A Nightmare of Our Own Making

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Commentators have used many adjectives to describe the relationship between the California electorate and its government: frustrated, angry, and disgusted. Allow me to suggest one more: immature.

Many voters appear to believe in some sort of Easter Bunny who has done a really good job of hiding those eggs that contain the billions of dollars in waste that will translate into painless budget cuts. If we only look a little harder we'll be sure to find them. Others say that our fiscal problems are all the fault of the boogey man, a role that in this instance is played by the illegal immigrant.

The compensation and pension benefits that we have bestowed on our public safety and transit employees suggest the sort of reverence for people in uniform usually displayed by little boys. And we have actually resorted to the remedy that any 10-year old will tell you gets somebody out of a jam: we brought in a muscle-bound action figure to rescue us.

We have treated the responsibility bestowed on us by our proposition system as if it were an exam in a class we were taking pass/fail. Many of us don't look at the ballot material until the night before and often we just rely on a crib sheet provided by somebody we assume knows the right answers.  As a result we have imposed so many rules on the budget process that it looks like a game of Twister. And the preference that Proposition 13 bestows on homeowners of longer tenure is reminiscent of the playground assertion that "I got here first."

Having indulged ourselves in the full spectrum of immature reaction and thought it should come as no surprise that the result is a government that looks like one of those creatures in a children's storybook that is a mishmash of animal parts. It can't stand on its mismatched limbs, much less move forward. 


And so in the end, the mess that is California's government is like one of the monsters that scared us in our nightmares: we wish it would go away, but it is really the creation of the conflicting desires and fears inside us.

With a Perspective, this is Paul Staley.