Rally Exposes GOP Weak Links

FEB. 7, 2011

After Gov. Jerry Brown’s State of the State address Monday pushing for the Legislature to place a series of tax-extension measures on the ballot, Republicans countered by emphasizing their continuing opposition to higher taxes. For instance, Assemblyman Brian Nestande of Palm Desert, the Assembly minority leader’s top lieutenant, said, “I stand firm in my commitment not to raise taxes, which is a critical component of the governor’s plan to solve the $25.4 billion budget gap. We have to cut state spending to solve our fiscal crisis.”

While I oppose the governor’s tax-increase plans, I worry about the credibility of Republicans in opposing them these days.

Recently, three Assembly members, including Nestande, joined with Democrats at a union-sponsored rally to oppose government cuts to In-Home Supportive Services. The other two pro-union Republicans are Jim Silva of Huntington Beach and Paul Cook of Yucca Valley. These men didn’t betray their conservative principles, given that they always were fairly unprincipled sorts. But they did betray the GOP caucus and they did humiliate Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway of Tulare, who couldn’t do anything to stop them.

How can Republicans now move forward with reforms to the waste-plagued, scandal-ridden and oftentimes abusive IHSS program if top Republicans oppose cuts to it at any cost? The three Republicans were perfectly comfortable standing in front of a union crowd that was chanting, “No more cuts.”

So now that Silva, Nestande and Cook agree with the state’s most liberal elements that we cannot cut programs, then what choices are left? You can go on to each Assembly member’s website and find all the usual Republican blather about limiting government and holding the line on taxes, but it’s meaningless after this rally. If you can’t cut programs, you have to raise taxes or increase debt, which is a tax on future generations.

The Assembly members have insisted that they still are opposed to tax increases since the event has been widely reported, but it doesn’t change the facts. It’s ironic that these three pro-union Republicans would champion the IHSS program in particular. It’s a wasteful program that ends up subsidizing family members to take care of their own. This is cradle-to-grave socialism and support for it undermines any claim of conservatism.

As the Los Angeles Times reported: “State-subsidized in-home care such as shopping, laundry and housework for the frail and disabled, often provided by family members living with the recipients, has been the object of GOP charges of waste and fraud, and assailed as a symbol of Democrats’ unrestrained appetite for spending.”

Someone I know had initially signed up for the program, and then he soon received the organizing packet from the Service Employees International Union. He didn’t have to join the union, but he would have had to pay dues had he continued to receive the subsidy. Supporters claim the program saves money because it is cheaper than paying for nursing homes. But once everyone learns that the state will pay them for caring for family members, costs will soar.

This is government intervention deeply into the family unit, something that undermines family values, something Republicans like to talk about. People should not be paid by the government for care they would and should provide on their own. There’s no way this kind of system could possibly save taxpayers any money.

Not surprisingly, this program has been plagued by corruption. The Schwarzenegger administration proposed reforms after it was reported that many IHSS “caregivers” had criminal backgrounds. As the administration argued in a letter to the Legislature, “No one questions the responsible policy of ensuring that children are protected, even when they are participating in after-school sporting events. How, then, can we continue to allow convicted felons to provide unsupervised care in a disabled or senior’s private home?”

The Schwarzenegger letter was in response to a Sacramento grand jury report that found: “The lack of fiscal controls and oversight at IHSS has made it an easy target for those who are greedy.”

The three GOP legislators’ arguments in favor of the program were weak. As Cook was quoted in a newspaper, “Well, it doesn’t take a magnifying glass —- I’m pretty close. I won’t tell you how old I am, but I’m pretty close. And they say you have to be nice to your kids because they will pick out your nursing home. You should be nice to your loved ones, too, because they will pick out your In Home Supportive Services provider.”

Maybe it’s too much to expect statesmanship in Sacramento these days, but one does expect an Assembly member to do a little better than, “Gee, I might want that program for myself.”

Cook and Nestande have both been union allies. As an Orange County supervisor, Silva was a reliable union vote who twice supported retroactive pension increases and also supported the county’s project labor agreement, the most wide-ranging union-monopoly agreement in the state because it gave all county work to unions. Silva and Cook are both running for Senate seats in open primaries that draw all voters and not just Republicans, so perhaps they made the calculation that they no longer need to pretend to be conservative.

State Sen. Juan Vargas of San Diego praised the men’s bravery and said he got to know some of them at a Bible study. Apparently, their support for these programs comes from their faith. Jesus preached the need to help the poor, but that doesn’t translate into turning family members into government-subsidized union activists. If California legislators want to help the poor, they can start by reducing the state’s regulatory and tax burdens, which makes it difficult to create jobs and allow working people to get ahead in life.

It should be pretty clear to any Republican that people shouldn’t be paid by the state to care for their own loved ones. Well, at least we know which three Republicans are likely to side with Democrats when tax-raising budgets are proposed.

–Steven Greenhut

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  1. dianne farrell
    dianne farrell 19 February, 2011, 12:44


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