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Enough Is Enough

Author: Andy Caldwell
October, 2009 Issue

Both of these quotes: “A finely tuned job killing machine” and “California is not suffering from a recession as much as it is suffering from self-inflicted blows to our own economy by our own State government,” pose a true and accurate depiction of our current state of affairs. The observations, however, derive from a 1992 report of the Ueberroth Commission on California Competitiveness. Things are even worse today!

We suffer this day as a result of energy and water shortages, the dilapidation of public infrastructure, astronomical public debt, high taxes and a punitive regulatory climate. These 17 years later, I can only echo Ueberroth as he singled out our state government as primarily responsible for our sorry state of affairs. Just how did we go from having one of the best economies in the world to the brink of bankruptcy?

I believe part of the problem has to do with the fact that the corporate business model used to effectively lobby for change in Sacramento doesn’t work. Publishing studies by think tanks and academics has its place, and so does the practice of hiring and relying on lobbyists. However, in reality, looking back over the last couple of decades, all that the business community can claim is that things could have been worse had it not been for their efforts. Nonetheless, there’s no escaping the fact that the health of our state and our economy is worse than ever before!

Just how bad does it have to get before we realize what we’re doing isn’t working? How many more jobs will be lost? How many more people will decide to invest elsewhere? How much more debt will we incur? How many more regulations can we endure? Is there another and better way to approach and check the anti-business effects and overreaching regulatory ambitions of the state that serve to further erode our ability to finance public services such as education, public safety and justice?

Is there another model of activism and participation that does work? I believe there’s something to be said about the tactics that have served the unions and the environmentalists. Of course, these are the same interests, in my opinion, that are chiefly responsible for the current crisis. The fact remains, however, that they were too successful in achieving and realizing their goals. Though these interests represent only a fraction of the population as compared to those who have an interest in a robust economy, their comparative political power dwarfs that of the business community. Why is that?

Well, for one thing, they know how to protest! They know how to apply pressure, and they’re not afraid or embarrassed to do it! In view of the fact that these interest groups successfully orchestrated ad campaigns, protest marches and in-your-face political rallies—and actually gained political power from doing so—why does the business community continually cower at the thought of employing similar tactics itself and continue to maintain such tactics don’t work?

I don’t believe the California economy has the luxury to wait any longer for change to come out of Sacramento. Instead, I believe we need to bring change to Sacramento by way of grassroots activism. It’s high time for us to come together to impress our state government that, as bad as the recession is, it’s only going to get worse unless we get immediate relief from any number of mandates dealing with air, land and water. AB32, The Diesel Engine Rules, SB375, the man-made delta smelt water crisis in the valley and various state water regulations affecting agriculture, construction and municipalities are all in the process of being implemented despite serious challenges to the science and cost benefit analysis of the same. Enough is enough!

We can no longer afford business as usual in this state, because these aren’t ordinary times. The pending regulations will spell unmitigated disaster to our economy. All of these trends will only serve to continually diminish the revenue streams to state coffers when we can least afford it. It’s time to end this vicious negative regulatory and taxation cycle that’s given California the dubious distinction of having the worst business climate in the country, and the state with the largest budget deficit in the history of our nation.
Editor’s Note: This article was first printed in Fox and Hounds Daily (www.foxandhoundsdaily.com).
Andy Caldwell is the executive director of the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business (COLAB; www.colabsbc.org) of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. He’s also the host of the “Andy Caldwell Show,” which airs on the Central Coast from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. The show is live streamed at www.am1440.com. You can reach Andy at andy@colabsbc.org.


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