Sunday, September 27, 2009

Headmasters' Ritual

The CA GOP is holding its annual convention this weekend, and prospective gubernatorial candidates are test-driving their stump speeches. Finally, a chance for the Grand War of Ideas that the media always says it wants to cover! Er, no: Whitman Grapples With Spotty Voting Record
At the unofficial kickoff Saturday of the 2010 Republican primary campaign for governor, former eBay CEO and political neophyte Meg Whitman struggled to explain her abysmal voting record.

A year ago, The Chronicle reported that Whitman, 53, had not registered as a Republican in California until 2007 and had a spotty voting history for several years in the state before that. Last week, a Sacramento Bee investigation found no evidence of Whitman's voting before 2002 in several other states where she lived previously.

On Saturday at the state Republican Convention, Whitman - who has never held nor sought political office - did not dispute the report and offered her past response to questions about her voting: "There is no excuse for my voting record. I didn't vote as often as I should."

She repeated variations of that response as reporters continued to ask why she hadn't voted for so many years - especially in light of passages in her speech to the convention.

"Neophyte", "abysmal" "spotty". No editorializing here!

OK, Whitman should be more than a little embarrassed by this. I, mean, high school graduates know enough to vote. Her husband also didn't vote until after he turned 40, the excuse being that he was too busy with his medical studies. It should be a cause of despair that union rowdies are bused to the polls by the SIEU while some of the state's best educated people are sitting at home saying "I just don't have time to follow all of the issues." People, this isn't a graduate seminar! Just put your head down and git 'er done!

Then again, not voting at all is often the majority position in many elections, especially in CA. I am sure there is an element of voter apathy at work. But there is also the "what difference will my particular vote make?" phenomenon. In the case of people like the Whitmans, I would guess that their non-voting occurred in large part because they did not feel comfortable with the manner in which electoral politics are conducted. They clearly are not Democrats, but they apparently felt no great affinity for the GOP either. Again, that is a common experience, especially in CA, where the state GOP can often be shrill in enforcing the social con's philosophy to the exclusion of everyone else.

Moreover, her failure to vote speaks to the diffusion of power in American society. Whitman may lack political power (for now), but her wealth and business experience have allowed her to exercise economic power at a very high level. That is true of all business people, and this power exists independent of the state, even as the state often seeks to curtail economic power and freedom through taxation, regulation, and coercion. Yet, oddly, many business people are often as apathetic as Whitman apparently has been. That really lays at the root of the Forgotten Man's troubles; A and B can conspire to take money from C to give to X because C is too disengaged to exercise his political power.

The worst part is, if someone like Whitman observes the political system going to hell, as it has been in CA, and decides to "get involved," they have a hard time passing through the media-political hazing because - ah, hah! - they haven't voted. Great, now they have something in common with 50% of the state, but in the eyes of the political and media elite on both sides, it's a Big Deal. Or, it's a quick & dirty way for insiders to keep out the riff raff.

In the meantime, the media (and Whitman's fellow tech billionaire Steve Poizner) get to make hay out of a bogus controversy rather than address her ideas. Newsflash, boys: she gave a speech at the convention. If you have any interest in reading it, it's right here: Whitman Tells GOP Gathering "State's Best Days Are Ahead, Not Behind"

Now, let’s talk about spending. And honestly, when I talk about spending, I just get mad…

It’s really very simple. California cannot spend more money than it takes in. Why is it so hard for politicians to come to terms with this concept? Families get it. Businesses get it. We all get it.

Our problem is not revenue. We collect enough taxes to run this state and then some. Our problem – our addiction – is spending. And it’s an addiction that’s killing us. It’s killing our state and it’s killing our country.

Simply put, Californians can no longer afford the government they have. The Democrats and special interests can try to convince us that our taxes are reasonable, and that we should all just be grateful to live here. But people know better.

Californians are tapped out. They have no more money to give to Sacramento or Washington for that matter. And Californians are mad. They don’t have the luxury of getting a pay raise whenever they need one. So why does California’s government get to raise our taxes whenever they want more money?

We need a governor with a spine of steel who will look at the books, decide on priorities, deal with the legislature, and take the heat for what we cut and what we fund. If being popular and getting re-elected is your goal, then being governor is a really bad job-person fit.

As I committed to in February, if elected I will identify and implement at least $15 billion in permanent spending cuts from the state budget. I’ll eliminate redundant and underperforming government agencies and commissions.

And I will reduce the state workforce by at least 40,000 employees. That reduction that will reset the workforce to 2004-2005 levels and save the state a projected $3.3 billion annually.

But cutting simply isn’t enough. We have to get our heads around the concept that mismanagement and waste in government is sapping precious dollars away from the things we want to do.

Did you know that almost every state worker receives a merit pay increase every year until they reach the top of their pay scale? How can that be? Are your pay raises guaranteed?

She's clearly putting herself on the moderate, tax-cutting, government shrinking, regulation pruning, pro-growth side. There is not a word about abortion, social issues, illegal immigrants or other talk radio G-spot ticklers. She promises to cut state agencies and re-draft or do away with excessive regulation. Uh, that's what Schwarzenegger promised, and where did that get us? Whitman says she's "dead serious" about this. She better be. In fact, it's hard to take seriously because she won't say what she will cut until she has taken office and has had a chance "review" the matter. Lame. The CA Rules & Regs - groaning on the shelves of a law library near you - are available right now for review. Get it done now, not after you've taken office.

Whitman should be able to explain what she would cut/revise on the first day of office because that is the only time she will have the political capital to do so. As we have discovered in the last 5 years, Democrats and their allies will mobilize and fight any reform to the death. They win when they can stretch out the reform period until the reformist impulse finally dissipates into the ether. Without a timeline and blueprint for reform, it's hard to take Whitman seriously. Hopefully, she will develop some more detail in the coming months.

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