Paul Jacob

Do Californians suffer because they themselves have too much political power, and their representatives too little?

Politicians tend to say “yes.” So do their hangers-on.

George Mitrovich’s fiery indictment of California voters and policymakers for the San Diego Transcript, in a column entitled “The Failed State of California,” is an unsurprising example. According to Mitrovich, a self-avowed liberal Democrat, California’s humongous deficits and other troubles are the combined fault of Governor Schwarzenegger, voters, lawmakers, and special interests — an indictment so generalized that its sheer vacuity might pass for a selling point.

But then you notice something. If voters, unions, businesses, and the legislature all share in the blame for the state’s sorry state, why is it that Mitrovich only seeks to limit the political power — and interests — of voters?

Each point of Mitrovich’s four-pronged cure for the current budget and economic mess focuses only on the citizenry:

First, Mitrovich wants to get rid of Proposition 13, progenitor of the tax rebellion of the 1970s and 1980s, which limited the extent to which politicians could weigh down home owners with property taxes.

Second, he wants to scuttle the requirement for a two-thirds legislative majority to raise taxes on hapless taxpayers.

Third, Mitrovich wants to terminate term limits.

Mitrovich contends that term limits expel “experience” from Sacramento, as if nobody could ever gain knowledge of policy or evince worthy qualities of leadership outside the hallowed confines of an impenetrable legislative fiefdom — and as if permanently entrenched corruption and chronically uncompetitive elections were the inalienable hallmark of hearty representative government.

His insinuation is that politicians with unlimited terms would be more responsible in their spending habits. But there is precious little evidence for this. It is, indeed, all faith on his part, faith contra evidence.

Consider the situation in Washington, DC, where senators and representatives can and have clung to their seats for decades. Studies conducted of congressional legislative records by the Cato Institute and others indicate that the longer politicians are ensconced in office, the more likely they are to support profligate spending. This is true even of many congressmen who begin their tenures as committed fiscal conservatives.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.