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So...On Which Path Will YOU Walk?


ALPERN AT LARGE - It's hardly my own observation that it's becoming more and more of a sad, sorry, cash-and-carry world.  Some folks are screaming for help...and their dilemma is one with which it's hard to not empathize. 

Some of us are screaming that they're carrying the load for too many others...and their dilemma is also one with which it's hard to not empathize.  But when push comes to shove, in the end we all have to choose our own courageous path to protect ourselves and our families.

Despite the claims of political differences, and certainly the reality of different strategies, both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street are screaming about a lot of similar things.  Whether it's some of us who are screaming about the self-preserving, cronyistic methods that the top 1% are utilizing at the collective expense of the majority, or whether it's some of us who are screaming about the excesses of the public sector that snowballed over the past 10-15 years, there HAS to be a time when the screaming ends and the brave-but-scary walk must begin.

Case in point:  Santa Monica College is offering two-tiered pricing for courses that will (hopefully) allow students to get key classes they want and (hopefully) thereby graduate when they want (link).  Some among us will scream that it's outrageous to do this at the community college level, which is supposed to be cheap and affordable for the general public.  Others among us will shrug our shoulders, acknowledge it's unfair, but grab the opportunity to take desired courses in a timely manner.

Ditto for the decision of the state to continue to cut funding for the California State and University of California and for financial aid.  Students and their families are rightfully infuriated (link), but whether we will blame the rich for not paying enough, or blaming the general population for not paying enough, or blame the public sector or the corporate sector, we have to balance the budget.  And some of us will just work harder, pay more and move ahead...whether it's cruel and unfair or not.

Meanwhile, the LA Unified School District (decided) to cut adult education classes in order to make their budget (link).  Some among us will scream about the loss of LAUSD teaching jobs and of the unfair burden it places on adults trying to catch up, move ahead and get a decent job.  Others among us will recognize that the adults among us will have to do more work to pay for their own education because the primary mission of the LAUSD is to pay for K-12 education, and kids have to come first.

I'm not necessarily saying one path is "better" than the other, despite the fact that some of us will inherently favor one path over the other...but choose a path we most certainly will have to do.  I admit to being much more capable of swallowing unfair realities as I get older, and I therefore empathize with and even appreciate the protests of the youths and young adults fighting these cuts...but sooner or later, words have to give way to action.

Even when that action is miserable and painful.  Especially when that action is miserable and painful.

So when Republicans in the House of Representatives are fighting for the JOBS Act (which would make it easier for small business to raise money) to help the economy (link), and when Democrats and the White House are working to toughen the legislation to protect seniors and investors from being swindled by hucksters claiming to be small businessmen, it's pretty hard to dismiss either side of the argument.  

We certainly have to encourage more businesses and jobs to preserve and strength our fragile economy.  And we'll certainly have to protect investors.  Usually Republicans and conservatives prioritize the former, and usually Democrats and liberals prioritize the latter...and because they're both important priorities it's really nice to have our two-party system.  But make a choice we must, and there will certainly be shortcomings and problems no matter what "solution" is agreed to.

We've heard everyone from Republican presidential contenders to President Obama to former President Clinton proclaim that our corporate tax structure is too uncompetitive, and that we're arguably the world's most demanding country when it comes to corporate taxes (link).  Some of us still, however, believe that there's still too much corporate welfare in our country and in our world.

It's hard to ignore either argument.  It's also hard to ignore those among us who look at federal tax collections and say, "That's mine.  I need it."  And it's equally hard to ignore those among us who look at those same federal tax collections and say, "That's mine.  I earned it."

Then should we ignore the 85 year-old crippled woman, or the 32 year-old wheelchair-bound man with multiple sclerosis, the disabled veteran, the broken- down roads and infrastructure, etc.?  You get the picture.

But shall we then ignore the reality of our global economy attracting workers from other countries who appear to be the best and the brightest, and who offer the most hope of stimulating the economy that's offering the best deals to those workers, as is happening in Europe (link)?  

After all, it's not just European nations that are moving in one direction (Germany) or the other (Greece, Spain, Portugal).  Americans have and increasingly are moving to other countries in Asia or to other "Third World" countries which allow them to keep more of their money.  Closer to home, we've no shortage of Californians who've figured out they can live better in some of the other 49 states of the union.

Whether it's "Atlas Shrugs" or "voting with one's feet," it's still a path that we're all choosing as individuals--and it's brought collective impacts to the rest of our society.

So when Governor Jerry Brown reversed his tax plan to have everyone share the pain, and give in to those advocating to have the wealthy pay more, and the general population pay less, for the tax hikes that many believe are necessary to balance the state budget and revive our state's economy, did HE take the right road (link)?

Certainly there will be some new powers to fund and promote the Governor's voter tax initiative, but did he just create a net gain--or loss--of voters and lobbyists who will campaign either for or against the initiative?  Did he just make a few big businessmen throw in the towel, and scream, "I'm outta here!", or did he just win over a host of hurting lower-income voters...or maybe both?

It's indeed a sad, sorry, cash-and-carry world.  It's probably not a good idea to expect someone to save you (unless it's that beleaguered person staring back at you when you look in the mirror every day), no matter how unfair things are.

And it really IS unfair.  But the unfairness of it all cannot, and must not, prevent us from taking that path which appears to be the best choice available to us.

So ...on which path will YOU walk?

(Ken Alpern is a former Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Vice Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at [email protected] . He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)


Vol 10 Issue 23

Pub. Mar. 20, 2012

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