GUEST COMMENTARY--Sexual harassment by elected officials in California is all over the news but less visible forms of political immorality are just as prevalent. One example is that of state legislators who sell students, families and vulnerable citizens down the river to boost prison guard compensation.
Corrections employees in California collect compensation far exceeding the revenues of the country’s largest private prison corporations. The cost is borne by families, students and the needy. Where is the morality in that trade?
Citizens should compare political performance with campaign promises. But most don’t — and that’s why citizens often become victims of legislation introduced to please special interests who do pay attention. But now, organizations such as Govern For California that support pro-citizen legislators and legislation are paying serious attention.
We know not only what legislators say but also what they propose and how they vote. We know they have reduced the share of the state budget available to universities, courts, parks and social services nearly in half, doubled spending in favor of healthcare industry cronies at the expense of other programs, magically created debt to the detriment of the state’s most vulnerable citizens and taxpayers, and much more.
Mark Twain famously said “everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” The same aphorism applies to politics. Few subjects are more discussed — and fewer conversations are less informed. That leads to dangerous outcomes as well-meaning people too often support legislators who say one thing but do another.
The California Legislature reconvenes January 3rd. We will be watching every bill and every vote. It’s not enough that just sexual harassers are on their way out. Politically immoral legislators also need to shape up or depart.
We all owe it to our fellow citizens to be well informed and to take smart actions. There are plenty of ways to do so. Know what legislators do, not just what they say — and then hold them accountable.
(David Crane is a lecturer at Stanford University and president of Govern For California.)