Jon Coupal- Columnist
is an attorney and president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers
Association -- California's largest taxpayer organization with
offices in Los Angeles and Sacramento. [go to website] [go
to Coupal index]
Fed Up With Government Waste
Enough with the pork...
[Jon Coupal and Tom Schatz] 12/10/04
At a time when many of
us are stuffed with leftover turkey, some politicians are still
helping themselves to heaping plates of bacon.
Pork is a ubiquitous government specialty and the worst form of waste and misuse
of our tax dollars.
Whether it is an unneeded local project to pump up a lawmaker's re-election
campaign, a duplication of effort at the state level due to mismanagement,
or paying too much for a service because of lax oversight, the cost is put
on the taxpayers' tab.
To focus the public's attention, and that of our representatives, on the need
to change the way the State of California and its local governments do business,
Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation
(HJTF) have teamed up again this year to produce the 2004
California Piglet Book. The booklet, which provides particular examples
of misspending totaling $12.9 billion, has been released at an especially appropriate
time. When the new Legislature settles in after the first of the year a great
debate will begin over spending and the reorganization of state government.
Hovering over this struggle, like a cloud of doom, will be the ongoing structural
budget deficit of $8 billion.
When CAGW and HJTF released the first Piglet Book in
the middle of the recall election campaign last year, it came with advice.
We recommended that whoever became governor establish a private sector commission
to make recommendations on how to eliminate wasteful spending.
As a model, we pointed to the Grace Commission established by President Reagan.
Headed by J. Peter Grace, the co-founder of Citizens Against Government Waste,
the commission made 2,478 recommendations to eliminate waste, mismanagement
and inefficiency in Washington, equaling a potential savings of $424 billion.
And just as important, the commission proved that even a recalcitrant legislative
body could be brought into line.
One of the most successful ideas implemented from the Grace Commission was
the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, which overcame Congress's inability
to close obsolete military bases, when they were considered individually, by
wrapping them all up into one omnibus bill.
Someone was listening because shortly after taking office, Governor
Schwarzenegger announced his intention to "blow up the boxes," that
is, to streamline the state government's archaic structure to eliminate
duplication and inefficiency.
To this end, he established the California Performance Review Commission to
provide a detailed reform blueprint.
Now the governor's commission has completed its work and he has been provided
with a menu of reforms that could save taxpayers as much as $32 billion over
the next five years. As the governor is deciding which reforms he supports
so that he can press the Legislature to make the long overdue changes, our
hope is that the governor can use the information in the Piglet Book for additional
He can remind lawmakers that since the 1950s, California has experienced a
tripling of population, while the California state government has increased
fivefold during that same time period. He can also ask them to weigh the significance
of the fact that private sector workers earn 25 percent less, on average, than
state government workers.
The Piglet Book provides enough examples of government waste that all
but the most cynical of officeholders should feel a sense of shame.
The governor must tell lawmakers the public is losing both confidence and patience.
Business as usual will not be tolerated. If they do not choose to be part of
the solution, they will be considered a part of the problem and, ultimately,
the people may elect to circumvent the Legislature to achieve reform through
the initiative process.
However, even faced with stark reality, some politicians won't want to focus
on the harm caused by wasteful spending and the failure to make good use of
taxpayers' dollars, because they fear that this will change government's emphasis
from serving people to frugality for frugality's sake. They would do well to
consider these words from Calvin Coolidge's inauguration address:
I favor the policy of economy, not because I wish to save money,
but because I wish to save people. The men and women of this country
who toil are the ones who bear the cost of Government. Every dollar
that we carelessly waste means that their life will be so much the
more meager. Every dollar that we prudently save means that their life
will be so much the more abundant. Economy is idealism in its most
The failure by our elected
officials to alter their spendthrift mentality should carry
the most severe of political consequences. CRO
Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
Tom Schatz is the president of Citizens Against Government
Waste, which also publishes the Congressional Pig Book and
Prime Cuts, both dealing with federal government pork and
waste. Copies of the 2004 California Piglet Book can be downloaded
from HJTA or from CAGW.
2004 Howard Jarvis Taxpayers association