In a letter to his incoming students, Michael O'Hare, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, apologizes for the fact that his (their parent’s) generation did not hold up their end of a deal made long ago by Californians: invest in California, rather than only in yourself.
Beginning about 30 years ago Californians decided to walk away from this deal, O'Hare writes, because although they had done well and prospered on the whole from the agreement, they realized they could do even better individually if they focused their spending on themselves.
An army of fake ‘leaders’ sprang up to pull the moral and fiscal wool over their eyes, and again and again, your parents and their parents lashed out at government (as though there were something else that could replace it) with tax limits, term limits, safe districts, throw-away-the-key imprisonment no matter the cost, smoke-and-mirrors budgeting, and a rule never to use the words taxes and services in the same paragraph.
Now, your infrastructure is falling to pieces under your feet, and as citizens you are responsible for crudities like closing parks, and inhumanities like closing battered women’s shelters.
While we often hear that states simply can’t afford things like art and music in schools or more police on the force, O’Hare argues otherwise:
The budget deficit that’s paralyzing Sacramento is about $500 per person; add another $500 to get back to a public sector we don’t have to be ashamed of, and our average income is almost forty times that. Of course we can afford a government that actually works: the fact is that your parents have simply chosen not to have it.
O’Hare’s letter is not only an apology, though. It’s a call to action. O’Hare pleads with his students to do better than his generation and actually work toward making a better world for the generations to come. A novel thought.
(Thanks, Obsidian Wings.)