San Jose’s Values

“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?

27 Comments

  1. You know what I find hilarious: when the economy was booming and those in the private sector were making millions on stock options, buying “McMansions” and expensive cars, you didn’t here crap about public employees and their salaries/benefits.  Now that we’re experiencing the greatest recession known to mankind, it’s all because of us: the public employee.  Your police, fire, nurses, teachers, probation officers, etc…the roots of all budgetary evil?  As a military veteran and proud employee of the county, glad to see that I’m appreciated around here Pete (sarcasm).

    • > glad to see that I’m appreciated around here Pete (sarcasm).

      No need to lash out or be sarcastic, Tony.  Just accept the fact that you are a spoiled, selfish, self-centered public employee union member who is paid much more than you’re worth and not appreciated or valued by the taxpayers.

      To be fair, since the taxpayers are ultimately paying for all dues and assessments collected by the unions, I think taxpayers should be allowed to vote in union elections and run for union offices.

      That would be fair.

    • You know what I find hilarious, Tony D.?: Public employees who aren’t thanking their lucky stars for the superhuman patience of the long suffering taxpayers who continue to pay your bloated salaries and pensions.

      <…when those in the private sector were making millions on stock options…You didn’t here crap about the public employees and their salaries/benefits>

      What about all those who weren’t “making millions on stock options”? Believe it or not Tony D., despite your resentment of the relatively small percentage of people who hit it big during the booming economy, it’s the middle class who continue to bear the brunt of overly generous public employee salary/benefits.

      And you seem to think that this “greatest recession known to mankind” was some sort of unforeseeable phenomenon. In fact, it is the inevitable result of the bloated government spending that you public sector workers are now cashing in on.

      And by the way. When was the last time you expressed any gratitude to the taxpayers who faithfully pay your salary and will have to dip into their own depleted savings in order to fund your retirement? Hmm? And when have any of these private sector retirees that you harbor such resentment for ever demanded that YOU pay THEM 90% of their base salary year in and year out, anually adjusted upward for inflation?

      Over the years our stupid “leaders” made a lot of stupid decisions in the name of the people. Well, we the people will live up to our obligation and fulfill our responsibility by honoring our contracts. But being required to keep our mouths shut and not point out the calamitous effects of these bad decisions because it might hurt your feelings Tony D.? No. That’s not part of the bargain. You’re just going to have to learn to live with it.

      • Galt for governor!

        – Dot.com bubble.  Popped.
        – Housing bubble.  Popped.
        – Gov’t Employee Pension bubble.

    • Tony D:
      There are a lot of fine and dedicated people working for the government.  (You’re probably one of them).  But, I think that the unions should not be exempt from market conditions.  In terms of San Jose, at minimum, raises should not exceed the rate of inflation, especially when revenues to the city are down.  Finally, why can’t San Jose job out 25% of city services as is done in “machine town” Chicago?

  2. So simple: Fat cat unions versus the poor. You weak, blatant simpleton. In that,…pay the unions what they are owed. I will not be ripped off because politicians will not save or spend foolishly on crap projects and welfare.

  3. Tony D

    You or public did not hear “about public employees and their salaries/benefits.” because

    1) taxes were high but taxes rates were lower during dot com so we could pay for lower governmemt costs

    2) pension plans had not lost billions due to mortgage / stock market downturn requiring taxpayers to make up 100% pension losses which with excessive higher pay and benefits caused most budget crisis

    3) private pay and benefits decreased after dot com while public employees got large increases so now many public employees ( not teachers ) are paid 50% more that private employees

    4 ) most taxpayers did not get ” millions on stock options, buying “McMansions” and expensive cars,”

    5) Taxpayers are angry since they now know,  they are getting less pay and benefits, less services for higher taxes while most “public servant” employees and managers get excessive pay and benefits and early retirements

    6) most elected officials did not know or did not tell taxpayers about billions in future excessive employee pay and benefits costs when they voted for political paybacks during dot com bubble

    7) government managers who knew or should have known about excessive future government employee costs failed in their responsibility to tell public also received excessive pay and benefits

    Very few taxpayers ” find hilarious: ” government employees layoffs, higher taxes, fewer services and billions in debt and future taxpayer costs because elected officials voted as political paybacks to overpay public employees and managers which are now legal obligations that can not be changed

    Taxpayers and voters will remember for many years the betrayal of public trust by Democratic elected officials, labor unions and all those we benefited from excessive pay and benefits that taxpayers were not told about until it became a budget crisis

    California moderate fiscal conservatives Republicans could have been elected but party is controlled by extreme right crazies  

    Tom Campbell and moderates will lose in primaries, Republicans will lose in November and California’s budget crisis, taxes and economy will get worst

    • 1) taxes were high but taxes rates were lower during dot com so we could pay for lower governmemt costs

      No, the ‘dot com’ boom was under Clinton, and tax rates were higher, along with having a Federal surplus.  Bush, and the useless Congress, lowered the tax rates, the economy tanked, and we created a massive deficit.  Not to mention two un-funded wars.

      We need to raise taxes, on everyone.

      • The Bush tax cuts of 2003 led to unprecedented growth in government revenue, due largely to the economic boom of 2003-2007. Unfortunately, the idiots in Washington couldn’t stand the prosperity, and increased spending even faster than the blistering pace of revenue growth, leading to ever increasing deficits.

        The increase in deficits was a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Same issue with the state, same issue with the city of San Jose.

        The answer to the problem is creating an employment friendly environment—reduce regulatory hassles, and reduce tax rates. California is doing just the opposite. Is it any wonder that businesses (and jobs) are fleeing the state. Shoot, even the Cal State Automobile Association moved their call center out of the state!

        • “due largely to the economic boom of 2003-2007.”

          No, due to speculation, there was a real estate boom in that period, but the economy was in its downward spiral.  Where do you come up with your ideas.  Some alternative universe?

        • Mr. Nonsense, between 2003 and 2007, GDP grew from $11.1 trillion to $14.1 trillion. That’s a 27% increase, which in most economist’s books fails to qualify as a downward spiral.

          During that same period, federal government receipts increased 44%. Government receipts went from 16.5% of GDP to 18.5%. Not bad, considering the tax rates were cut.

          Individual income taxes increased 47%, and taxes paid by corporations (supposedly the big beneficiaries of the Bush cuts of 2003), increased over 180%.

          You may now return to your alternate version of reality.

  4. The notion that the taxpayers can, or even that we should, continue to pick up the tab for generation after generation of folks who won’t work, or contribute in some meaningful way, needs to be seriously challenged.

    • > The notion that the taxpayers can, or even that we should, continue to pick up the tab for generation after generation of folks who won’t work, or contribute in some meaningful way, needs to be seriously challenged.

      ME!  ME!  ME! 

      Call on me, JMO.  I’LL CHALLENGE IT!!

      We now live in an economy where 45 percent of tax filers PAY NO TAXES, and the top five percent of income earners pay sixty percent of taxes.  This is where Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “progressive income tax” has gotten us.

      If you add in people who don’t file income tax returns because they are “living off the grid”, the proportion of the economy that pays no taxes is probably well over fifty percent.  I am told that in Los Angeles, the majority of business activity is “outside the system”, i.e. outside the banking system, and outside of the tax system. 

      That means that less than fifty percent of the population is paying for all the the “public services” used by everyone.

      My solution is the get EVERYONE to pay taxes, and the biggest tax avoiders and tax evaders are the “poor” and those living outside the system like, you know, illegal aliens.  These are PRECISELY the consitutencies of the Democrat Party.

      So, raise taxes on the poor; raise taxes on illegal aliens.

      In my opinion, a “fair” tax system is where EVERYONE is EQUALLY UNCOMFORTABLE paying taxes.

      The “rich” are uncomfortable paying taxes;  the middle class are REALLY, REALLY uncomfortable paying their taxes, and are being crushed by the greed of the redistributionist Big Government nanny state.  The poor are NOT uncomfortable paying taxes because they DON’T pay any taxes.

      It’s time to make the clients of the Democrat welfare state to FEEL some pain.

      • People continue to spew forth false information on the tax study from last summer.  The idea that 45% pay NO TAXES (your emphasis, not mine) is total nonsense.  That is the fraction that pay no federal income tax, but there are all kinds of other taxes – sales tax, property tax, auto registration tax, state income tax, just to name a few.  While we can debate whether the tax system is fair or not (and all studies show that tax burdens are more skewed to lower and middle class Americans than ever before), we should at least use real facts when having the debate.

  5. Liberals, government employees and those receiving government subsidies want tax hikes that kill businesses, economy and jobs

    Agree Republicans,  Bush and useless Democratic Congress and Legislature incurring billions debt are horrible but tax cuts stimulate economy

    Tax Cuts, Not the Clinton Tax Hike, Produced the 1990s Boom

    http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2008/03/Tax-Cuts-Not-the-Clinton-Tax-Hike-Produced-the-1990s-Boom

    Conclusion

    Proponents of tax increases often reference the Clinton 1993 tax increase and the subsequent period of economic growth as evidence that deficit reduction through tax hikes is a pro-growth policy.

    What these proponents ignore, however, is that the tax increases occurred at a time when the economy was recovering from recession and strong growth was to be expected. They also ignore that the real acceleration in the economy began in 1997, when economic growth should have cooled. This acceleration in growth coincided with a powerful pro-growth tax cut.

    The evidence is persuasive that the tax increase probably slowed the economy compared to the growth it would have achieved and that the subsequent tax cuts of 1997, not the tax increases, were the source of the acceleration in real growth in the latter half of the decade.

    As taxes are now above their historical average as a share of the economy, and are rising, Congress ( California Legislature ) should look to enact additional tax relief to keep the economy strong.

  6. Report: Majority Of Government Doesn’t Trust Citizens Either

    WASHINGTON—At a time when widespread polling data suggests that a majority of the U.S. populace no longer trusts the federal government, a Pew Research Center report has found that the vast majority of the federal government doesn’t trust the U.S. populace all that much either.

    According to the poll—which surveyed members of the judicial, legislative, and executive branches—9 out of 10 government officials reported feeling “disillusioned” by the populace and claimed to have “completely lost confidence” in the citizenry’s ability to act in the nation’s best interests.

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/report-majority-of-government-doesnt-trust-citizen,17459/

  7. Workable solutions to overpaid state and city workers:

    - if it is not in contract do not increase pay and benefits until gov’t pay equals private company pay rates

    - increase their contributions to benefits and pensions and co pays

    - use it or lose it vacation and sick days – no pay outs

    - set inflation increases to consumer price index for both pensions and employees

    - no automatic step increases – freeze all pay increases

    - increases in work performance equals to pay increases

    -

  8. > . . . Governor Schwarzenegger’s office released its revised budget outline replete with cuts to social programs.

    What is a “social program” anyway?

    Is it:

    A.) a ladder, which TEMPORARILY helps someone get a boost up and become self-sufficient, and SELF-SUSTAINABLE; or

    B.) a crutch, which encourages people to become permanent social invalids, make no independent effort to improve their own condiditon, and become permanently dependent on the labor and savings of others?

    All social programs of type “B” should be eliminated.

    It is TOTALLY exploitative and unethical to MAKE another unrelated human being dependent on the labor and savings of strangers. 

    (Please spare me the BS that “we’re all just people”. Human survival demands that people prioritize their survival efforts: first, provide for yourself, second, provide for your family, then provide for your tribe or community. If there’s anything left over, maybe make a modest contribution to the federal government, but the U.N. is just going to have to do without.)

    Social programs of type “A” may be offered when times are good, AND there is CLEAR, COMPELLING EVIDENCE that they actually work and DO NOT result in dependency.

    But such social programs are a LUXURY, and by definition can be eliminated in lean teams because no one is or should be dependent on them.

  9. Pete

    Your best blog ever – summarizing state and local budget crisis

    ” you can save the poor, or the pensions.” pitting the demands of the public employees’ unions against the needs of the poor and disabled.

    “There is a mounting sense that taxpayers are being taken for an expensive ride by public-sector unions,”

    “City government was developed to serve its citizens. Today the citizenry is working in large part to serve the government. “

    “Should the demands of so-called “public servants” be placed before the needs of those in society whom they purport to serve?”

    add –

    Younger government employees will get laid off to pay for excessive government pensions for those who created budget crisis by killing California businesses with highest taxes in US that, after Prop 13, pays for California government

  10. Gov’t doesn’t trust Citizens Either,
    Thank you for posting this article! It is the first bit of common sense coming from electeds I’ve ever heard! I couldn’t agree with them more! The mentality of the majority of people in the US scares the hell out of me.

    I have long wondered what has happened to our society. I have never understood the public’s fascination with celebrities, pop stars, fast food, TV you name it! I see parents handing their kids everything rather then making them work for things. The list of huhs for me is endless!

    WOW! You’ve renewed my hope that I’m not the only one walking around thinking like I do.

    • Kathleen,

      The Onion is a fake news source that generates infotainment untainted by fact. 

      I too am concerned with society but prefer to believe in the common man’s wisdom and decency over the pronouncements from a ruling elite.  Long live democracy!

      • Blair,
        Thank you for the 411. I respect much of what you write. Most of the time we are on the same page. Having said that I must confess that I find the way people think and behave to be very concerning. Many don’t think past their own needs, nor do most even bother to vote. At least half of the people who vote for candidates, do so without even knowing that person’s voting record, or their stand on the issues. Frightening!

        When one emigrates here and becomes an American citizen, they take an oath to honor, respect, and protect this country and obey its laws. I want to know when that changed. I want to know how the media became the PC Police? Who held a private meeting that decided that to be a good person, we US citizens (of ALL races) must integrate with other cultures to the exclusion of our own? 

        Our country has been sold out to the highest bidder. The America I grew up knowing and loving is dam near gone. Our society has been melded with other beautiful cultures (cultures which I personally enjoy very much) to the point that our American culture is almost as extinct as Polar bears. 

        Further, it really angers me that if I oppose illegal immigration I am called a racist. Since when are we a nation of Mexican, Vietnamese, Iranian, Chinese, Indian, Irish…AMERICANS? Americans come in all races, creeds, religions, and sexual orientation for God sakes! Who decided we need labels to further divide us as HUMAN BEINGS?

  11. Let’s not just blame the greedy unions.  The cost of illegal aliens in CA is HUGE.

    Tina Griego of the Denver Rocky Mt. News did some research and came to the conclusion that:

    In California, if 3.5 million illegal aliens moved back to Mexico, it would leave an extra $10.2 billion to spend on overloaded school systems, bankrupt hospitals and overrun prisons. It would leave highways cleaner, safer and less congested. Everyone could understand one another as English became the dominant language again.

    No more push ‘1’ for Spanish or ‘2’ for English. No more confusion in schools that now must contend with over 100 languages that degrade the educational system for American kids. Our over-crowded schools would lose more than two million illegal alien kids at a cost of billions in ESL and free breakfasts and lunches.

    In cities like L.A., 20,000 members of the ‘18th Street Gang’ would vanish from our nation. No more Mexican forgery gangs for ID theft from Americans! No more foreign rapists and child molesters!

    Parents could re-connect with their kids once all the illegal nannies were gone; and kids could learn to mow lawns for a few bucks a week, as kids did when I grew up.  We would be rid of the scourge of fatty fast food and supersizing, since the fast food restaurants would have no more employees, and would close.  So would most restaurants, actually, so we’d have to eat at home and talk together as a family.

  12. Increase Taxes?

    Why in Gods name should I pay more taxes to an institution that fails to use them properly in the first place?

    Example:
    Federal, State, County, and City employees that manage a budget will have to use their budget entirely or their budget will be decreased the following year because they didn’t use it the previous year. This reasoning forces the individual to spend their budget whether needed or not as to where they don’t lose funding for needed future projects. Reckless spending is encouraged in our government instead of responsible spending. Yet there are those out there that want me to contribute more into this system?