Pork barrel spending is clogging our educations pores

Illustration of a mom and dad filling a giant piggy bank with bags of money while their young daughter plays and university towers stand in the background. Photo Illustration by John Roberge
Illustration of a mom and dad filling a giant piggy bank with bags of money while their young daughter plays and university towers stand in the background. Photo Illustration by John Roberge

If you think school cuts in a tough economy are inevitable, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  People need to educate themselves on the reality of the California budget, not just trust what Chancellor Reed or President Koester write in press releases.

There’s a major problem which drains money from the budget every year.  It’s welfare.  Yes, welfare in California is a major problem.  We have a bunch of lazy, good for nothing welfare recipients, doing nothing but sitting on their butts and collecting money off the rest of our hard work.  These welfare leaches keep living their irresponsible lifestyle, because they know the government is going to take care of them no matter how badly they do.

You might think I’m referring to a poster child for welfare campaigns, but I’m not.  I’m talking about the richest among us.  I’m talking about a different kind of welfare.  It’s called Corporate Welfare or Pork Barrel Spending.

According to the California Labor Federation (representing manufacturing, health care, and retail workers), California gives away 50 BILLION DOLLARS to individuals and wealthy corporations.  Money talks right?

How does this happen?  Well, these well-connected folks have the money to hire what’s called lobbyists.  These lobbyists are paid to go up to Sacramento to meet with the Governor, State Senators and Assemblymen.  Their job is to get our “elected representatives” to give preferential treatment to their powerful clients, in exchange for providing money to the politician for their next reelection campaign.

So, in an otherwise ordinary bill, a Senator writes in a loophole saying something like that rich individual or business is exempt from paying taxes that year.  This legal form of bribery and routine corruption costs the state billions that would otherwise pay for things like schools.

One such loophole is the ability for enormous multinational corporations to hide their profits in offshore tax havens in places like the Cayman Islands.  The budget shortfall of the entire CSU system for 2009-10 is $584 million.  The tax shelter loophole alone costs the state $700 million, so repealing even part of that would allow ZERO cuts to classes and ZERO furlough days for our hard working teachers.

What are our priorities in this state? Should all of my professors on the first day of class have to explain to us why we’re just going to be learning less this semester?  I asked one professor if we’re responsible to cover the material we miss, on the days she’s furloughed, on our own.

“No.  We’re not allowed to makeup anything from furlough days.  We will probably just cut entire sections.”

“So, we’re just going to be learning less?”

“Yes.”

“That’s depressing.”

The idea that forced unpaid absences for teachers is necessary, in the tenth richest economy in the world, in the richest country in the world, is a lie and a disgrace.

It’s not as if funding schools is some sort of far left bleeding heart charity cause, it’s critically important to California’s economy.  According to the CSU website, CSUN generates a total impact of $903 million for the regional economy.

But, if we keep destroying CSUN through budget cuts and furloughs, this isn’t going to be the case for long.  Do we really wonder why our society keeps getting dumber and dumber?

It’s no mystery why America is falling behind the rest of the world in Math, Science, and Reading scores.  It’s because we care more about the profits of Exxon Mobil and Wal-Mart than about making sure our young people have a chance at a decent job and a decent life.

Closing these tax loopholes is not “raising taxes on the rich” and it’s not “socialism”.  If we enforce what the laws are supposed to be, and do away with these “get out of paying taxes” permission slips for the wealthiest among us (that need them the least), a budget cut at CSUN would be a thing of the past.

In fact, if we closed these loopholes, we could probably make college free or close to it.  Education is a human right, not just for those who can afford it.  Wow…what a concept.  There’s another perfectly adequate solution on the table, which of course the Governor is against.

Assembly Bill 656 would levy a 9.9% severance tax on oil and gas companies extracting oil and natural gas from California, and its territorial waters.  Currently, California is the only oil-producing state without such a tax on oil companies.  Alaska’s tax stands at 25%.  Texas maintains an endowment for its higher education system with an oil severance tax, thus the schools are not subjected to annual fear of cuts.  It would raise $270 million for the CSU system.

The lie that the state would lose jobs if such a tax were enacted is easily countered with the fact that the oil is here whether they like it or not.  So, if they want our resources, they have to pay to get them.

Apparently, protecting oil company profits is a more worthy endeavor than protecting the jobs of teachers, and educating the community.

Get used to using the following words: corruption, liar, rip off, betrayal.  The time for polite discourse is over.