Voters in California recently rejected several tax hikes designed to reduce the state’s vast budget deficit. With the state still drowning in debt, and Governor Schwarzenegger saying he will soon be forced to start cutting programs and firing government employees, some have raised the possibility of a federally funded bailout of California similar to those given to failing banks and auto companies. Should President Obama and Congress bail out California with federal dollars? Is California too big to fail?
Humans amaze me. I can say this without sounding sanctimonious because I don’t count myself among them, being a stuffed dog. You people, it seems to me, are the most self-defeating species on this planet. Look at the advantages you’ve got over, say, a carpenter ant. You’ve got longer life-spans, hands with thumbs so you don’t have to keep picking stuff up with your mouths, and great big brains that have allowed you to invent language and art, science, engineering. And look at how you squander it all: the state with the richest population in the country with the richest population on the entire planet is over twenty billion dollars in debt. Do you mind if I ask how in the world this could have happened?
Oh, but don’t bother answering. I already know how. The question was merely a rhetorical device.
This happened because each of you wants to have his heart’s every desire, but none of you want to make any kind of sacrifice in order to get it. Back when the Constitution was adopted and the United States as we now know it came into existence, people had few expectations of their government than they do today. As long as the roads got built and the mail got delivered, folks were happy. Then someone said, “Hey, Government, as long as you’re building our roads and carrying out mail, why not educate our kids, too?” And that was a completely reasonable request, so the government said “Sure! Be happy to. Only thing is, I’ll have to raise your taxes a little in order to pay for it.” And people said, “WHAT?!? Forget that! Educate the kids, but we’ll be damned if you’re gonna raise our taxes!” But it didn’t matter what the people said, because it wasn’t up to them; it was up to their elected representatives. Once people got their schools, and saw what their slightly higher taxes were paying for, most of them settled down and accepted it, because that little extra bit of money the government was getting was worth it if they taught little Billy the difference between his nostril and the light socket in return.
But things didn’t go this well for very long, because the people had set up an unhealthy relationship with their government: they asked, and they expected the government to provide. Some of the things the government provided turned out to be necessary and good, like financial assistance, healthcare, and retirement income for the poor. Some of the things were services that people used to take care of themselves, like transportation, child care, and healthcare and retirement income for folks who could probably afford it on their own. The government had to raise taxes to afford all of this, and people complained about that, even though they had asked for the programs those taxes were paying for, but since it was all up to the elected representatives instead of the people, the new taxes got passed anyway — or, once in awhile, the new taxes wouldn’t pass, and the government would either borrow the money from someone else to pay for it, or the program would get scrapped, and people would complain about that instead.
Eventually someone in California got the idea that the people could govern themselves better directly than their elected representatives could, so they introduced ballot initiatives, which allowed laws to be passed by popular vote. That pretty much brings us up to today, where a few days ago the people of California resoundingly voted down proposals that would have raised some of their taxes to cut the huge budget deficit and keep those government services they’ve all become so used to — services like schools and prisons — up and running.
Should the federal government bail out California? Maybe you should ask why it needs bailed out in the first place. Here’s the answer to that one: because the government does too much, and nobody wants to pay for it. There’s plenty of money in California. It’s just in people’s pockets — ironically, most of the same people who are now running to Congress for a bail out.
Let ‘em bail themselves out.
Well, well, well, how the worm has turned. Look at you, California. Look at yourself. At the end of your rope. And now you come crawling to me, crying “Save us! Save us!” How I love to hear you cry. But what will you do if I rebuff your request, if I reject you as you once rejected me, if I gaze down at you, unable to fully suppress my self-satisfied smile, and murmur, “No”?
There is justice in your current plight, for now you suffer. I wish for you to continue suffering, as I suffered those many years ago. Do you remember, California? Ha. I am sure you do not. I am sure you do not remember how I came to you as a pup, my dark eyes wide, my little tail flitting eagerly back and forth, my head swimming with possibilities. Ah! The Golden State! Hollywood! I had arrived at last to chase down my dream, corner it in a blind alley, tear open its throat and devour its flesh.
But it wasn’t my dream I met there in Hollywood, was it? It was more like a waking nightmare, constant and unending, and inescapable. I will not recount here the many debasements I endured, the countless humiliations which were inflicted upon me. I’ll only say this, to all those trainers, casting directors, and would-be “business managers” who promised me the stars only to abandon me in the gutter: my blood is on your hands, the reckoning is upon you, and you deserve to lie in the beds you have made.
You ask that my federal taxes (well, okay, you’ve got me — Ashley’s federal taxes — all my income is off the books) help to fund your rescue, but I deny you. I say go ask China! If borrowing from them is good enough for the United States of America, it’s good enough for you. Go ask a lesser nation like Luxembourg or Iceland or Namibia for a bailout. Perhaps in your extremity, one of them will take pity and help you. Nothing pleases me more than the thought of you, glamorous California, reduced to traveling the world, hat in hand, begging for scraps from someone else’s table to feed your own bastard children. Though it is better still than what you truly deserve.
Myself, I gave up on my dream of stardom and left for greener, less glitzy pastures. I moved to Colorado, found a job as a police dog, and was able to make a decent life for myself once I’d worked out all the angles (when the guard in the evidence locker took lunch, and where he kept his extra keys being the most important). Yet even to this day, in my happy retirement, I feel the sting of heartbreak from those early days in California. I hope you enjoy the sunshine and the heat, because I now leave you there to stew in it. I leave you in your desperate penury with a smile on my face and a song on my lips, and my only regret is that I don’t have a gun with a big enough magazine to hold a bullet for each and every goddamn one of you.
I thought I saw one of those in the evidence locker this one time, actually, but someone else got to it before I did. Whatever happened to that guy? And what did he need with such a huge gun, anyway? I never heard what he used it for.