop can ensure against such a catastrophe. For those of us old enough to remember the campaign to substitute margarine for butter we should remind ourselves that “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” Let’s not allow ourselves to find out why. Let’s reject building more nuclear power plants and find other safer ways to generate the power we need to fuel the future…..so we have a future to fuel.
And to the people of Japan we send you our prayers and hopefully our promise that we will not make the world any more dangerous than it is today—mother nature notwithstanding.

Saturday Rallies In Sacramento, SF, LA, San Diego

We are all under attack, from public employees in Wisconsin and several other states, to the DC budget-cutters (just a few weeks after giving a huge tax cut to the rich) killing off NPR, slashing the EPA, consumer protections and so many other things government does for We, the People. Turn out tomorrow – Egypt-style – and demand that We, the People be heard from.
According to MoveOn’s Rally to Save the American Dream site There is now a San Francisco event as well as a Sacramento event, a Los Angeles and San Diego are also planning major rallies.
This is a chance to show your support for public employees in Wisconsin and everywhere, and for working people everywhere, and for ourselves. a href=”http://pol.moveon.org/event/americandream/?rc=rsad_bg_caf”>Click here to locate an event near you. In addition the US Uncut site shows even more events planned Click through to see what is nearyou. (Follow the US Uncut Twitter feed here.)
From the Rally to Save the American Dream site:

  

Rally to Save the American Dream
In Wisconsin and around our country, the American Dream is under fierce attack. Instead of creating jobs, Republicans are giving tax breaks to corporations and the very rich–and then cutting funding for education, police, emergency response, and vital human services.
On Saturday, February 26, at noon local time, we are organizing rallies in front of every statehouse and in every major city to stand in solidarity with the people of Wisconsin. We demand an end to the attacks on worker’s rights and public services across the country. We demand investment, to create decent jobs for the millions of people who desperately want to work. And we demand that the rich and powerful pay their fair share.
We are all Wisconsin. We are all Americans.
This Saturday, we will stand together to Save the American Dream. Be sure to wear Wisconsin Badger colors–red and white–to show your solidarity. Sign up today to join in!

Businesses Do Not Create Jobs

Businesses do not create jobs. In fact, the way our economy is structured the incentive is for businesses to get rid of as many jobs as they can.
Demand Creates Jobs
A job is created when demand for goods or services is greater than the existing ability to provide them. When there is a demand, people will see the need and fill it. Either someone will start filling the demand alone, or form a new business to fill it or an existing provider of the good or service will add employees as needed. (Actually a job can be created by a business, a government, a non-profit organization or just a person doing the job, depending on the nature of the good or service that is required.)
So a demand creates a job. A person who sees that houses on a block need their lawns mowed might go door to door and say they will mow the lawn for $10. When houses start saying “Yes, I need my lawn mowed” a job has been created!
Demand also creates businesses. The person who is filling demand by mowing lawns for people might after a while have a regular circuit of houses that want their lawns mowed every week, and will buy a truck and a new mower and hire someone to help. A business is born!
Businesses Want To Kill Jobs, Not Create Them
Many people wrongly think that businesses create jobs. They see that a job is usually at a business, so they think that therefore the business “created” the job. This thinking leads to wrongheaded ideas like the current one that giving tax cuts to businesses will create jobs, because the businesses will have more money. But an efficiently-run business will already have the right number of employees. When a business sees that more people are coming in the door (demand) than there are employees to serve them, they hire people to serve the customers. When a business sees that not enough people are coming in the door and employees are sitting around reading the newspaper, they lay people off. Businesses want customers, not tax cuts.
Businesses have more incentives to eliminate jobs than to create them. Businesses in our economy exist to create profits, not jobs. This means the incentive is for a business to create as few jobs as possible at the lowest possible cost. They also constantly strive to reduce the number of people they employ by bringing in machines, outsourcing or finding other ways to reduce the payroll. This is called “cutting costs” which leads to higher profits. The same incentive also pushes the business to pay as little as possible when they do hire. (It also pushes businesses to cut worker safety protections, cut product quality, cut customer service, “externalize” costs by polluting, etc.)
This obviously works against the interests of the larger society, which wants lots of good jobs with good pay. And businesses, while working to cut jobs and pay less, need other businesses to hire lots of people and pay well, because that is what creates the demand that makes all the businesses work.
Government To The Rescue
This is where government comes in. Government is We, the People, working for that larger societal interest. In our current system — when it works — we use government to come up with ways to balance the effects of the profit motive — which pushes for fewer jobs at lower pay — with our larger need for more jobs at higher pay for us, and for the good of all the businesses. We, through our government, create and regulate the “playing field” on which businesses operate. We set minimum wages, limits on working hours, worker safety rules and other rules designed to keep that balance between profit incentive and demand, and that playing field level. (We also provide the infrastructure of roads, schools, courts, etc. that is what makes our businesses competetive with businesses in other countries. The individual interest in paying less taxes for this has to be balanced with the larger interest that we all pay more for this, but that is another post, titled, “Tax Cuts Are Theft.”)
Corrupted
Obviously businesses in our system must be kept from having any ability whatsoever to influence government decision-making in any way, or the system breaks down. When businesses are able to influence government, they will influence government in ways that provide themselves – and only themselves – with more profits, meaning lower costs, meaning fewer jobs at worse pay and not protecting workers, the environment or other businesses. And, they will fight to keep their ability to influence government, using the resulting wealth gains to increase their power over the government which increases their wealth which increases their power over the government which increases their wealth which increases their power over the government which increases their wealth which increases their power over the government which increases their wealth which increases their power over the government …
Unfortunately this is the system as it is today.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am also a Fellow with CAF.

Anonymous Corporate Money — What The Public Thinks

The election is being flooded with corporate money, and much of it is anonymous, coming through groups such as Karl Rove’s American Crossroads that is set up as a “charity” in order to prevent disclosure of donors.  The Chamber of Commerce is also refusing to disclose who is donating, not even whether foreign companies are helping fund the ad blitz. 

According to Media Matters, Right-Wing Groups Have Now Aired 60,000+ TV Ads Since Aug. 1,


The Chamber of Commerce spent at least $9.8 million to run fully 4,706 ads in just one week, meaning it eclipsed Americans for Prosperity (another apparent dropout from the big-money class). The Chamber reported even more spending ($10.7 million) to the FEC, but $949,886 of that spending appeared to be double-reported. Either way, the business lobby dropped a CEO’s salary to influence our elections in just a few days. Makes you wonder what they’re expecting in return.

The other big-bucks story is more complicated. The innocent-sounding Commission for Hope, Growth and Prosperity — a 501(c)4* founded by GOP operative Scott Reed — has posted a startling 

2,153 ads since late September. We don’t know how much money they spent doing it, because Reed’s group has yet to report a cent of spending to the FEC…


Do voters care?  According to the Greg Sargent, blogging at Washington PostYes, voters do care about secret cash funding elections!

The poll finds that two thirds of registered voters, or 66 percent, are aware that outside groups are behind some of the ads they’re seeing. This makes sense, since the issue has dominated the media amid the battle over the huge ad onslaught against Dems funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s groups.

What’s more, an overwhelming 84 percent say they have a “right to know” who’s bankrolling the ads. And crucially, the poll also found that the issue is resonant when linked to the economy. A majority, 53 percent, are less likely to think a candidate who is backed by “anonymous groups” can be trusted to “improve economic conditions” for them or their families. People don’t believe these groups are looking out for their interests.

The question is, can the public even learn about this, while filtering through the thousands and thousands of anonymous corporate ads?

Ted Lieu: The Blackwater Solution to California Prisons is Unacceptable

One of the key right-wing priorities is to outsource government functions and privatize whatever they can. We’ve seen the trend from the early ’80’s with allowing the healtcare industry to become a for-profit based industry (and how they have profited!), to deregulation of the airlines, charter schools, water systems, war (hence the title Blackwater for the infamous private army that has wreacked havoc on the people of Iraq and elsewhere) to establishment of private prisons to house our criminal population.
 
There are reasons that we have government-run services and programs. Those reasons have been glossed-over or forgotten, but shouldn’t be. First, the government, unlike the private sector, is answerable and responsible to the people. Second, there is accountability and “sunshine” or transparency with how these government run entities operate.
 
With none of the above, and with private profit the singular purpose, we lose our ability to control how these programs are run and the impact they have on us as a society. Plain and simple, this is bad for democracy and bad for our communities.
 
Regardless of how it’s couched, privatizing our prisons as an excuse to improve our public universities is dishonest at best, and destructive to the fabric of our nation at worst. Assemblyman Ted Lieu provides a look at this as our guest blogger of the day. — HBJ

The Blackwater Solution to California Prisons is Unacceptable
By Ted Lieu

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I agree
with the Governor that we need to increase higher education spending so that California
spends more on higher education than prisons. However, there are smart ways to
reform our prison system, shortsighted ways, and
outright dangerous reforms. The Governor’s proposal to hand over our
corrections system to for-profit corporations is dangerous. We should reform
our prison system by better rehabilitating prisoners and reducing California‘s sky-high recidivism rate. Contracting out government’s core
responsibility of public safety will not reform our prisons; instead we will
endanger the public and cause inhumane consequences.

Religious
institutions across the board condemn private prisons
as both inhumane and ineffective. The Presbyterian
Church USA
stated, “Since the goal of for-profit private prisons is
earning a profit for their shareholders, there is a basic and fundamental
conflict with the concept of rehabilitation as the ultimate goal of the prison
system…for-profit private prisons should be abolished.” The Catholic Bishops in a resolution stated, “We bishops
question whether private, for-profit corporations can effectively run prisons. The
profit motive may lead to reduced efforts to change behavior, treat substance abuse, and offer skills necessary for
reintegration into the community.”

Private
prisons are also dangerous, both to prisoners and to the public. In 2003 a
report by Grassroots Leadership detailed a range of failures by CCA, a
for-profit private prison company, including: failure
to provide adequate medical care to prisoners; failure to control violence in
its prisons; and escapes.

I voted
no last year on the corrections budget bill because it was cutting
rehabilitation programs and parole supervision, both of which will result in
increased recidivism. The Governor’s current proposal is even worse. Abandoning
government’s core responsibility of public safety by contracting out
and injecting a profit motive will result in disastrous consequences. Our
nation has already been burned by our experience with Blackwater. California cannot afford
to have its own Blackwater problem.


Assemblymember Ted W. Lieu, candidate for Attorney General, represents the 53rd Assembly District, which stretches from Venice and parts of Los Angeles to Torrance and Lomita along the coast. He was elected in September 2005, re-elected in November 2006, and re-elected again in November 2008.

Assemblymember Lieu has led the fight in California against Wall Street’s excesses and fought to reform the subprime mortgage system and reduce home foreclosures. As an activist legislator, he has taken on special interests and successfully authored laws in the areas of public safety, child sex offenders, domestic violence, the environment, education, health care, veterans issues, and transportation. Numerous law enforcement, civic, and community groups have recognized Ted for his accomplishments.

How to stop the bleeding– Bring back majority rule

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.