Totalitarians run California

Sept. 10, 2012

By Steven Greenhut

SACRAMENTO — The main problem with the California Legislature is not that it spends your money far faster than it comes in, or that much of it is squandered on absurd programs and on the enrichment of those Californians who work for the state. Those are symptoms of the real problem, which is that the Legislature recognizes no natural limits on its power.

If a legislator doesn’t like something, expect a proposal to ban it. If a legislator likes a particular idea, expect plans to build a bureaucracy to implement it.

The only issues off the table involve fixing those budgetary and governmental problems that the state government is legitimately tasked with handling.

When you see supposedly serious efforts to address a problem, such as the Legislature’s last-minute embrace of public-employee pension reform, a closer look reveals such reform is just a fig leaf covering something else.

This particular reform package does little but was passed after polls showed the governor’s tax-increase initiative (Proposition 30) for November was on thin ice. The pension bill is designed to help a political campaign — “Look, voters, we are serious about reforming government, so go ahead and vote yourself (or your wealthier neighbors) a hefty tax hike!”

So another legislative session comes to a close, and a load of new rules and regulations is headed to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature or veto. California bans and regulations, including those emanating from local governments, have gotten so out of hand that regulation-happy New Yorkers at the New York Times now are making fun of our state.

“Once known for its sunny, freewheeling disposition — a live-and-let-live sensibility rooted in Western ideals and relied upon by generations of surfer dudes and misbehaving Hollywood stars — this region has long been as regulated as anywhere,” the Times reported recently. “Lately, however, cities, school districts and even libraries have been outlawing chunks of what used to pass here for birthright at a startling clip.”

The article focused on new local bans on everything ranging from fire pits on the sand at Newport Beach to the wearing of obnoxious perfumes in libraries in Southern California. But the Times also mentioned the Legislature’s recent “ban on psychotherapy aimed at making gay teenagers straight” as a glaring example of the Capitol’s ban-it mentality.

Invading bedrooms

One of the very few benefits of having liberal Democrats running everything in California, as the cliché goes, is that they won’t be meddling in our bedrooms. But the ban on gay-conversion therapy shows that liberal activists can be even more meddlesome in people’s personal lives than conservatives.

If I were a gay teenager and wanted to become straight, why shouldn’t I be able to go to a licensed psychologist to try out the therapy? Are families incapable of making personal decisions without the oversight of regulators and legislators?

As one psychologist told the Wall Street Journal with regard to the anti-gay therapy, “People report that the therapies exacerbate their own struggles and distress.” He said it can hurt teen’s self-esteem and sense of well-being.

Lots of things can harm our self-esteem, but that doesn’t mean the Legislature should ban them. Huge budget deficits and pension liabilities hurt my psychological sense of well-being — but I don’t expect the Legislature to assuage my feelings by dealing with those matters, even though they are issues that legislators urgently should be handling.

Another psychologist quoted by the New York Times got it right when he called the ban an attempt to intimidate therapists and undermine parental rights.

Sen. Ted Lieu

Sen. Ted Lieu, the Torrance Democrat who authored the gay-conversion therapy ban, called the therapy “quackery,” but now teens and parents are more likely to head to real quacks — shamans without licenses or training.

Or they will turn to religious practitioners. Even California’s legislators don’t have the power to ban therapy in those settings, thanks to religious freedoms.

Lieu’s office recently sent out a statement boasting of the 17 bills he authored that have been approved by the Legislature. But Lieu, who apparently is competing for the title of “California’s Ultimate Nanny,” is sadly typical in Sacramento.

In addition to the gay psychotherapy ban, Lieu is proud of his bills that crack down on used-car dealers who offer high-interest-rate loans to their customers, and forbid landlords from requiring tenants to pay their rent online. Is there no area of life, not matter how petty, that willing buyers and willing sellers can’t negotiate without governmental interference?

Lieu also authored a bill to speed up state payments to people who are victims of corporate fraudsters — “smooth-talking hustlers,” as Lieu refers to them. I see nothing in his list of bills that protects California residents from the smooth-talking hustlers who run the Capitol, and promise us every good and noble thing known to mankind, but can’t even deliver us an honestly balanced budget.

Last December, Lieu threatened legislative action against the Lowe’s home-improvement chain after it pulled its ads from a TV show called “All American Muslim.” Even if you accept the always politically correct Lieu’s contention that pulling the ads was bigoted, shouldn’t private companies have the right to pick and choose where they advertise?

Lieu did author one good bill, which celebrates the anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. That makes it even more ironic that he and his allies spent most of the legislative year shredding the values in the document they want to celebrate.

The Constitution was designed to put boundaries around government so that it protects our life, liberty and property without intruding on our freedoms. California’s government, in its hubris, recognizes no such limits. Until Californians rediscover the importance of limiting their government, we will be at the mercy of the petty totalitarians who run the Capitol.

Steven Greenhut is vice president of journalism at the Franklin Center for Government and Public

Integrity; write to him at [email protected]


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  1. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 10 September, 2012, 08:35

    I was reading the LA Times yesterday and thee is a brouhaha over feeding the students IN CLASS (at taxpayer expense of course), and the teachers are upset b/c this issue was not “bargained” at the contract session. It is unreal that virtually anything related to gov employment can be bargained for, and get extra pay for!!!!! Only in gov….Fantasyland of employment where all your dreams can come true at the expense of others).

    Reply this comment
  2. Edward Steele, Chief Investigator
    Edward Steele, Chief Investigator 10 September, 2012, 08:50

    Poodle– when is your suspension over at CP?

    Reply this comment
  3. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 10 September, 2012, 08:52

    Just leave….Pack and Ship…..your not happy…..or do you like being miserable?

    Reply this comment
  4. Steven Greenhut
    Steven Greenhut 10 September, 2012, 09:16

    Ulysses — you sound like one of those old “love it or leave” right wingers. Actually, I love California and am very happy — but not with the direction of the government here. Current policies don’t work so it’s only a matter of time before we get some kind of reform.

    Reply this comment
  5. Sean Morham
    Sean Morham 10 September, 2012, 09:38

    In the long run, there will be reform or else..
    I tell my college age children to keep their options where they are going to take theri career, Ca, other states, International.
    In the short run, it will get worse, the question is how much worse….??
    And what happens in the time between that and the reform.
    I honestly feel that there will be a breakdown in law and order in parts of the state. Cal will have no money to stop it, the rest of the country will say, look what you have created Cal…live with it.

    Reply this comment
  6. BobA
    BobA 10 September, 2012, 10:57

    Steven Greenhut:

    The only reform California can hope for will come in the aftermath of a complete financial collapse. California has been building momentum towards a completely financial collapse and we have past the point of no return. It’s no longer a matter of if but when it happens.

    There is also not one iota of evidence to suggest that our elected officials have the political courage or will to do anything about it. The only thing they know how to do is tax & spend and when in doubt, tax & spend more. Their solution to the pending financial cliff is rip out the brake pedal to give them more room to stand on the gas pedal.

    If you and I handled our finances the way California politicians handle this state’s finances, we would be hopelessly in debt a facing a long prison sentence.

    Reply this comment
  7. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 10 September, 2012, 11:00

    Steve my profession is not whipping a bunch of unbalanced, paranoid greedy righties into an hourly frenzy over political nonsence you have no controll over…to exact change..

    It’s about ratings…not results…righties will never run this state again….you know it.

    Reply this comment
  8. Sean Morham
    Sean Morham 10 September, 2012, 13:16

    Ulysses, The devil is in the details; you may want to take some remedial English to hone those skills. Also, please don t forget, Never say never.
    “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite” Feudal, Monarchial Europe caused that slogan to appear, and that same Europe also was key to the thought processes that gave birth to the USA. History does repeat itself, because Humans have the same basic needs, motivations across decades. The scum in Sacramemto and coporate boardrooms aren’t that much different from the Ancien Regime. The citizens(among them Jewish) who embraced Hitler’s reforms(ex. gun control )
    in the 30’s are similiar to the brain dead masses among us, electing the gov t scum, and lapping up football on TV, supporting the corporate scum.

    Reply this comment
  9. BobA
    BobA 10 September, 2012, 14:56

    Sean Morham:

    Your use of the term “corporate scum” is quite interesting. The typical mindset behind that type of thinking is someone who opposes the idea of profit and private enterprise, i.e., a communist. I hope I am wrong in your case though. Words means things and if that is your political philosophy then be upfront about it so we know where you’re coming from. It’s the only way to have an open and honest debate.

    If that is not your political philosophy then may I suggest that you not paint with such a broad brush and aim your scorn and contempt at the incestuous relationship between the crony capitalists and the political whores that serve them.

    I have greater contempt for the politicians who write laws that benefit certain companies and industries than I do for the crony capitalists themselves. Crony capitalists are only as successful as the number of political whores they can call on for their “services”.

    Reply this comment
  10. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 10 September, 2012, 17:19

    Such foull English….. BobA taking him to the wood shed!

    Some of these newer posters have issues. Whew!

    Reply this comment
  11. Hondo
    Hondo 10 September, 2012, 17:59

    No man is an island. We are all part of the main. John Donne was right.
    To think that we in Amerika are different from the rest of the world is living a fallacy. The crimes of Stalin were real as are those of Syria now or Nazi Germany back then. We have the same DNA as the rest of the human race. To think that we won’t ever end up like the Balkans is living a lie. Our Amerika has been peace full since our civil war. WW2 barely touched our shores.
    We are being divided up racially like the Balkans for political purposes with out politicians seeing the possible violent ends. It can happen here.
    And there for, never send to know from whom the bell tolls,
    it tolls for thee.
    Hondo…. with some help from John Donne

    Reply this comment
  12. Hondo
    Hondo 10 September, 2012, 18:03

    So I screwed up John Donne, my apologies.
    And therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls
    It tolls for thee.
    John Donne

    Reply this comment
  13. Ted Steele, The Decider
    Ted Steele, The Decider 10 September, 2012, 19:12

    Actually the Donne post is a bit misused here the context was more personal and applied during an epidemic–but, well, whatever. I support U haul on this one.

    The Ted, yes THE Ted….

    Reply this comment
  14. Ted Steele, The Decider
    Ted Steele, The Decider 10 September, 2012, 19:17

    The full quote from the original meditation has more application today as used against Repubs and the tea-b-far right.

    You all may enjoy this, it is simply, well, ah, ….yes, beautiful!


    PERCHANCE he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness. There was a contention as far as a suit (in which both piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled), which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined, that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his, whose indeed it is. The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that that occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God. Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? but who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world?

    No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee. Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbours. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did, for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another’s danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.

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  15. JLSeagull
    JLSeagull 10 September, 2012, 19:31

    What our lawmakers need is some incentive. How about an initiative amendment to the California Constitution: “On the date that the State of California declares bankrupcy the terms of the Governor and all elected members of the State Senate and State Assembly shall immediately expire and they shall be ineligible for election to any office in the state for a period of ten (10) years.”

    Reply this comment
  16. A real thinker in SoCal
    A real thinker in SoCal 10 September, 2012, 19:56

    I can only hope that the “decider”, for the sake of his own mortal soul, truely recognizes the meaning and importance of the above words…Yes they are beautiful and well spoken, but in no way encourage affiliation with any political viewpoint, personal retention of any wealth, or the interference in the lives of others for any reason… The power indicated in the above devotion aludes to the power that descends from God, our devotion to him, and the allowance by God and fellow man of the “state” to engage in limited actions, entirely dependent on the blessings of God, and permission of those fellow men and women.

    I believe the Mr Greenhut accurately describes the situation where the “State” and its many minions, believe that they may usurp the authority of God and Fellow Man, and that rights, priviledges, and pursuit of happiness flow from them to the fellow man, such as the European Monarch’s believed, until the citizen’s restored the natural order. I am hopeful that a gradual shift back toward the proper “Constitution of Government” may be effected without strife and chaos as has been the historical method of resolution, but am not overly optimistic.

    Unfortunately this site’s comments have digressed into a plethora of namecalling and hate bating against those who disagree with others clearly for the sake of disagreement. The contribitors provide useful information which is then ignored, or the posters make illiterate comments, or engage in personal attacks against the other posters with whom they disagree. How pathetic!

    The comment section clearly begs for a moderator, and a set of basic guidelines of behavior for posting…perhaps that should be on Cal Watchdog’s Christmas List!

    Reply this comment
  17. Ted Steele, The Decider
    Ted Steele, The Decider 10 September, 2012, 20:01

    JLC—-States can’t do bk’s but you are on to something and it could work……..

    Reply this comment
  18. sean morham
    sean morham 10 September, 2012, 20:29

    As someone with a BS Finance and an MBA granted in the shadows of Wall Street, I know what corporate scum are. I have worked with them. They are not just capitalists, they are scum. As stated, they have their brothers in the time of 18th century France. Unbridled greed is root of this scum and they have much in common with the pigs in Sacramento who are the 21st century Farmer Generals. Hopefully, they will meet their fate staring up from sturdy baskets.
    Ulysses, A very new time is staring at all of us. You may want to prepare, If not, Chomp, Chomp. If you think the unnamed have issues and continue with your skull in the turf, I suggest you and your spawn will become dinner for those who encounter harsh times in the near future. One has to survive after all.

    Reply this comment
  19. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 10 September, 2012, 20:33

    Teddy- no time to read your copy and paste books..cliff notes lil buddy 😉

    Reply this comment
  20. Ted Steele, The Decider
    Ted Steele, The Decider 11 September, 2012, 06:47

    Zero— Have someone read it to you !

    Reply this comment
  21. BobA
    BobA 11 September, 2012, 07:50

    sean morham:

    Ok. I’ll defer to your insider knowledge of corporate scum. I hope none of their scumminess rubbed off on you. From your vitriol, I take it didn’t so good for you.

    There’s no denying that there are corporate scum out to make a buck by hook or crook and they don’t care who they screw to get it. My problem (and I suspect yours also) with that ilk is when they screw the taxpayers via corrupt politicians on the take for the sake of profits. That’s the biggest problem we taxpayers face at both the federal and state level.

    For what it’s worth: I’m a long time investor and in my humble opinion, all stock brokers are scum and I have yet to find an exception. They’re all as crooked as a trombone. I have more respect for maggots than a lot of the individuals I’ve encountered in the investment industry.

    Reply this comment
  22. Queeg
    Queeg 11 September, 2012, 07:57

    Thinker…..Dorothy lost her shoes at CWD. The tin man is rusted out.

    How on earth can anyone take the daily input…. this gloom and doom?

    Levity and altered universes are defense mechanisms…we love our Poodle and Donkey…we sleep with two eyes open concerning about five white coated posters..taking personal and pollitical beatings are our stick!

    Moderate us will lead to shutting down your favorite,precious righty kooks and disturbed loons….

    Of course, we cannot do that!

    Reply this comment
  23. Ron Kilmartin
    Ron Kilmartin 11 September, 2012, 09:39

    Rule for voters: Do no re-elect sitting democrats or rhinos. Give someone else a chance to play with taxpayers’ money.

    Reply this comment

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