When you climb to the very top of your profession, it should be a cause for celebration. After all, you have reached the pinnacle of your chosen career. Whether you are running Disney, Northrop-Grumman or the Los Angeles Lakers, when you become the number one executive, you can take a moment to sit back and bask in the glory of a career path well chosen.
But then there are those who reach the very heights of their profession, only to find that their new gig means that their career is actually over. They've mercilessly climbed to the top but, when they look down to see whose shoulders they are standing upon, they find nothing beneath them save for a long, swift descent. As examples, look to the top jobs at General Motors and the Los Angeles Clippers.
Governor of California was once the former: a job of power and prestige, and if the person played their cards right, a place on the national stage. Ronald Reagan took advantage of the renown that came with the job, and went onto become a popular two-term President of the United States.
But now the Governor of California job has proven to be the latter; once you reach Sacramento, your career is actually dead upon your arrival to the Governor's mansion.
Let us recall that former Governor Gray Davis was unceremoniously recalled as Governor, replaced by a movie-star action hero with no political experience, and Davis has barely made a peep since. Has he entered the Governor relocation program? Even Eliot Spitzer, the former Governor of New York who was caught with a hooker, has more of a political future than Davis (Spitzer's poll ratings are higher than those of David Patterson, the current Governor). Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governator, came into office as a strongman and will leave office with his tail between his legs. Term limited, a couple of years ago many thought Arnold would run for the Senate, but given the disastrous state of California's economy, Arnold is not likely to run for any office ever again. He won't be back.
That's one Democrat who is perceived to have failed, and one Republican. The California Governor's office: no matter your political persuasion, the job is a killer.
By now, it is readily apparent that the problem is not with our Governors but with our system of governance. The California way, much of which was instituted after Reagan left office, is set up for failure. Prop 13 puts limits on needed property taxes, the income tax puts too much emphasis on the top 1% to pay all of our bills, a 2/3 vote of the state government is needed to pass a budget, we have a ballot system that enables any wealthy person with an idea to get his initiative on the ballot, and, finally, there is redistricting, which allows for ideologues to enter the government and remain intractable, rather than allowing in moderates who can get the job done.
A few states have one of the aforementioned problems; no state has all of these problems.
The initiative process was meant to give power to the people. I'm a person -- I don't want that much power.
Prop 13 is great, if you are a homeowner who has owned your house for a long time and your property value has sky rocketed.
Unfortunately, Prop 13 means you're often getting something (higher home value) for nothing (same taxes).
The income tax puts too much emphasis on the wealthiest Californians to pay all of our bills. If their income goes down, as it has in this recession, our state suffers, to the point where we are $475 million behind May's tax revenue estimates. It is illogical to put so much emphasis on one tax and one group of people. A little diversity makes sense. The idea of lowering the sales tax and spreading it out to other items seems logical.
The 2/3 vote needed to pass fiscal measures is inane. Who came up with this idea? Hey, here's a thought: the next time your state Senator runs for reelection, they only get elected if they get more than 67% of the vote. You know why your state Senator won't agree to that? Because it's a dumb idea.
The nutty redistricting that occurs every decade means that our Congressional and Assembly districts are so contorted that they look like a line trod by Nick Nolte at a DUI checkpoint. We end up with liberals and conservatives who cannot compromise and, politically, have no reason to do so because they are in "safe" seats.
It is time to make a change in the way our state is governed. There is talk of Constitutional Conventions. There is talk of changes to the laws. But these changes may never occur, because they take strong political will. And even if they do occur, how long will it be until a 2/3 vote on budget matters is no longer necessary? How long will be it until the state can be governed effectively? The truth is, these changes may take years.
We now have several people running for Governor, and they all want to run a state that is near bankruptcy with no positive news on the horizon. It's not like trying to pilot the Titanic away from the iceberg; it's like asking to steer the Titanic after it hit the iceberg.
Why do Jerry Brown, Tom Campbell, Meg Whitman, Gavin Newsom and a cast to be named later want this job? If I were hosting a debate, my question would be along the lines of the one Jay Leno famously asked Hugh Grant. "What are you thinking?" Except in that case Hugh Grant, like Eliot Spitzer, was caught with a hooker. Grant's career thrived after that episode.
The next leader of our state should be so lucky as to be caught picking up a prostitute -- that appears to be a better career path than the dead-end job of Governor of California.
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