The left wing, big government group Next 10 has for some time touted their clever online survey – "The California Budget Challenge -- How will YOU balance the budget?" They claim over 250,000 have taken their survey. Sadly, it is a sophisticated scam.
It is based on a logic fallacy – in this case, what logicians call a "false dilemma." According to Wikipedia, a false dilemma is also known as a "false dichotomy, the either-or fallacy, fallacy of false choice, black and white thinking or the fallacy of exhaustive hypotheses."
While the Next 10 online survey is glitzy and slick in format – replete with interactive pie charts and a bit dazzling to the layman – when all is said and done, essentially only two major choices are offered -- the false dilemma:
1. Raise taxes
2. Cut services
But the truth is that there are many other options – without even going for the more radical solutions. Essentially they revolve around how to more efficiently DELIVER needed and/or desired services.
The Next 10 goal is clear – to trick people into thinking that our California state government is running at peak efficiency. They want to convince us that if we want our state services, the only option is to vote for higher taxes.
Granted, this latest version of Next 10's grand propaganda effort is the most sophisticated version yet. Contrary to the heavy-handed previous versions of their survey, in this iteration they do indeed allow the player to select a tiny reduction in the cost of government employees – $200 million. That's about 00.21% of the 2010-2011 state budgeted spending of $92.8 billion. Chump change – and it is based on the absurd notion that this amount is the maximum possible compensation reduction.
One option is to go nose-to-nose with the public employees, demanding "parity" in pay and benefits with the private sector. Clearly, government compensation today is excessive – and unnecessary to get the job done.
Consider this example. We have about 300,000 K-12 California public school teachers. CA public school teachers are the 2nd highest paid in the nation, behind NY. The average 2008-09 CA educator salary was $68,093 – 5.7% higher than the previous year’s $64,424 average. The national median average teacher salary is (including CA in the average) is $50,777.
http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/010rankings.pdf Page 21, table C-18
Now, CA residents average about 6% more income than the national average.
If we set teachers' average salaries at a comparable level (6% above the current national average teacher salary – counting the inflated CA educator salaries), that would come to $53,824. Hence we could save $14,269 per teacher. Total savings = $4.28 billion. Not exactly chump change.
And the savings don't end there. Lower teacher salaries would mean lower pensions, which would mean lower taxpayer pension cost. Currently the districts owe over 15% of salary to STRS to pay for the pensions, and to start dealing with the $40 billion teacher pension unfunded liability. 15% pension contribution savings on a $14,269 salary deduction for 300,000 teachers comes to a taxpayer annual savings of $642 million.
Even bigger per employee savings are available for prison guards (excuse me – "corrections officers"). California prison guards are the highest paid in the nation. http://www.caltax.org/caltaxletter/2008/101708_fraud1.htm
An even better option is to contract out every possible government service – not police and perhaps not firefighting, but everything else should be considered for competitive bidding.
Libraries, welfare, the DMV, prisons (a big one), education (a far bigger one), CALTRANS, parks and many, many other "government" functions can be done far less expensively by private sector firms. For instance, private prisons (common around the country but now essentially illegal in CA) humanely house prisoners for over 60% less cost per prisoner than CA prisons. Education vouchers or tax credits could provide quality schools for less than half the current total per student taxpayer cost.
There are literally hundreds of other efficiencies waiting to be implemented, but blocked at every level by the public employee labor unions that actually profit from costly, inefficient government. In 2004, Carl DeMaio led a San Diego city budget reform group where our detailed study found 226 such inefficiencies – many brought to our attention by the city employees themselves.
Of course, almost all recommendations were summarily dismissed by the City Manager (Lamont Ewell) and the labor union-controlled city council. Ewell grandly informed us that "his city" was already running at peak efficiency. It's probable that they didn't even read the study.
BTW, Ewell abandoned the sinking city ship a year later -- as soon as he qualified for a city pension (which took a total of 5 years San Diego city employment, plus 5 years of phantom service -- legally purchased by Ewell at a HUGE discount!).
---The purveyors of this false dilemma – the most powerful group in California politics, affecting both state and local governments – don't want to seriously consider these real world alternatives. Deception to get higher taxes (and "fees") is their game, and taxpayers are the pigeons in the con. Voters beware.