Monday, May 14, 2012

If I Were Governor of California (or Illinois or....)

Governor Brown today announced the need for an additional $8B in cuts to state spending, on top of some $15B of cuts over the last three years. These cuts will slash funding for education, health care for children, welfare programs, etc.

And California is not alone. Many states face drastic shortfalls in their budgets, massive underfunding of pensions, and so on.

And it's just going to keep on getting worse.

So what's a governor to do? It seems to me that in a sane, rational, compassionate society, one in which we recognize the importance - above everything else - of ensuring all our children are healthy, are fed, are educated, are thriving, the first thing we do is identify those who have extracted millions, probably billions of tax dollars, and siphoned them off to their pockets.

If I were governor....I would have my staff analyze who in my state has been getting rich off of the state budget. Sure, lots of the money, maybe most of it, goes to directly paying for services to the poor. But I am beyond certain that there is a cadre of well connected businesspeople who have bribed and cajoled and "contributed" their way to legislators' hearts and pocketbooks over the years. 

I would identify these people and with maximum transparency possible publish the flow of state funds to their commercial enterprises, and sum up the total amount that these very wealthy people have taken out of the system - in effect, taken from the mouths, stomachs, bodies and minds of our most vulnerable.

I would then call on all of these people and their companies to renegotiate any contracts with the state to cut profits to a bare minimum - not lose money, but not make tons of money off of the public either. If they don't like the terms, I am sure we could find others who will do it.

And I would encourage citizens of my state to bring pressure to bear. In effect, these people need to be shamed (they should feel ashamed, but I doubt they do) into doing the right thing.

The money reclaimed from this effort would almost certainly not take care of the deficits. Women, children, the working poor, many of those in the middle class right on the edge, will still pay with their very health and quality of life. But at least they wouldn't be doing that while the fat cats continued to meet in their country clubs, whine about "welfare queens" and then use their illicit gains from public works contracts to fund their own extravagant life styles.

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