CRUEL AND UNUSUAL GOVERNMENT
June 4, 2011
[Publisher's Note: As part of an ongoing effort to bring original, thoughtful commentary to you here at the FlashReport, I am pleased to present this column from longtime FlashReport friend Larry Greenfield. Greenfield is a Fellow in American Studies at the Claremont Institute and Senior Fellow of the American Freedom Alliance.- Flash]
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The Golden State has the 6th highest total tax burden on citizens paying income, sales, property, and local, county, state and federal taxes and fees. Californians, who drive a lot, have also been hit hard by high vehicle gas prices, plus fuel taxes and auto insurance rates.
It is not surprising, therefore, that California now ranks dead last among the 50 states in business climate and has a collapsing credit rating.
California’s tax-payer supported public school system ranks among the very worst in the nation, according to student 4th and 8th grade test scores. About half of the high school students in the Los Angeles public unified school district will not graduate.
And now the Corrections Department cannot even keep the state’s prisoners incarcerated without violating the U.S. Constitution, according to an absurd 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court, which ruled that the overcrowding and minimal health care within our 33 state prisons amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
Since our brave patriot troops often live in cramped quarters, (in submarines or in hot and dusty barracks far from home), dutifully fighting day after day for our freedoms, one questions how cruel and unusual overcrowded prisons really are.
California ranks in the middle of the pack in prisoners per capita. It may be over-incarcerating non-violent first time “mere” drug possessors, as well as death penalty convicts, who merit immediate execution, not years of extreme legal gymnastics that continue to punish the families of their victims and run up the bill on taxpayers.
California spends a shocking $10 billion a year on roughly 150,000 state prisoners, far more per inmate than in any other state. It pays 4-6 times more per prisoner, annually, than is spent on each K-12 public school student.
Perhaps the state Legislature could explain, since they knew the federal judiciary was monitoring overcrowding for years, why they did not build enough prisons, or create inexpensive tent cities, or pawn off prisoners to less costly private or out-of-state prisons, and why there are not more work programs to reduce the financial burden on hard working taxpayers. Oh, unions special interests which dominate Sacramento.
Government has failed. Our state has hit rock bottom. We need a California comeback, and the people are going to have to take justice into their own hands.
First, California cannot count on the Federal Government. It is beyond broke; it is in debt to the tune of billions of dollars annually, besides the massive unfunded liabilities. Californian’s pay in far more federal money than they receive, but since the state is not competitive in national presidential elections, it is taken for granted politically.
The national government is supposed to be responsible for international border control and it has failed. California must humanely accommodate those children here innocently but illegally, yet it is not allowed to send convicted alien adult felons back to their country of origin.
Californians are therefore not being well served by the national government from a financial or security perspective.
Second, California has built a welfare state. It has 12 percent of the national population, but 33 percent of U.S. welfare recipients. Rather than being open for business, it is open for welfare.
The state has spent itself into fiscal bankruptcy, including hundreds of billions of dollars in lucrative lifetime pension, health care, and workers compensation obligations for state workers who retire in their 50’s but will live for decades thereafter. Young workers and innovative business entrepreneurs are leaving.
California government has now cruelly failed to plan to keep our streets safe, and instead it has become unusually inefficient in providing public safety, public education, and public finance.
Therefore, let’s begin to move beyond failed government with a spirit of citizen self-rule. We are going to have to limit special interests, and devolve power away from Sacramento to the people.
__________________________________________________ Larry Greenfield is a Fellow in American Studies at the Claremont Institute and Senior Fellow of the American Freedom Alliance..