Rite of Spring: Capitol Protests

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You know how to tell when it’s Spring in Sacramento? Protests at the Capitol. Strangely enough, people seem to be much more outraged when the weather is more agreeable.

According to real reporters, today (72 degrees and sunny!) brought no less than three protest groups to the Capitol to make their voices heard: University students upset about higher tuition, union members supporting the millionaires’ tax, and the anarchist/Occupy set (still not sure what their focus is).

(These groups shouldn’t be confused with the hundreds of state workers who we evidently pay to walk laps around the Capitol for a good portion of the day. To their credit, they spend a lot of time not working even when the weather isn’t so nice).

I don’t mean to dismiss the validity of the concerns of any group protesting their government. People should be upset that the people we’ve hired to run things are incapable of solving problems. But I hope the message from the student group is not lost in the shuffle because they really do have a legitimate beef. Over the past few years our elected leaders have been effectively privatizing our university system while increasing spending on other programs.

In the past 12 years state spending on pensions has increased 300% while higher ed spending has increased just 30%. In fact, California is spending over twice as much this year on CalPERS and CalSTRS ($4.9 billion) than on the University of California system ($2.4 billion). That’s great for retired government employees but not so much for the future of our state.

Even more disingenuous is that the elected officials who spoke to the students today presumably failed to mention that last year they voted to cut higher ed spending three times while increasing pay and benefits for prison guards.

According to the Sacramento Bee, when these Legislators spoke today about sympathizing with tuition cuts the students shouted back, “Show us!” The students are exactly right. It’s time for our leaders to prioritize college students as much as they do prison guards and government employees.

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