Jerry's picnic table and cell phone crackdown got all the budget cut press
You want a really bleak picture of the politics of California today? Check out the recent comments of Dan Schnur, GOP political consultant and director of the Jesse Unrush Institute for Politics at the University of Southern California.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Schnur discussed the disconnect between image and reality in this state: "Cut $1 billion out of Medi-Cal and most voters won't notice," he said. "Take away some cell phones and make legislators sit on a picnic bench, and they pay attention."
Yeah, he's a Republican who worked for the likes of George W. Bush and John McCain, but his point, while politically sick and wrong, is also sadly accurate. How much money will the state save by getting rid of 48,000 cell phones? About $20 million a year. That's 0.08 percent of the state's budget shortfall. What did Brown save by replacing a boardroom-style conference table in his office with a glorified picnic table? Probably a few thousand dollars. How much does the state continue to lose every year to the utter waste of corporate tax breaks? How much could we bring in with an oil-severance tax? Well into the multiple billions.
What got all the press? Jerry's picnic table and cell phone crackdown.
I'm not against either of those moves. In tough times, it's important to set the standards at the top, and living cheap and avoiding the imperial trappings of public office is a great way to instill voter confidence. And anything Brown can do to convince the voters that he's serious about cutting waste and that they can trust him enough with their money that they should vote yes on his tax plan can only be good.
But it all seems so silly and shallow.
The truth is, when you cut Medi-Cal, people die. You can't prove that any specific cut killed any individual, and most of them are poor anyway and the major media don't make a big fuss every time a poor person dies. It's not as sexy as some Caltrans worker having to give up a cell phone.
I think I'm going to throw up now.