As a child, you’re taught to trust authority figures. Inherently. Implicitly. These people — your parents, your teachers, your pastors and priests — are the guiding forces in your young life. They teach you right from wrong. Good from evil. They protect you from the all ills of this and any other world. They look out for you because you don’t know any better. They always have your best interest at heart. Or at least they should. Otherwise, your life turns into one very long and very sad choose-your-own-adventure book where each new page ends in tragedy.
At each new stage of life we encounter new authority figures. We transfer our trust to these new vessels with the hope that they will steer our fragile little lifeboats to the next safe harbor. Among these new stewards of our trust and goodwill are our elected political representatives. These are people we choose to voice our concerns because they (hopefully) share our values. Living, as we do, in California, this sentiment seems fairly widespread. Our elected leaders are given a wide berth to conduct the business of government as they see fit because we trust them to do what is right for California and, in turn, Californians. However, as anyone who has been in an abusive or toxic relationship can attest, trust, once broken, is nearly impossible to regain.
I no longer trust our leaders to do the right thing for us.
Not that I trusted them all that much in the first place. However, it is now clear to me that a politician’s word can never be trusted. Ever. Actions are the only true test of someone’s character. What he or she says they will do is meaningless and should be treated as such. The latest example of this is, of course, State Senator Josh Newman. He ran his campaign on a message of hope. He was an outsider who wanted to do some good in Sacramento. He was ostensibly a champion of regular people. He bucked the label of politician in favor of public servant. He claimed that, while running as a Democrat, he would not be some party stooge that blindly voted for anything and everything sponsored by a Democrat.
And I believed him.
So far he has gone back on this pledge. Twice, in fact, on major legislation that affects all of California. Arguably, the most egregious of these two bills is SB1, which raised, among other things, the gas tax and vehicle registration fees. I will get into more detail in later posts, but suffice to say this bill is a raw deal for everyone involved. This is a direct tax on the working and middle classes of this state — two groups that have struggled to stay afloat in an ever deepening sea of inequity that is California. It is also predicated on the lie that we do not already have the financial means to address these issues. The fact is we do. What we lack is the political resolve to actually perform the essential tasks of government. This is because of a number of issues, not least of which is the influence of special interests in Sacramento who wish to guarantee continued funding for various pet projects up and down the state. The money to fix the roads is there, believe me.
But it doesn’t just stop at the state level. If we drill down to the county and city level, we can see where Sen. Newman’s vote really put the screws to both his district (CA-29) and his community. Overall, by my own basic math, SB1 will cost the taxpaying drivers of Orange County somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 million for the first year. This calculation was done assuming $5.2 billion in estimated revenues per year would be derived from California’s 25.5 million drivers, minus the ones too old to drive or too young to be expected to pay for gas or vehicle registration out of their own pocket. But do not fret, dear taxpayer. You shall be greatly rewarded for your generous contribution to the welfare of California’s roads. Well, not rewarded like Sen. Anthony Cannella was, of course. No, he received something tangible for his support of SB1.
Our own Sen. Newman did not secure such favors. Instead, we will receive increased funding for our local transportation projects. The return on investment seems a bit paltry, to say the least, as most cities in his district will be paying far more in new taxes than they receive in new funding. In Sen. Newman’s own town of Fullerton, drivers can be expected to pony over nearly $24 million dollars to receive a mere $3.2 million in new funding. Now, I’m no CPA, but I’d say that was a pretty bad investment for the people of Fullerton.
And that is just for the first year of the law’s existence. Each year, taxes on gasoline and diesel will increase with inflation, meaning you will likely pay more at the pump year over year. Every year. From now until the day you die. Because, honestly, when was the last time the state legislature let a “temporary” tax expire in California? The answer is never. Or almost never. Basically never. And there’s no provision in this bill for the increases to ever end. This is why our elected leaders passed this bill the way they did. It was and is a bad bill for taxpayers. And taxpayers never would have passed it themselves. But our leaders know better. They do. They know what’s right for us, even if we don’t know it ourselves.
As I said earlier, authority figures serve a very important purpose in our lives. They teach us to do what’s right. In this instance, they can also force us to acknowledge uncomfortable truths. They help us learn and grow.
It’s time for California to grow up. This is a journey we all need to take together.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.