In his famous book, Socialism, written in 1932, Ludwig Von Mises had an interesting insight. He said, 80 years ago, in the midst of the Nazi takeover of Germany, that “it is unreasonable to expect” an association of entrepreneurs, or an association that relies on entrepreneurs as its principal means of support (read the California Chamber of Commerce, or any other number of “pro-business” associations) to take a principled stand against Socialism, mainly, he said, because that is not what they do. Their job is to build their business, not fight long term political battles, and building their business means overcoming, not fighting, government obstacles to growth. How right he was. That comment changed my view of my role in the Legislature. I knew that if it was unreasonable to expect that kind of behavior from the business community in 1932, when they were facing the threat of Adolph Hitler, how could I expect them to take the exact opposite approach when fighting Willie or Jerry Brown, or anyone of the string of speakers of the Assembly, including John Perez currently.
The business community wouldn’t fight, but I would, I decided, and I did what I could do in the time term limits allotted to me. The business community wouldn’t take a principled stand against Socialism, but I would, no matter what the business community wanted in the short term.
That leads me to this comment about the vote of Brian Nestande and Nathan Fletcher. Forget about their promises for the moment, complaining about a politician breaking their promise is sort of like complaining about a baby’s inability to control its natural functions. It takes time to train babies, like it takes time to train politicians. Nestande and Fletcher will learn a valuable lesson from this current indiscretion. The Democrats will NOT, I repeat NOT, NOT, NOT deliver on their promise for any of the changes that Fletcher and Nestande were promised in exchange for their vote. It’s a cute trick. Steinberg will kill in the Senate any regulatory changes Perez promised in the Assembly, and anything Steinberg promises in the Senate to get Republican votes will be killed in the Assembly. The only bill that will get to Governor Brown will be the tax increase, and, oh, by the way, the money won’t go to scholarships for students either. They will steal that as well. Nestande and Fletcher will have voted for a tax increase, broken their promise to raise taxes, lost any semblance of self respect, and accomplished nothing. Ask any number of Republicans who have voted for these tax increases in the past. They all ended up the same. The Democrats got what they wanted, that is, more money from the taxpayers, the Republicans (rightfully) lost their job, and the money was absorbed into the yawning cavern of the bureaucracy with the original reason for the money lost in some staff report somewhere which justified the theft for whatever the latest “public benefit” might be perceived to be. It is sad, but true, every time.
Nestande justified his vote on the grounds that he was “leveling the playing field” for California businesses, and working to reduce regulations on California business. That leads me to believe he was sold a bill of goods by some business lobbyist, who was shilling for the Speaker, and told this would all work out, and California business would get great regulatory relief. Republicans are pro-business, right? This will be a pro-business vote, Nestande was told.
Let’s leave aside the “level the playing field” argument, because it is a smoke screen, why don’t we ever “level the playing field” by reducing taxes or regulations? Why do we always “level” it by increasing taxes and regulations? It’s a foolish argument that only an amateur (made so by a bad term limits law) buys. The problem is history has shown that the Democrats don’t keep their word on the regulatory reform promised in exchange for a bad vote like this one, and the current crop of Republicans in the Legislature, particularly the Assembly, are too new at their job to understand what tricks have been played on them. Nestande and Fletcher got played. It is too bad. They are both nice guys, but they got played by a group of professionals (in the Democrat staff and the former Democrat staff that populates the business lobbying structure in Sacramento) like rookies in the NFL. Only they will pay the price.
Which is why Republicans cannot buy the “we are pro-business” line from business, or even Republican staff in Sacramento. We are not pro-business, because the business community cannot be trusted. They are not bad, they are conditioned, like Pavlov’s dogs, to jump when the political structure demands, and they are used to wrench a couple of Republicans from the ranks to get what the Democrats want. Once that is done, the Republicans are thrown back into the pack of waiting Republican organizational wolves to be eaten alive for their apostasy. It has happened more times than I can count, and only a term limits law allows it to occur now.
That is also why Republicans must be “pro-free enterprise.” You can never be sold out by a special interest, or group of special interests, if you stick to principle, and free enterprise and small government are principles any officeholder can justify any time, even if that officeholder doesn’t “accomplish” anything. The business community will sell us out, our political friends will abandon us when it suits their political purposes, or their personal ambition. Our principles survive, and commitment to those principles will leave us proud of the job we did. Nestande and Fletcher will leave office with deep regrets, like Paul Horcher, Doris Allen, Robert Frazee, Dick Dickerson, Mike Briggs, Dave Cogdill, Roger Niello, or the ten or fifteen other Republicans that have lost their jobs over tax increases. Those who stand by their promises and their principles may not be honored, and may even face Republican opposition at some future time, but they will have their honor and self respect. You can’t ask for much more out of life than that.