One may search for the answer to the Republican riddle across America – how to attract all those suddenly disaffected independents and moderate Democrats. After all, the political pendulum only seems to be impelled by repellent forces, never by attractive ones. And what might attract anyone to the Republicans, simply because the Democrats have become repellent?
Closer to home, in lovely California, a state so beautiful that even native sons who ought to know better can’t seem to leave, the Republican failure is easy to grasp. Republicans, nationally and in California, never fought more than half the war – they did, at the least, a defensible job fighting taxes, but never effectively fought spending. The result is deficits – and borrowing is spending, as underwater homeowners along with bankrupt municipal governments are painfully discovering.
A tragic example of just how far from leadership, legitimate populism, or genuine convictions the conservative leadership in California has sunk is the plight of the public sector union reform initiative that still needs signatures to qualify for California’s November 2010 ballot.
There is not one conservative political insider who doesn’t believe the “Voluntary Political Contribution Initiative” is a long overdue reform to California’s political system. Nobody. This initiative will dramatically curtail the ability of California’s public sector unions to use member dues to engage in political activity. Currently California’s public sector unions collect nearly 1.0 billion dollars per year in member dues, and they use a significant percentage of these funds to back the politicians and initiatives they favor. And what do they favor? Higher wages for public employees, better benefits for public employees, bigger government, no matter what the cost, so the public employee payroll continues to grow. To fight government spending is to fight government unions. Period. There is no way around this fact.
You could spend hundreds of paragraphs and thousands of words describing the despicable abuse that union control of California’s government has spawned. Firefighters who make more than brain surgeons, yet barely work full-time. Former police officers in their early 50’s who make more in retirement than successful working businessmen who put in 70 hour weeks and have bet their fortunes and their lives on creating and maintaining jobs for hundreds of workers. City managers who make more than the President of the United States. As quoted in an earlier post, one of the kings of big government, Willie Brown, is now saying “The deal used to be that civil servants were paid less than private sector workers in exchange for an understanding that they had job security for life… but we politicians — pushed by our friends in labor — gradually expanded pay and benefits . . . while keeping the job protections and layering on incredibly generous retirement packages.”
You don’t have to rely on Willie Brown, or the anecdotes here. Go to the best source for information on public sector union abuse available online today, www.pensiontsunami.com, and read the links to the many stories they post every day on this topic. Make sure you bring a cast-iron stomach, because if you don’t, you’re going to puke.
The conspiracy of cowardice doesn’t begin with the failure of Republican leadership to fight (union) spending along with fighting taxes, however, it only begins there. Today’s pending ballot initiative that would begin to fix this obscene mess has a slim-to-zero chance of getting onto the ballot in November – because it is being sabotaged by the conservative leadership who ought to be supporting it.
The leadership representing California’s associations of business interests, who already play an impossible game of appeasement with union interests, are urging wealthy conservative individuals and organizations to refrain from supporting this public sector union reform initiative. It doesn’t end there – people who claim to speak for Republican aspirants for high office in California are doing the same thing – apparently they are afraid having a genuine union reform initiative on the ballot will bring out more union voters, and diminish their chances.
This reasoning is not only sacrificing what is right for what is pragmatic – which is reason enough to write off California’s Republican leadership – it also reflects an inaccurate assessment of where California’s voters really are today. Because California’s voters get it. Not just TEA party activists or hard-core conservative activists, but everyone. It is now obvious to everyone that our civic entities are bankrupt because we are paying unionized public employees roughly (when you include the annual costs of funding their current and future benefits) two to three times what the rest of us make for work requiring similar skills. But the professionals don’t understand this – or choose not to.
What fiscal conservative voters in California need to bring them to the voting booth in November is an opportunity to vote for genuine statewide reforms. The public sector union voters will already be turned out. Those who weren’t “assisted” by their union operatives into casting absentee ballots will show up on election day, because there are countless grassroots local reform initiatives that they will be urgently and relentlessly enjoined to vote against. But conservative voters still need a reason to show up on the first Tuesday.
A sure thing that will bring out fiscal conservative voters is the Voluntary Political Contribution Initiative, because it will save California’s failed finances by standing up to our insatiable public sector unions. While there, conservative voters would also vote for those candidates who displayed the courage and conviction to back this initiative with their reputation and their treasure. What we are seeing instead from California’s supposed fiscal conservative leadership is political opportunism, careerism, political calculation, and appeasement; yet another betrayal of everything they supposedly believe in. Is this failure a conspiracy of cowards? Perhaps not. But it might as well be.