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September 11, 2008

California's Conservatives Want To Get What They DON'T Pay For

-- by Dave Johnson

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

California's elected Republicans continue to block any and all efforts to pass a budget, because any honest budget must ask the wealthy and big corporations to pay their fair share. Even the Governor's extremely modest one cent sales tax increase was too much for them.

So let's talk about paying a fair share. David Sirota has a good column today at the Campaign for America's Future blog, The Aristocrats, Part II - Starring George Will. In the column Sirota writes about wealthy Republicans who complain when regular people get decent pay for performing services that benefit ... guess who ... wealthy Republicans. Sirota writes,

In a column about underfinanced municipal pension systems today, Will expresses deep anger that veteran police, firefighters and municipal workers eventually get paid well for their services. In one California town on San Francisco Bay, Will tells us that - gasp! - "after just five years, all police and firefighters are guaranteed lifetime health benefits." The horror.

Such salaries and benefits, of course, are part of a bargain: Enticing people to turn down the high-paying private-sector job and instead run into burning buildings (firefighters), do the dangerous work of apprehending criminals (police), disposing of sewage (garbage collectors) and administrating all the other services that conservatives pretend aren't necessary (municipal workers) requires, well, an enticement - namely, the promise that making such a public-minded choice will result in decent and stable pay and benefits.

When you accept a public sector job, that's the bargain: In exchange for being willing to do a tough job and accepting that you won't have the chance to make hundreds of millions dollars like a corporate CEO, you are rewarded with the chance - if you play by the rules - to make a pretty good living.

Yes, there is a BARGAIN at work here. We, the People have built a system that has been working pretty darn well for the rich. We built a system of roads, schools, courts, police departments and firefighters. We built up a system of laws. We work in the factories and offices.

So we built the system and the rules, and we enforce the rules, and it works out pretty darn well to make a few people really rich. But when we then ask for something BACK -- pensions, health care, even worker safety laws -- that is just too much. Never mind the bargain, the social compact that was in place. Asking for a penny sales tax increase or asking the wealthiest to pay the same sales taxes as the rest of us when they buy a yacht or jet, well NO that is just TOO much to ask! So they block the budget.

Sirota continues,

That is, conservatives want to renege on the bargain - forgetting the old adage that you get what you pay for, and you don't get what you don't pay for.

The hypocrisy of this logic is obvious when you consider that the Right rarely - if ever - complains about, say, executives ripping off shareholders and harming companies' fiscal health.

So there you have it. California's elected Republicans want it all, but don't want us to ask the corporations and wealthy individuals who finance their campaigns to help PAY for it all.

P.S. Adding insult to injury, the column in which conservative George Will complains that firefighters don't deserve health insurance and pensions was written to run on September 11. Some of us remember the incredible bravery and sacrifice of New York's firefighters and how it demonstrated the importance of the physical, legal and services infrastructure that We, the People built.

Join the discussion at Dave Johnson, Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at September 11, 2008 8:57 PM


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