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Gays in the Military and California’s Budget Rules

THE STATE - The two items in this headline would seem to have nothing to do with each other.

But they do.
The logic of the ban on gays in the military – which is to say the illogic of that ban – is the same illogic that has shaped the California budget process.

Before the lifting of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy – before the establishment of that policy – the U.S. military had an outright ban on gays serving in the military. So naturally, there were no gays in the military, right?

Of course not. Only a fool would believe such a thing.

But we Californians are all fools when we make budget policy.
Our budget process is full of rules that require a certain outcome – but don’t actually produce that outcome.

We have an education-funding guarantee to protect education. Does it protect education? Well, no – since its passage, education funding has declined rapidly in California compared to other states. We have a balanced budget amendment to the constitution – but no balanced budgets, because other rules of the constitution and initiative law make balancing the budget impossible. And we have rules that guarantee us rainy day funds for the state in bad times – but no actual rainy day funds.

The lesson is: rules are not reality. But it’s a lesson Californians haven’t learned. The solution to California’s governance problems is always to pass more rules, usually via initiative. We persist in believing the myth that, if we put in place by initiative a new spending limit or a new restriction on taxes or a new process for budgeting or a new mandate for spending or a new cap on pensions, the new rules means we’ll have that outcome. The new rules that are included in ballot initiatives are always sold as a guarantee of this, or a protection against that.

Life, of course, doesn’t work this way. Rules do not exist in isolation – when you have a thing governed by many, complicated rules, the rules interact together to produce unintended, unexpected outcomes. And people can find ways around them. Or simply ignore them.

(Joe Mathews is Journalist and Irvine senior fellow at the New America Foundation, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It. This column was posted first at –cw

Tags: gays, gays in the military, California, budget policy, US Military, don’t ask don’t tell

Vol 9 Issue 91
Pub: Nov 15, 2011