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January 29th, 2010 2:50 pm
Sacramento Needs a Socrates

A good friend of mine is fond of pointing out that majority opinion condemned both Socrates and Jesus to death for speaking truth to power. One wonders if the political equivalent will happen to Greek Prime Minister George Papandreau now that his country has avoided being booted from the European Union for it’s out of control deficits. Part of the deal keeping Greece in the EU fold is Athens’ promise to do “whatever it takes” in order to get the nation’s fiscal house in order. The other part is the knowledge that the EU will not bail Greece out of its problems. For his part, the prime minister gets it:

“Greece is in a situation where we need to take very strong measures and structural changes in our country,” he said. “We’re determined to implement the programme.”

Unfortunately, the current solution is to sell a series of bond measures to finance the debt. This is exactly the same situation facing the State of California. Yearly budget shortfalls should no longer be patched with accounting gimmicks and stimulus money from the feds. Instead, if the state is going to avoid running out of money on April 1st, Sacramento needs to cut spending – NOW. But the only way that’s going to happen is with a sustained, detail-oriented presentation about the need for systemic reform from someone with access to the media. In effect, California needs a public figure willing to get the electorate to sober up on spending and make a priorities list funded with at least 10% less money than the state has taken in since 2007.

True, that won’t be politically expedient for any of the main contenders running to replace Schwarzenegger next year. It may even cost them the election. Then again, no one who’s running needs the job. Republicans Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner have over a billion dollars in wealth between them, and Democrat Jerry Brown wants a third turn at the governor’s mansion. If any of them want to start their tenure off on a realistic foot, they’d be talking about ways to cut, not ways to spend. As Greece shows, at some point the money runs out. Crazy thought: Why not start correcting the problems before they’re too big to fix?  Put another way, anybody willing to be a potential martyr for sake of actually telling people the truth?

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