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Monday, July 19, 2010

You're Doing A Bad Job.....Here's My Vote

Last week's release of a Field Poll shows that 16% of Californians approve of the job our State Assembly and Senate are doing. Sixteen percent. Who are these people and why is the number so high? Despite several years now of structural deficits and cash shortages the fiscal policy of the majority has not changed: expand government, protect state employees at all costs to taxpayers, raise taxes.

In late June both Gallup and Rasmussen released polls gauging the American confidence in Congress. According to Rasmussen only 12% of those polled felt Congress is doing either an "excellent" or "good" job. Gallup's numbers reflect this by asking merely if respondents "approve" of how our Washington legislatures are doing. Twenty percent said they approve. Approve of passing the $800 billion stimulus bill, approve of passing Obamacare without reading it or knowing what we are now finding out was in it, approve of passing the massive financial reform bill that will stifle economic growth and job creation as small businesses are burdened with costs and taxes.

So how will voters react to this dismal performance by their representatives? Evidently it is the other guy's representatives we disapprove of in Southern California because our elected officials keep getting recycled and re-elected. The integrity of the voter is abysmal. I am not sure if it is because our region is so incredibly partisan or so incredibly ignorant as to the correlation to our votes and our outcomes.

Case in point are the teachers. Teachers have been furloughed and laid off this past year because of the lack of funds from Sacramento to the school districts. Teachers, almost unanimously, donate about $6 per pay period locally to their Political Action Committee and an additional amount to the statewide PAC at the California Teachers Association. Keeping in mind that teachers are being laid off because of the poor fiscal management and decisions made by our California Legislature over the past decade or more, the teachers are continuing to fund the campaigns of the same politicians who have caused the furloughs and lay-offs.

Chances are after the November 2010 election our Assembly and Senate will look identical to how it looks now because of gerrymandered districts, ignorant voters and ignorant public employee union members who continue to donate to PACs that support the status quo. Next spring our school districts will go through the lay off procedures once again as the same politicians in the same jobs will continue to produce the same results: less money for local education and the perpetuation of structural deficits. Don't believe me? Here is the California Teachers Association endorsement page for the coming election. This is a real diverse group isn't it?

As for Republicans they have already shown their rewarding bad behavior by nominating Mike Villines for Insurance Commissioner in the primaries. Villines is one of a few Republicans that crossed the aisle to vote for the biggest tax increase in history last year. A vote made after he signed a "No Tax Pledge" and vociferously defended the No Tax Pledge publicly. He did not and will not get my vote, not only for his vote that allowed the tax hikes to go through last year but for his lack of integrity and honesty.

Speaking of integrity, in my local Congressional District that went approximately 70% for Obama in 2008 my Congressional Representative is running for re-election. On a record that has been with the Democratic Majority in virtually every single vote, Laura Richardson has shown the District she is nothing if not loyal to the Democratic National Committee, that plays well politically but what about her integrity? In a District that has unemployment near 20% she has supported legislation that hinders small businesses and economic growth. Not that she cares since she has her job and for Richardson that is all that matters. But this is only part of the Richardson iceberg.

A woman driven to climb the political ladder, Richardson bought off union support for her run for the Assembly by introducing legislation in Long Beach that would require hotels on city leases to unionize, thankfully the legislation was vetoed but Richardson got her support, won her primary and in the district was a shoe in for Assembly. In the Assembly she voted to require the California Indian Tribes to unionize their casinos. This guaranteed her support in the race to win the Congressional seat of Juanita Millander-MacDonald who had passed away while in office. Richardson won this race as well and promptly quit making payments on the home she purchase in Sacramento barely a year before.

This past month Richardson was cleared by the Ethics Committee in Congress. She was before the committee because of the dealings with her home in Sacramento that was foreclosed upon, sold by the bank (WAMU) at auction and then bought back from the buyer by WAMU and given back to Richardson. Seems there was some "mistake" in the foreclosure, of all the foreclosures in California the past few years hers was the "mistake" and the bank paid a premium to re-acquire the home to give to her. Evidently, according to the Ethics Committee, the transaction that resulted after Richardson personally contacted WAMU's lobbyist in Sacramento to re-purchase the home well above the foreclosure auction price and deed it back to Richardson was "normal business." Maybe for a member of Congress but I'm not sure too many families in California have experienced such "normal business." Further the committee bought that Richardson was a victim of "loan fraud." Richardson was as much a victim of loan fraud as President Clinton was a victim of sexual harassment and assault.

But to the super-majority in the California 37th Congressional District it does not matter that the incumbent is not intelligent enough, or has enough integrity, to know her personal finances and whether she can afford to support three homes on a public salary. It does not matter that she has received special favors from a now defunct bank that others going through foreclosure will never receive. It does not matter that her loyalty is to herself and to her PAC contributors. What matters is they don't have to think, don't have to look at the character of the candidate, don't have to see any connection between her votes and their conditions. Just look inside the parenthesis and make your vote.

Eighty percent of Americans do not approve of the job Congress is doing, but fifty percent of the registered voters approve of the job their Representative is doing?

Hard to believe that any group that is comprised of individuals selected by a series of majorities could have a lower approval rating than Congress, but the California Legislature manages to succeed. Even more challenging in California than upsetting a Congressional incumbent is upsetting an incumbent in either the Assembly or Senate due to the incredibly partisan districts. That and again the ignorance of the voters to connect their condition and that of the state with their own voting patterns. Despite the almost criminal sell outs to state employees at the expense of the rest of the budget the champion of sell outs, Warren Furutani's district will re-elect him. Rarely is there a SEIU or other labor rally where Furutani is not present. He led a march in Long Beach against immigration policies in which many members of the union were interviewed for a story in the Press-Telegram but did not give their names as they were illegal immigrants. A union with as much power as SEIU that control many in the legislative majority having protests about immigration that are populated by their own members who are illegal immigrants. And the voters will punch Furutani's ticket again in November, and other candidates supported by the SEIU, CTA and other unions reaping billions in the state budgets.

Do voters make the same decisions in their lives that do not include voting? Do they buy the car they have the 80% disapproval for? Do they date the person who they have only a 16% feeling of "excellent" or "good?" Of course not, but that is because they can make the immediate connection between action and resulting impact on their condition.

Across the nation Americans are waking up to the power of their vote, the most powerful right in our Constitution, to select our representatives in government. Reinforcing the studies that have shown for some time the poor performance of our statewide education system, the lesson is yet to be learned by California voters.

I am hoping that come November the majorities in districts across the state will have done their homework and pass their tests in the voting booth. Especially in the CA 37th Congressional District.



Bob Schilling said...

Wow...commendable passion. Unfortunately, it's not new news. The tendency of people to express cynicism about the legislature as a whole, but to support their specific member of the legislature goes back at least a hundred years, and perhaps more. It's not logical, but it's a very firm trend.

It's not like it can't be broken. Scandal can drive an incumbent from office, which is why the press is so eager to find them. What's also true is that most of us don't think the specific identity of a senator or member of Congress or member of the Assembly makes much difference. If you think the system is corrupt, and that it is designed to corrupt anyone who gets into office, who that person is doesn't matter.

I think you're right about the breakdown in our legislative bodies, though it's most obvious in California. I know you don't agree with what the Congress has done, but despite determined Republican opposition (at least in public), they have in fact acted, passing at least three signficant pieces of legislation in the past two years. The Congress may not have acted in the way you think best, but it has acted.

As for Laura Richardson, well, show me the money. Who's in the race that will be a moderate, listen to both sides of an issue, and vote the interests of the District? Right now, God help me, Laura looks like the best of a very bad lot.

Noticing the the CTA votes the straight Democratic ticket down the line is not breaking news. The Democrats have been far more amenable to their interests than Republicans. You can't consistently badmouth and try to break a union and expect them to contribute to your election. What we need to do with teachers is to try to accept the fact that they're in a very stressful occupation, and work to improve their working conditions. Just paying them more isn't the whole answer, as we can see. But threatening to fire them won't help, either. And just so you know, the teachers don't blame the Democrats for the layoffs -- the blame Republicans and their own management.

I wonder, by the way, if Mike Villines voted his conscience, even knowing that it would be unpopular. If that is true, I'd suggest that he might make a good -- and unusual -- elected official.

If you want independent elected officials, make them independent. Pay them handsomely, and provide an electoral process that insulates them from special interests. Send people who offer them bribes to jail, and provide the laws and resources to make sure that happens. Apply Truth in Advertising standards to political ads. Make every dollar given to a candidate for any reason starkly transparent. Make their personal finances entirely reportable.

You can't excoriate the legislature without including the corporations, private interests, and wealthy individuals who lobby, influence and bribe them. The Congress and State Legislature don't cause our troubles -- they reflect the sorry state of our society. We live in a world where any lie, any unethical act can be justified on the basis of profit. If we don't change that, it will ruin us.

Shouting conservative rhetoric from the rooftops will not help.

Dennis C Smith said...

Bob: You seem to have high tolerance for public officials who have little, if any, integrity. Unfortunately the mindset pervades our populace, hence our governance.

I am not at all shocked at the straight DNC endorsements by the teacher's union, nor any union. My point is that the teachers' current consequence up and down the state is exactly what they paid for with their donations. And exactly what they will continue to get because of their donations.

What you see, hear, as "shouting conservative rhetoric from the rooftops" I see as realism in our current republic.

Thanks as always for your comments.