Goodbye Arnie Part 1Friday, July 27th, 2012
Author Tony De Maio
Goodbye Arnie (Part I)
I am writing to say “goodbye”. Though California has been my home since 1945, I have decided to sell my house and move to another state. During these past many years, I have worked as a teacher/administrator and a state employee (analyst/manager/
I watched as California grew into a happy, prosperous “community” with productive citizens that were independent, peace loving, law-abiding, hard working, and charitable. Welfare was uncommon and a last resort—not a way of life. Crime was rare—we seldom locked our doors, and didn’t even lock our bicycles at school. I recall the proud boast that “California has the finest roads and the finest schools.” Today, California has excellent pot holes in their roads and superb metal detectors in their schools.
I recall the time when “close enough for government work” was considered high praise. Indeed, the various governments set high standards and demanded quality work. State employees were highly trained and motivated. I remember the “California Master Plan for Higher Education”, where our government made a sacred promise that if we taxed ourselves and provided the money, higher education would be forever free of tuition costs. At the time, we had faith in our government and willingly taxed ourselves. Elected officials and Civil Servants were trusted and held in high regard. Recent surveys show that regard and trust has vanished. Apparently, that faith was misplaced.
What happened to “my” state? What happened to make the roads worse than the schools; and the schools rank 47th in the nation? Why is there a “rough road” sign on an interstate? What happened to tarnish the honored occupations of teacher, civil servant, and legislator?
I have watched both from the outside and inside as state departments doubled in size with no change in workload. I have watched commissions double and triple their fees within a few years, then indulge in an orgy of needless spending. I have watched as units were repeatedly created out of whole cloth in order to give a favored employee a promotion. I have watched as units were abolished, but the people remained—playing cards, watching television, and oftentimes not even showing up. Eventually, they found another job somewhere, and they were then replaced. I have watched totally unqualified people get positions because of sexual favors and/or affirmative action and/or political influence. They not only obtained “positions”, but they were placed in high level positions where they supervised their betters and created morale problems and chaos. I watched as the state work force deteriorated and managers tried to make up in quantity what was lacked in quality—as they were forced to hire “more of the same”. One IT shop hired no “new blood” for 15 years, and obtained all their personnel by promoting clerks. Those clerks are now high level managers—and they know little more now than when they were hired.
I have watched as the legislature(s) and governor(s) “paid back” the state unions by granting large pay raises to state employees to where now state and local government workers earn an average of $39.50 per hour ($82,000/yr) in total compensation. Private workers earn an average of $26.09 an hour ($54,000/yr). [BLS figures] Their benefit and retirement package is not that of a Cadillac; it more closely resembles a 747.
I have watched as displaced politicos became “professors” at our universities and colleges until their political party regained power and they could return to government positions. Some do not return. In like manner, I have watched as hundreds of boards and commissions were created for trivial purposes in order to supply jobs for political hacks. (In addition, others obtained civil service jobs by means of political influence.)
I have watched as major projects failed and tens of millions of dollars were wasted. Those responsible not only were not held accountable, but they were promoted. I have seen major corruption uncovered, only to watch as those responsible were given high level jobs in other states, then returned to California government after the “heat was off”, and those that reported it were punished. I watched as state employees who cooperated with the FBI in a legislative sting were sent to Coventry as the legislators were sent to jail.
I have watched as the California crime rate has soared, and streets where once women safely walked unescorted have become streets where policemen fear to go.
I have watched as the sacred trust of spending the public treasury has been betrayed. Instead of being used for the public good, the funds are used to buy votes, construct ornate and lavish office buildings, reward cohorts and followers, and sweetheart contracts with supporters that would give kickbacks (or gave campaign contributions)—oftentimes for unneeded goods and services. Those that reported such deeds were punished.
I have watched as each administration “borrowed” money from the transportation fund to fund social programs and buy votes, deferred road maintenance, and left us with today’s roads. I have watched as administrations “borrowed” from the next year’s income because they “needed” the money. Indeed, I have watched as administrations “borrowed” money from the next generation—and possibly the next one after that, thus putting the burden of our profligate squandering on our children and our children’s children. What is somewhat disconcerting is that there appears to be no knowledge of what they are doing and/or no remorse for doing so. Those that attempted to thwart this reckless uncontrolled spending were demeaned and held up to criticism and ridicule.
I have watched a succession of administrations promise “change”. Each delivered “change”, but few of the changes were positive. I have watched as each succeeding administration grew government and raised taxes; then created new taxes to where half the taxes we pay did not exist 30 years ago. This month my phone bill is 36 dollars; an additional 12 dollars is taxes. That is 33%!! California is one of the most heavily taxed states in the union, and still it is “not enough”. Governor, how much IS enough?
I watched as each candidate addressed California’s problems in the election campaign. Once they were elected. California’s real problems—education, crime, prisons, welfare, drugs, pollution, gridlock, roads, etc. were ignored. I watched as the legislature addressed their “real” problems with California—gerrymandering the voting districts so that their jobs were safe and suing the people over term limits or suing them over an initiative that restricts the legislative budget. Once their jobs were safe, they then moved on to passing laws to pay back the unions, the gay community, the education community, the trial lawyers, campaign contributors, the minority community(s), and others for their support. Then they addressed trivial issues and passed petty laws merely for the sake of legislation that restricted the people’s freedom and liberty; e.g. no texting while driving.
Governor, you were my last hope. As a state employee, my job was to discover and recommend cost saving measures. I was quite good at it. What I was not good at was getting the projects implemented because the entrenched bureaucrats guarded their empires with a zeal that would do a she-bear protecting her cubs proud. When you were elected and said you wanted to hear from “the people”, I believed you and tried to assist you. (For some reason, Charlie Brown, Lucy, and a football come to mind.)
I contacted one of your directors in order to resurrect a project that would save the state tens of millions of dollars per year. There was no interest on his part.
You stated you were interested in reducing greenhouse gases, gridlock, energy dependence, and air pollution. I attempted to contact you or a member of your staff to resurrect a project that would save millions of state travel miles per year. I never did get through—your henchman was apparently too busy to return my many calls. I directed several e-mails to you that went unanswered.
I attempted to contact my state senator to inform him how the state could obtain millions of dollars in government money. There was no interest. I never got past the aide. (Follow-up showed that the aide had not even forwarded the write-up.)
I attempted to contact my assemblyman to show how to save tens of millions of dollars in state salaries. Again, I never got past the aide. I suspect he was too busy trying to get 50 more judges authorized. (see above—jobs for politicos)
May I congratulate you on the ferocity and efficiency of your gate-keepers? During my life I have had occasion to contact government officials in several states. I have yet to find a government or administration so unreachable. The security measures in place to enter state buildings emphasize the fact that the citizens who theoretically “own” the buildings are not allowed to have access to them—or the people inside.
Governor, California is hemorrhaging. The cost of renting a moving truck from Sacramento to Eugene, Oregon is $682; the cost from Eugene to Sacramento is $368. The extra cost is because the moving companies must send their employees to retrieve the trucks so they can rent them again. Not enough people are renting the trucks and driving TO California,yet the population of California is growing. That suggests that those people with enough wealth to warrant renting a moving truck are moving out; while those with enough wealth to fit in the trunk of their car are moving in. The tax base is eroding as those with wealth leave to be replaced by those without wealth. As such, housing will continue to drop, new businesses will not be started, and available capital will shrink. What’s the old joke? Half the people come to California, wait a year and then go on welfare. The other half says, “Why wait a year?”
I have done what I can for “my” state. I’m afraid I have failed. I believe it is too late to save the state; it is time for me to save myself and my family. It does not take a genius to realize that the present shortfall with the 8.7% (and climbing) unemployment rate (which will reduce the revenue from income and sales tax), the falling property values (thus reducing the property tax revenue), the falling stock market (thus reducing the capital gains tax revenue), the falling gasoline prices (thus reducing the sales/gas tax collected) and the exodus of the middle class is only the beginning. Next year will be far worse in terms of tax revenue—yet the legislature continues to spend in a “business as usual” manner. The longer action is delayed, the more onerous the action that must be taken will be. The present course of California state government is unsustainable without federal government assistance (welfare). Such would be quite ironic—California, the sixth largest economy in the world, the “golden state” with all it’s (past) wealth and glory, collecting “welfare” from the federal government. It gives a whole new meaning to the term “welfare state”! Arnold, what has become of us?
I cannot help but recall several years ago when a microphone was left on in a conference room and several legislators were caucusing. Their “deliberations” were broadcast for all to hear as they planned (schemed?) to allow a situation to worsen, blame the other party, and then use the emergency to get the 2/3 majority they needed to raise taxes. Such is the morality and ethics of our leaders. I cannot help but wonder if the present situation is the implementation of that plan.
So I am moving. California is no longer the state it once was. A succession of unethical, looting, and plundering administrations has bankrupted it socially, economically, and morally. I will take my business and my meager intellectual and financial capital with me to a place where I’m not afraid to walk down the street and I will not be faced with confiscatory taxes. I will go to a state where I can withdraw money from my IRA without “contributing” to (or the new term, “investing in”) a bloated bureaucracy. I will spend my PERS pension, my STRS pension, my Social Security, and my investment income and contribute to the economy of that state.
As a retiree, I will “take” little from that economy, but I will contribute a fair amount to it—most of which will come from your treasury. It is said that when a person leaves a state, he takes three jobs with him. I sincerely hope it is true. It will mean I will have “saved” three other people.
And so, Governor, I bid you adieu, aloha, ciao, auf wiedersehen, vaya con Dios, or however you say “goodbye” in Australian. (You DO speak Australian in Austria, don’t you? J )
A soon to be former citizen of California