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Davis, California

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Steal this Column

Learning to be accountable for your own actions is one of life’s greatest lessons. From a very young age we’re taught that when a problem arises as a result of our previous actions, it’s up to us to fix it.

While such an idealized view of personal responsibility looks great in children’s books or in an elementary school classroom, it’s honestly becoming harder and harder to find real world examples to support such a preposterous belief.

A perfect example of both the lack, and overwhelming presence, of this notion of accountability was exhibited last week during California’s special election.

Anyone that has followed this column closely over the last two years know that, deep down, I’m nothing more than an outspoken pessimist looking to take potshots at public officials, and so it makes sense that any discussion over a blatant lack of accountability would begin there.

In order to fully understand the failure in personal accountability I’m about to describe, we first have to rewind to last February, when Governor Schwarzenegger presented a budget that left California with a deficit that is currently being measured in the tens of billions. With this action, it appears that Governor Schwarzenegger and the state legislature took the first, and least helpful, step toward cleaning up their own mess – actually creating the mess.

Unfortunately for millions of Californians, our elected officials didn’t jump right to the task of finding a reasonable solution to the problem, instead choosing to let the whole mess fester and ferment until it was too large and disgusting of a problem to ignore any longer.

Arnie (Governor Schwarzenegger for those of you that find the nickname confusing) and the state legislature’s refusal to clean up after themselves brings us to the current situation, and was the driving motivation behind last week’s special election.

Despite claims that Propositions 1A-1F were geared toward finding the most reasonable solution to California’s budget woes, the reality of the situation was that our elected officials were all crossing their fingers in the hopes that California taxpayers wouldn’t mind giving them a free pass, and maybe even volunteer someone else to clean up the overwhelming mess that they had left behind.

While the idea of passing the burden of this budget deficit onto the public is deplorable in its own right, what makes matters even worse is that the legislative bundle consisting of Propositions 1A-1F equated to nothing more than ridiculously small Band-Aid being placed over the financial equivalent of shattered bones. Yes, even if all six of last week’s propositions were to have passed, California would still be facing an $8 billion budget deficit.

Taking all of this into account, you can probably guess where I’m going to find proof of an overwhelming presence of personal accountability in all of last week’s election news. Yes, once again, where vice can be found in our elected officials, virtue can be seen in the people they apparently represent.

Rather than be duped by an increase to theRainy Dayfund, or the allure of allowing the legislature to recklessly borrow in order to mend the damage to their budget, Californians insisted that government officials find a better way to clean up the trail of filth that this thrown together spending plan has left in its wake. In fact, of the six propositions on the table, the only one that was not denied by a ridiculous margin was Prop. 1F, a measure to prohibit salary increases for elected officials during budget deficit years.

While the actions of California’s voters during last week’s special election is cause for some degree of celebration, the unfortunate reality is that a solution to this budget fiasco must come from somewhere, and if history has shown us anything, that means that California’s student population will likely, once again, be tossed underneath the proverbial bus.


JAMES NOONAN only has one week left in his columnist career. Tell him what to write about at jjnoonan@ucdavis.edu. He probably won’t listen, but it’s worth a shot.


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