Heard On The Streets

Katy Grimes: While out and about this Fourth of July weekend, I took the time to talk with neighbors, friends, strangers and passers by, to see what was on the minds of the voters. A random sampling of approximately 30 people produced telling results, and is rather contrary to what the mass media keeps reporting.

Government spending seemed to be the number one issue that really made people angry,  And not just spending on tangible services; it was the spending on government employees that brought out the rage. High pay, redundant positions in all government agencies, outlandish pensions, early retirement, double dipping — I heard it all. The expanding waistline of government was listed right along with spending.

…Which fed into the issue of many government workers who waste state resources and commit fraud, abuses of power by state employees, and blatant stealing from the taxpayers. Adding insult to injury, was the lack of accountability, with government workers rarely getting fired when they are caught  committing a crime, stealing, pilfering, abusing, etc…

Almost as inflammatory an issue as government spending, were the intermingled issues of increasing taxes and reduced services. There wasn’t anyone I spoke with who hadn’t noticed the deplorable condition of the roads and highways in California, DMV office closures and service hours cut, parks looking abandoned or unkempt or the threats of closure, but increases in permits, fines, traffic violations, and penalties.

Everyone asked, “Where is our tax money going?” and “When did we lose our rights?” The folks who I talked with were almost evenly split between Republican and Democrat. The obvious loss of liberty was heavy on the minds of everyone to whom I spoke, in stark contrast to the celebrations around the country celebrating American independence from England.

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  1. John Seiler
    John Seiler 6 July, 2010, 11:24

    Great observations. Americans are ready for a Second American Revolution — peaceful, but a big change away from the centralized tyranny that now oppresses us.

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  2. David
    David 7 July, 2010, 07:37

    I find it very hard to believe that you actually spoke to neighbors, friends, strangers, and passers-by, and even harder to believe that they responded by repeating this site’s far-right talking points to you.

    Where is the money going? One place is the ongoing damage from Bush’s trillion-dollar optional war, and another is the ongoing damage from his trillion-dollar tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. These facts somehow don’t make it to the hit parade here. But God forbid that a teacher who works 35 years be able to have a secure retirement.

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  3. Tylerle13
    Tylerle13 7 July, 2010, 08:13

    David, Why is it that a teacher (who only works 3/4 of the year) should only have to work for 35 years in order to have a secure retirement, but people who work in the private sector (who work 4/4 of the year) have to work 45 years, and sometimes more, in order to reach the government recognized retirement age of 65? Why should the government workers be allowed to retire 10+ earlier that the rest of us at our expense?

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  4. David
    David 7 July, 2010, 10:22

    I agree that’s not right. But the solution is working to bring private sector pensions up, nit dragging public ones down. Except for the rich who will never need a pension, you are cutting off your nose to spite your face when you drag public employees down. If public pensions are destroyed, private employers would have even less reason to provide pensions to their employees. Let’s build people up and create safe retirement for everyone — instead of dragging everyone down.

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  5. Tylerle13
    Tylerle13 7 July, 2010, 10:53

    Its not the fact that they have a pension that is a problem, it is the fact that the people that they choose to manage their money can lose a substantial portion of it, then we have to make up the difference again, no matter how bad the economy is. We are basically paying for their pensions twice when their funds are raided by corrupt fund managers or reckless investors. Its the nose up in the air “Im owed it, no matter what other programs suffer” mentality that many so called “Civil Servants” display to the public. They might as well just take the money to Vegas and throw it on black. If they win they can point out that they have doubled the pension funds. If they lose, they can just get reimbursed from the general fund.

    The whole deal of having a government job used to be that you make a little bit less money than your position would make in the private sector, but that pay difference goes toward providing you with excellant health insurance, a great pension, and job security. Now the public sector is making just as much, if not more, than the private sector, and those benefits and job security have gotten to the point that they have the potential to bankrupt the state. The only way to fund it is to continuously raise taxes, which also leads to less jobs in the private sector and less income & benefits for those private sector jobs that do exist.

    It is wrong that a “Civil Servant” is so disinterested in the wellbeing of the state as a whole that they are willing to completely dismantle it for the sake of them being able to retire early at the expense of others.

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  6. David
    David 7 July, 2010, 13:10

    So you would rather they were in a system where their money could be lost and that would just be too bad for them? Why? Wouldn’t it be better for everyone, including the private sector, to move toward more security in retirement, with defined and guaranteed benefits? The state’s fiscal woes were not caused by these pensions, but by tax cuts for the wealthiest (and the recession). Did you know people who make $47,500 pay the same state income tax rate as people making $999,000? That’s out of whack.

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  7. Tylerle13
    Tylerle13 7 July, 2010, 13:29

    Idealy it would be nice it everyone had a defined amount of money that was guarenteed, but the problem with that is that in order for that to happen, there has to be a person/people in charge of handling all of that money. As we have learned from past events, (i.e. the current Villalobos case) when a few people are put in charge of “investing” the money that millions of people depend on, things are going to go wrong, whether it be because of greed, incompetance, oversight, nepotism, honest mistakes, etc. If the CalPERS & CalSTIRs funds were not guarenteed by the taxpayers, do you think they would have invested that money the same way that they did? Would they have taken all of that risk or funneled the money & finders fees to their friends? All of the public employees would be screwed if they had to rely soley on their funds being handled & invested by the people who are currently in charge of it.

    If they were just given that money in a 401K or IRA that they handled themselves, they would be responsible for their own well being, just like the rest of us. If they made bad or reckless decisions, they would have to figure out a way to fix it. All the pension systems do is make people dependent on a centralized organization rather than being self sufficient.

    I have no problem if as a collective group, they all want to pool their retirement money and use the “Strength in Numbers” philosophy. I really have no problem with people choosing what they think will serve them best. I just have a problem with the fact that the taxpayers are forced to pay for the unions mistakes after we already paid in the first place. If they mess up, it should be their problem, it shouldnt be passed on to people that had nothing to do with making the decisions that lost the money. The current system encourages the pension system to make extremely risky investments because if they work out, they make a killing, but if they fail, they just send the bill to the state.

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  8. David
    David 7 July, 2010, 14:59

    The vast majority of the decline in CalPERS investments was due to the global economic recession. CalPERS has an outstanding record over time.

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  9. Tylerle13
    Tylerle13 7 July, 2010, 16:30

    I understand that they were hit by the economy, but they were also hit by really bad investing (ie in vesting about $1Billion in Mountain House), which in part was due to internal corruption & nepotism (ie Villalobos funneling money to friends & getting paid finders fees).

    Dont get me wrong, pension plans do very well for a lot of people and im glad it has worked out for them. I just have an issue with the pension plan being tied to the general fund. The fact that the state is already facing a $19B deficit, and the managers of CalPERS thinks its a good idea to send the state a bill for $600M that they lost just doesnt sit well with me. If most of the money that was lost was simply a result of a decline in their investments value, then much of that value should return as the economy improves. They definately shouldnt get reimbursed while the economy is in the tank because the losses right now will look much worse than they will when the economy picks back up and their investments regain some of that lost value.

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