Saturday, October 17, 2009

I Won't Vote, Don't Make Me

Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman wants to be the governor of California. She

wants millions of Californians to take time out of their hectic, busy lives and stand in line

to vote for her. Unfortunately, in her entire life, Ms. Whitman has never voted for or against

anyone. When reporters asked her about her voting record during the GOP state convention,

she admitted her sorrow in never having actually voted in her entire life. When questioned

about this most basic of civic duties, she had no comment except to claim she had registered

to vote in 1998 (a claim that couldn't be supported). When pressed about why in the last

thirty plus years she had never felt motivated to vote on issues such as Iraq, terrorism,

September 11th, Bush vs. Gore, Iran Contra, the Contract on America, gay marriage, abortion,

or gun rights, she had no comment. This makes one wonder. Why hadn't Ms. Whitman ever

bothered to vote? Has she never felt the urge of responsibility or involvement that would

demand her voice be heard as a voting citizen?

Last week New York City had the lowest voter turnout ever for an election. In

districts with thousands of registered voters, as few as ten showed up in the twelve hours

the polls were open. California has notoriously low turnout, especially in off-year elections.

Nationally, we are pleased when 60% of those registered to vote show up to cast a ballot.

This would imply that tens of millions feel totally left out by the political process or are

disgusted with the candidates they are offered or are simply ignored. Should we feel

encouraged Ms. Whitman wants to enter public service now that she has made her millions?

Should the fact that she never voted disqualify her from public office? Maybe in and of

itself, it shouldn't; but her total indifference to her responsibility as a citizen and her

refusal to inject her opinions and expertise into the marketplace of policy, ideas, and

proposals should. She touts herself as having answers to California's economic problems

and says her skills as a successful CEO show she has the chops to get the job done; but

where has she been all her life? Why hasn't she wanted to get involved before now? And

why now? Did she feel she wasn't informed well enough before on the issues, but she's

informed now? Was she so distracted by all her CEOing that she couldn't take the time

to vote? Who's to say she won't get distracted again while governor? Was her time too

valuable to waste standing in line? Is her time less valuable now? And most importantly,

how do we know she even cares about the "little people" of California?

Ms. Whitman continues to reveal herself. She's on the record promising to cut

over 40,000 government jobs to save billions of dollars; but when asked which jobs and

which departments would get the axe, she had no comment. When asked how she could

cut so many jobs when the governor has no power over many of their budgets, she had

no comment. Just like her predecessor the "boobengrabber", she talks a good game, but

avoids the specifics. Remember how Ahh-nold promised to find billions of dollars in waste

and eliminate it? Has anyone seen any of these savings yet?

There is, however, one policy position which she has been specific about which

clearly shows she has no leadership qualities at all. She is opposed to releasing non-violent

prison inmates early or offering them alternatives to incarceration. She is on the record

in favor of building additional prisons and keeping all these inmates locked up. The budget

for the California Department of Corrections is over ten billion dollars. If it hasn't yet, it

will soon exceed the budget for the entire University of California system. Just a few weeks

ago, the UC trustees announced they will have to raise tuition 45% next year to make up

for budget cuts imposed by the governor and the state legislature. Ms. Whitman, for whom

the simple act of merely voting was too strenuous, too time-consuming, and beneath her

interest, wants to spend billions more on prisons while cutting the UC budget and forcing

tuition up even higher.

The average prison guard in California, with only a high school education or GED,

has a starting salary of over $50,000 which can exceed $100,000 with overtime. Prison

guards can retire and get pension benefits by 54 years of age and receive 90% of their

salary. The job of a California prison guard is not as dangerous as that of a California

Highway Patrol officer, yet they make more money. Currently, the California prison system

is under federal receivership because of how badly it is run. Some estimates are that it

costs more than $100,000 per cell to build a new prison.

What is the old saying? "If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is to

stop digging." Ms. Whitman, in an attempt to look tough on crime and pander to her

regressive base, wants to throw even more billions of dollars at a broken, ill-defined, and

dysfunctional prison system which is draining direly needed resources from education

and other priorities.

The irony should be lost on no one. A CEO known for thinking outside the box

in the creation and management of eBay, shows no such talent when faced with the issues

of crime and punishment. The California prison system is a complete failure. The delivery

of medical care to prison inmates is so poor that the system is under a federal court order

to spend billions to fix it. The recidivism rate is over 70%; which means seven in ten

inmates will leave prison and commit another crime! Despite internationally recognized

studies which show alternative sentencing methods can relieve the prison population; the

California prison system hasn't adopted any new approaches. The definition of insanity

is to keep repeating the same actions and expecting different results. Ms. Whitman wants

to be governor, but on her first "hot button" issue she's promising us she will keep "digging"

us into economic oblivion.

What state or society could possibly see a bright future when they spend more

money on prisons than they spend on higher education? What sort of society cuts back

on healthcare for families and the poor, reduces vital services, raids local treasuries, and

bankrupts itself in order to support a dysfunctional and failed prison system when there

are reasonable alternatives? How is it possible that the prison guard's union holds more

sway than teachers, nurses, police, or firefighters?

Meg Whitman says she wants to become a public servant by becoming the next

governor of California; yet she never had the desire to engage in public policy debate by

simply voting a single time in her entire adult life. She says she brings new vision and

experience to the job; but on simple straight-forward issues like prison reform she offers

us the same typical, tired, blatant, pandering, and antiquated thinking of the professional

politician. She couldn't be bothered to vote; nor, apparently, can she be expected to invest

her creative talents in leading the people of California into a responsible future. This makes

me wonder if she actually cares about the "little people" of California I spoke of earlier.

Someone must. And if not the politicians, then who? What do you think? I welcome your

comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

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