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March 11, 2008

Choices on Taking and Giving Back

-- by Dave Johnson

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

In Dubai, people get free housing, free medical care, AND $5,000 per month. The people of Dubai share in the country’s oil wealth.

In Alaska, people not only do not pay state taxes, the state government writes every state resident a check every year. The people of the state of Alaska share in the state’s oil wealth.

Approx. 12 percent of America's oil production comes from California. As I write this oil sells for $108.14 per barrel. In 2005 the oil companies were pumping oil out of our state at a rate of approx 230 million barrels each year. Oil company revenues and profits are the highest ever from any companies in the history of the world, ever. Did I mention "highest" and "ever"?

But the people of our state, in our wisdom, have decided that instead of asking the oil companies to give back a bit, we will instead give them our oil. Give them. And then we buy it back to put in our cars, etc. Yes, we, the people of the state of California have made the choice to give away our oil to greatly enrich a select few. (And this post is not even a discussion of the dozens of other ways that we have made the choice to allow the few wealthiest among us to avoid giving back by paying taxes.)

Today in California we are facing a budget shortfall. And instead of asking oil companies and others to give back a bit we are on the verge of deciding instead to cut our school budget. Again. This time by 10%. We are on the verge of deciding to cut health care. Again. And courts, police, and every other state service by 10%, again, rather than ask oil companies and others to give back from what they take from the state.

The way we solve this budget shortfall is a choice we make. Our choice. Our choices reflect our values and priorities. And we all make these choices whether we think we do or not. If you don't vote, you are choosing. If you vote for someone because you would like to have a beer with him or her, you are choosing. If you choose to vote for candidates who tell you there is "waste, fraud and abuse" and then after they have been in office for decades, continue to claim there is "waste, fraud and abuse," you are choosing. If you choose to let your government borrow and borrow, you are choosing. You will have to pay that back with interest later, of course, but you are choosing.

And if you choose to let your state give our oil away to wealthy corporations so they can sell it to you and get even wealthier you are choosing to make up that potential tax revenue yourself, through cuts in your children's education and health care and law enforcement, or maybe through increased taxes in the future, but one way or another you are choosing.

What are our priorities? Further tax relief to the wealthiest corporations, or educate our children? Here you are on the verge of choosing to cut your schools by another 10%. Is that the choice you want to make?

There is something else you can choose to do today. You can choose to write to your legislators and let them know what your choice really is. You can choose to talk to your family and friends and explain these choices and ask them to write to their legislators as well.

Click here to find out how to contact your California legislators. If you so choose.

Posted by Dave Johnson at March 11, 2008 4:28 PM

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