Business and labor, so often posturing as antagonists in a life and death struggle for power, have come solidly together in their nostalgia for the good old days when politicians were bought once and stayed bought.
Ah, the good old days before term limits, how sweet it was — and cheap for special interests.
Back then, political hacks held their Assembly, Senate or other public offices more or less for life unless they got caught up in a bribery or sex scandal. Even then, it was 50-50 whether they would get re-elected as long as they stayed out of prison.
Term limits grew out of the failure of our political leaders to do their jobs as public servants for the best interests of their constituents, an effort to try to break the political gridlock that was running California downhill. Sadly, the slide of the state has continued unabated to the point that we are in endless crisis.
So business and labor have found common ground: Let’s get rid of term limits and go back to the way things were.
“They're running all the time, for one office or another,” Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, complained last week to L.A. Times political columnist George Skelton. “We raise money over and over again, one after another after another.... “
You can sympathize with her lament that this game of political musical chairs is so costly when all she wants is for them to do the bidding of organized labor.
It’s the same with the business community, which argues Democrats and Republicans won’t compromise and solve the people’s problem “because they're going to be running for another office relatively soon, and they don't want to make their major supporters unhappy,” as Gary Toebben, head of the L.A. County Chamber of Commerce, put it.
“They won't make the tough decisions necessary in a democracy.”
Toebben is right that they won’t make those tough decisions because the only people they care about are their major supporters.
We voted for term limits because they weren’t making the tough decisions and they’re still not.
Business and labor have come together to pour millions into a ballot measure next June to sell us on the idea that giving legislators 14 years in the house of their choice is better than making them serve eight years in the Senate and six in the Assembly.
Durazo and Toebben both argue it’s so tiresome having to educate and re-educate the political hacks on what business and labor want as they move from one house to the other.
“Both labor and business get tired of, over and over, trying to teach them about our issues,” she said. He said: “We need some experience and stability in Sacramento.”
Think about how empty those statements are: We have experience and stability in Sacramento, but it isn’t working. It’s same the people over and over unless they find an opening in Congress or the L.A. City Council, where the pay is about twice what legislators earn.
Maybe the problem isn’t the politicians, but the lack of any sense of purpose on the part of business and labor and every other narrow, special interest beyond their own greed and advantage.
Greed isn’t good. It never was.
As long as unions and business buy our politicians and take every advantage for themselves as the divvy up the spoils offered by government, California will keep declining.
If they want to want to wax nostalgic about the good old days, they might hearken back to those days of yore when we looked after ourselves and our interests, but not without regard to other guy, not at the expense of others.
Those with the power and money need to look beyond their immediate advantage and see that the success and well-being of all of us is interconnected.
It’s not about what is good for labor or business. It’s about what’s good for all of us, what provides the greatest good for the greatest number, what gets California back on track.
Undoing a failed reform doesn’t solve a thing. It’s just another political charade to distract voters from the real problem: the failure of leadership.
And that’s something that can’t be fixed by law. It takes the rich and powerful to see how the interests of everyone are all bound together — or it takes a groundswell from the grassroots to make them see.
RON KAYE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Share your thoughts and stories with him.