There is a lot of pomp and circumstance going on from both sides of the aisle regarding California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's decision to fire more than 10,000 part-time and seasonal workers and reduce the salaries of 200,000 to the Federal minimum wage of $6.55 an hour. Add to that, dramatic and exaggerated news reports featuring people standing in long lines at the DMV and it's clear to me that California's constituents are being bamboozled and I can't go for that.
There are always long lines at the DMV, it is not breaking news, it is not even news. What would be news is if all of the people who had pre-scheduled appointments at the DMW were actually seen on time.
The lip service being paid to California's state workers from both sides of the aisle is all one big gigantic theatrical performance starring our governor and legislative elected officials. Who I might note, have not offered to refuse their own salaries or even take a pay cut as a display of solidarity with their own constituents.
Every year we have the same problem with our state budget and every year we go through the same tired antics. Yes, yes, we know already. There's no money for education. No money for social services. But plenty of money for jails and prisons. There's money to fly the governor around, money to pay for the gas in his motorcade. There's even enough money to pay for the extravagant salaries of our state elected officials.
Leaders of Assembly and State Senate make an average of $133,639 annually. Second-ranking Democratic and Republican members of each house make on average $124,923. All other legislators make an estimated $116,208. But they also get nearly 35k a year in per diem pay for "living expenses."
State workers on the other hand will be receiving a total living wage of $262 per week, minus Uncle Sam's share of course.
I might not be able to balance California's budget, but then again neither can the people we elected to do so, so that's really neither here nor there. But what I can do is bring common sense and logic back into the discussion.
The state is broke (allegedly) and is in need of extra money until there's a budget passed. It isn't a red thing, it isn't a blue thing, it's a green thing. If the governor feels so strongly about it that he's willing to put in danger the lives of thousands of state workers who will either find themselves in the state's unemployment line or making less than a Coffee Bean barista, then let no state employee be left behind, including our illustrious state Legislature.
So Arnold, before you put down the pen from signing the executive order that cut the jobs and salaries of thousands of state workers, sign another doing the same for you and your colleagues up in Sacramento. Redirect your salary, along with the entire executive branch, and 120-member Legislature to the same final resting place where you are sending the money from the more than 10,000 part-time and seasonal workers you fired and 200,000 employees whose salaries you reduced to the Federal minimum wage.
After all, what's good for the goose is even better for the gander.
Jasmyne Cannick is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles.