Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Interpreting the California Vote

In their May 27, 2009 column in Business Week entitled "The Power of Pushback," Jack and Suzy Welch praise the benefits of divided government. Included in their argument is an interpretation of California voters recently rejecting all of the proposed increases in state revenues in order to fund the government services provided:
Californians voted overwhelmingly to block further tax-and-spend mayhem....Finally, people are saying, "Enough!" to financial irresponsibility. In fact, if the 2-1 margin means anything, it suggests that California residents are shouting to make their voices heard.

The Welches imply the California vote was a mandate for less government. We will see how Californians respond to the upcoming deep spending cuts that will affect education, police, and firefighting services. I think a more reasonable interpretation is that many people are unrealistic, selfish, and short-sighted. They do not want fewer government services, but rather just do not want to pay for them. Others are reluctant to pay for services they do not benefit from directly. Yet, someone benefits from every type of government spending. And it is difficult to reach a consensus on what qualifies as wasteful government spending. This explains why the federal government accumulated about $10 trillion in debt between 1981 and 2009. Politicians are reluctant to reduce government services, because they are widely popular. Yet, tax cuts are popular, too.

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