“Values Fade In Face Of Budget Cuts.” So read the title of a recent column by the Mercury News’ Patty Fisher. “What do we value?” she asked, soon after Governor Schwarzenegger’s office released its revised budget outline replete with cuts to social programs.
“With a $19 billion gap to close, obviously the governor had tough choices to make. But there was a pattern to his choices. He chose to eliminate welfare altogether and cut childcare for low-income families, in-home supportive services, Medi-Cal and mental health. Programs established to help the neediest among us: the poor, the sick, the elderly.”
At his press conference, Schwarzenegger argued, “We need to bring the economy back as quickly as possible so we can afford all those programs that reflect our values.” Patty Fisher found the governor’s words to ring hollow.
“Values aren’t something we can discard when times get tough,” she wrote, “Either we value caring for the needy, or we don’t.” She’s right —but maybe Schwarzenegger is too.
Is the Governor of California a cold-hearted son of a gun, intent on eliminating social welfare programs for the poor, or is he pressing hard for a real solution?
On Tuesday, May 18, the Mercury News ran a cover story on the state’s budget crisis. “…with his time as governor almost gone, he is confronting his political opponents with a stark choice: you can save the poor, or the pensions.” It would appear that Schwarzenegger’s strategy is to make the budget battle into a zero-sum game, pitting the demands of the public employees’ unions against the needs of the poor and disabled.
Perhaps it’s finally time to make that choice, and Schwarzenegger is taking it upon himself to press the question.
Mortimer Zuckerman, Chairman and Editor in Chief of U.S. News and World Report educates us further on the subject through his May 21 article, headlined “The Bankrupting of America.”
“There is a mounting sense that taxpayers are being taken for an expensive ride by public-sector unions,” he wrote. “The extraordinary benefits the unions have secured for their members are going to be harder and harder to pay.”
“It is galling for private-sector workers to see so many public-sector workers thriving because of the power their unions exercise…The business community and a growing portion of the public now understand the dynamics that discriminate against the private sector.
Public unions organize voting campaigns for politicians who, on election, repay their benefactors by approving salaries and benefits for the public sector, irrespective of whether they are sustainable.
And what is happening in California is happening in slower motion in the rest of the country…City government was developed to serve its citizens. Today the citizenry is working in large part to serve the government. It is always hard to shrink government spending. It is particularly difficult when public-sector unions have such a unique lever of pressure. We have to escape this cycle or it will crush us.”
Public institutions are designed to carry out society’s values. Should the demands of so-called “public servants” be placed before the needs of those in society whom they purport to serve?