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Pulling off the Bandage

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I recently cut out an article in the Sacramento Bee by Kevin Yamamura. It was a straightforward look at California’s budget crisis, with spot-on comments by Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor. Taylor points out that California’s ebb and flow economy has always bounced back quickly, making it easier to dig ourselves out of budget holes. Not this time. It’s time to pay the piper. Taylor says what we’ve heard so often, yet we still seen no significant action taken: changes need to be made in how our state spends money (spending more than we take in) in order to avoid continuing budget deficits. “Unsustainable” is the vogue word to describe this chronic condition.

It’s just common sense, right? So why can nobody actually do it? When it comes time for the rubber to hit the road, lawmakers cannot seem to make the spending cuts or tax hikes that are necessary. Politicians who do take a stand and try to do what’s right for the long-term are punished for it…losing standing within their own party and losing elections to voters who want their cake and want to eat it too. And let’s not overlook the repeated reports CBS13 does on government agencies who get defensive about their budgets and are slow to react (if they react at all) to wasteful spending. In the Bee article, it is Governor Schwarzenegger’s former finance director Mike Genest who says it so incisively, “it’s time to pull the bandage off”.

Clearly, that’s what needs to be done not just in California but in Congress as well. However, with today’s apparent compromise on the Bush era tax cuts, politicians at the national level prove they are no better at doing the dirty work. If the compromise passes, sure it’ll feel like Christmas…at first. Tax cuts for all and once-again extended unemployment benefits for the victims of the Great Recession. The problem is the “bill” (just like all of our personal credit card statements) will come due after the holidays when the glow is gone.

Yet, I predict there will no swift and painful proactive “removing of the bandage” even then. The question is when? When voters grow up and realize we have to prioritize what our needs and wants our and stand by lawmakers who make the painful decisions. When lawmakers realize it may be worth sacrificing their future political careers to do the right thing. I mean, really, why serve if you’re not going to make a real difference?

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