It’s bad enough that so-called “fiscally conservative” legislators (which should be interpreted as those advocating a “save now but spend unavoidably, yet needlessly more later” approach) are preventing the federal government from stimulating the economy more strongly. But here in California, because of peculiar requirements for passing a budget, a minority in the legislature (sharing its ill-conceived ideology with the aforementioned federal level electeds) is able to impose its will. This tyranny of the minority must end, though the means are unclear.
Meanwhile, let’s look at how “reasonable” the “prudence” of these fiscal conservatives truly is. Please take a good look at table 1. I’m no economist, but the data I’ve assembled is representative. Economies grow, and there are ways to measure them. But it’s not just the growth. Prices increase and populations grow. In tandem with all this growth, it stands to reason that government expenditures too must grow to meet the greater demand for public services and goods: roads, healthcare, education, regulation, etc.
What I’ve done is to take the oldest California budget information I could find, the 1976-77 fiscal year, and compared it with the last complete fiscal year, 2008-09. You can see the growth was 888 percent. That seems huge, until you consider what else was going on.
In the same period, California’s population grew 76 percent. That’s a whole lot of people! Simultaneously, the economy, as measured by GDP (gross domestic product) increased a whopping 693 percent! All this, while the cost of everything, as measured by CPI (consumer price index), went up 279 percent. Add these three figures together and the result is 1,049 percent.
Any schoolchild will tell you that 1,049 is greater than 888. This means that state expenditures have not increased enough to keep up with the demands of all the growth within California’s borders. And, if anyone wants to argue that population growth is somehow accounted for in the GDP figure, the result is still 888 percent to 973 percent. No wonder the road system is in such bad shape. It’s one of the easiest places to defer maintenance, which is what anyone does when funds are insufficient.
So much for the argument that government is “wasteful”! I know first-hand that about the same number of city employees as existed in the early 1990’s serve the currently larger population of Los Angeles. I have no reason to believe the state employees are less efficient. The current state of affairs is a result of petty legislative despots who have no compassion for or awareness of the lives of the people they are harming.
So unless you hate your kids and grandkids, who’ll take the brunt of the hit now and eventually have to pay for all the deferred maintenance and other costs of the “penny wise, pound foolish” approach advocated, and tyrannically enforced, by the right-wing obstructionists in Sacramento, you’d better get off your tail and start finding ways to turn these Republicans around.
Oh, and I sure hope you have good health insurance. Why? Well, with less money (something on the order of 12-13 percent less, judging by the $25 billion-ish in budget cuts recently enacted), public health is bound to suffer too. The likelihood of contagion (think swine or avian flu) running rampant then increases… Who knows, that might drive some members of the Armenian community to return to whence they emigrated.