I wish I could vote for Tom McClintock...
The Debate for California’s Soul
SENATOR TOM McCLINTOCK
Remarks at the California Club for Growth PAC Annual Conference
June 4, 2005
Thank you for that kind reception. Cardinal Spellman once said that public
speaking brings out the best of Christian virtues in an audience. If you
applaud, as you just did, at the beginning of a speech, it is an act of faith. If
you applaud in the middle of a speech, it is an act of hope. And if you
applaud at the end of a speech, it is an act of charity.
So thank you for that act of faith, and I can only hope that by the time I’m
done, you are feeling just as charitable.
First, I want to extend my gratitude to all of you for your support of the
California Club for Growth and to salute Tony Strickland’s leadership of the Club
’s efforts here in our state.
You are here because you remember what politicians often forget: that great
political parties are built on great political principles. And they are judged
by their devotion to those principles.
Abraham Lincoln said that every political party has a “central idea from
which all of its minor thoughts radiate.” And at an inaugural stop at
Independence Hall in 1861, he defined ours: he said, “I have never had a feeling,
politically, that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of
The great principle from which all of the Republican party’s minor principles
radiate is precisely that sentiment: that individuals are born with certain
God-given rights that government exists to protect. In a word, Freedom.
And the central theme from which all of the Democratic Party’s minor thoughts
radiate is that government exists to order society according to the best
lights of those in power.
The purpose of the Club for Growth is to remind everyone of the difference.
And nothing could be more important for the future of the Republican party,
because, as a practical matter, the closer the Republican party has adhered to
its central theme the stronger it has become and the better it has done.
So, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.
I’ve been asked to propose a 12-point program to correct all the damage that
a generation of liberalism has done to California. I can do it in one. You’
ll find it on the Liberty Bell – “Proclaim Liberty throughout the land and
unto ALL the inhabitants thereof.” Everything else is commentary.
If that sounds too pat, let me ask you for a show of hands. How many of you
have friends or neighbors who have left California in the last several years
for the middle of the Nevada or Arizona deserts?
Now let me ask you this question: could any conceivable act of God make this
beautiful state a less desirable place for people to live and work and raise
their families than the middle of the Nevada Nuclear Test Range?
Only government could do that. And it has.
If you want to know what California CAN be, you need only remember what
California once was. A generation ago, California’s highways were the envy of the
world. We had one of the finest school systems in the country and the finest
university system in the world. Electricity was so cheap that there was
serious discussion of abandoning electricity meters. The state water project
promised abundant water supplies to complete the greening of California.
Affordable housing abounded at all income levels. California really was the Golden
The Left tells us that that’s the taxpayers fault for not being willing to
spend enough money on government.
Here are the facts. Exactly 40 years ago, when Californians enjoyed an
unparalleled quality of life, state government spent $202 for every man, woman and
child. Adjusted for inflation, that’s $1,240 in today’s dollars. Today,
California government consumes $3,200 for every person in the state – two and a
half times more in population-adjusted, inflation-adjusted terms.
Question: is this the fault of the taxpayers for not paying enough taxes or
is it the fault of near-criminal mismanagement of California’s ample resources?
The fact is that the only thing that changed was public policy. And the good
news is, that’s in our power to change back.
Here’s what happened: In 1974, Jerry Brown, known by his nickname, Moonbeam,
brought to state government a radical and retrograde ideology that he called
his “era of limits.” It amounted the naïve notion that if we stopped building
things, people wouldn’t come. So we stopped building roads; we stopped
building dams, we stopped building powerplants, we stopped building homes – and
people came anyway.
This new age nonsense was accompanied by a far more sinister development, and
that was the unionization and radicalization of California’s public
employees. For the first time in our history, public employee unions were handed the
power to force every public servant into their ranks to use government to
extract from their pay unprecedented funds to fuel the political campaigns of their
minions, to strike against the public interest, and in effect, to control
both sides of the bargaining table.
The result has been the plundering of this state’s finances until – despite
record revenues – despite a continuing and steady increase in the absolute
size of government – despite the fact that government today is consuming a larger
portion of your earnings than at anytime in its history, we can’t seem to
scrape together enough money to build a decent road system or educate our kinds
or protect our families from predators.
So the road back is not that complicated – from a public policy side. There’
s no reason why we can’t have a balanced budget, lower taxes and a renewed
commitment to public works, because that is EXACTLY what we had a generation ago.
So what do we do? The first thing we do is EVERYTHING WE CAN to support
Governor Schwarzenegger’s initiatives. I believe they are the most important
public policy initiatives since Proposition 13 – not just because of the policies
they enact, but because they have become a defining struggle between the
public employee unions and the people of California. If those unions can be
confronted and defeated on these points, the state will be set for a series of
constitutional reforms that will restore the Golden State that once was – and will
FIRST: We have to de-fund the Left. The Left gets most of its money not
from voluntary contributions, but from plundering the paychecks of every public
servant in California. We’ve got to restore the freedom of our public servants
to make their own decisions with their own paychecks.
SECOND: Restore the authority that the governor of this state had from 1939
until 1983 to make mid-year spending reductions whenever spending gets ahead
of revenue. That’s Governor Schwarzenegger’s “Live Within Our Means Act,”
and it empowers the Governor to stop the state’s deficit spending dead in its
THIRD: Get the redistricting power out of the hands of the Legislature. You’
ve already heard from Ted Costa and Joel Fox on this subject.
The public employee unions know that if they are defeated on these points,
they will have lost their grip on the government. And they also know that the
stage will then be set for a sweeping period of government reform not known
since the days of Hiram Johnson. Allow me to make these dozen modest proposals
on the shape of those reforms:
FIRST: Restore the Gann Spending Limit that was state law from 1979 to 1990 –
restraining the growth of state spending to the combination of inflation and
population growth. If the Gann Spending Limit had simply been left alone,
there never would have been a fiscal crisis.
SECOND: Illegal aliens cost the State of California between $5 billion and
$10 billion each year in direct expenditures from the State’s treasury. The
Left’s response is to give them driver’s licenses and, in San Francisco, the
right to vote. A simple executive order needs to be issued by the governor to
every department and law enforcement agency in California to report illegal
aliens who are seeking state services to the Immigration and Naturalization
Service for deportation.
THIRD: California’s prevailing wage regulations were re-written by the
unions that in essence give them the power to set the wage rate on all public works
projects. The governor’s appointees on the commission that promulgates these
regulations should be instructed to conform the state’s prevailing wage
regulations to the Federal Davis Bacon Act. That’s one billion dollars of
additional roads, water projects and schools without a dime of additional expenditures.
FOURTH: A generation ago, state government focused on those projects that
benefited all the people of California – the state highway system, the state
water project, the state parks and universities. Local projects that exclusively
benefited local communities were paid for exclusively with local revenue.
Today, as political power has been centralized in Sacramento, the state budget
has become a grab-bag for local pork projects, literally robbing Piedmont to
pay Pasadena. We can restore local government independence by separating the
revenues of state and local governments – and let local governments make their
own decisions with their own money once again.
FIFTH: Despite improvements that were made last year, our Workers
Compensation costs are still the highest in the nation. Meanwhile, next door Arizonans
pay just once third the costs that we pay per $100 of personal income. What
is so wrong with rescinding California’s Workers Compensation law that we know
does not work and replacing it with Arizona’s that we know does work?
SIXTH: Today, the biggest pitch that the Nevada Economic Development
Commission uses to lure California businesses is the cost of litigation in this
state. Let me suggest two simple reforms: First, remove punitive damages from the
civil courts – which were never designed to punish – and, second, adopt the
English rule that the loser of a civil suit should compensate the prevailing
party for the court costs that the loser caused. The singular result would be
to restore the civil courts to their original purpose – to compensate one
individual for losses caused by another. Period.
SEVENTH: Today we pay the highest electricity prices in the country, while a
generation ago, there was serious discussion of doing away with electricity
meters, because the stuff was becoming too cheap to bother to measure. In
those days, we built hydroelectric plants that today generate power at a half-cent
a kilowatt hour. At a half-cent a kilowatt hour, your average household
electricity bill should come to roughly $30. PER YEAR. Our two nuclear
powerplants are today producing 20% of the state’s power for 3 cents per kilowatt hour –
or $16 per month for an average family. Isn’t it time we lifted the
moratorium on the two cheapest and cleanest forms of electricity generation known to
modern technology – and get on with the process of scrapping our electricity
EIGHTH: Californians are spending $166 billion per year for health care.
Now get out a calculator. That’s over $18,000 for every family in California –
more than enough for a first rate health plan. The Left suggests putting our
hospitals under the same management as the DMV. Here’s my suggestion:
replace our entire healthcare bureaucracy with a simple pre-paid, refundable tax
credit to bring within the reach of every California family a basic health plan
of their choice.
NINTH: Californians pay the 4th highest tax per gallon of gasoline in the
country. And yet we rank dead last in our per capita spending on highways. Here
’s a radical idea: spend our highway money on our highways and our mass
transit fares on our mass transit and let people decide for themselves what is the
most efficient way to get to the office each day. And while we’re at it,
sandblast the diamond lanes off our freeways – it is lunacy to close an entire
lane of a freeway to 93% of the traffic, all in the name of efficiency.
TENTH: California is one of the few states in the country that provide
lifetime welfare benefits to individuals who overstay their federal welfare reform
act of 1996 – and save over $1 billion in direct welfare costs annually.
ELEVENTH: The governor this year has proposed spending over $10,000 per
pupil from all sources on our public schools – that’s $300,000 for a classroom of
30 students. Perhaps a third of that is actually getting into the classroom.
Here’s another radical notion: Let’s inject that money directly into the
classroom and require each level of bureaucracy to justify how much they’re
taking out of that classroom. Or, better still, restore to the parents the
freedom to find the school that best meets their child’s needs.
TWELFTH: A union-sponsored provision of the state constitution requires us
to use the bureaucracy to provide state services even when they can be obtained
far more cheaply from the private sector. I have always preferred the “
Yellow Pages” test for state services: If it is in the Yellow Pages, the state
shouldn’t be doing it. By restoring to state government the freedom to shop
around for the best service at the lowest price, we could save $9 billion across
all departments, according to the Reason Foundation’s survey of state costs.
There are just a few of the reforms that have been proposed year in and year
out in the state legislature – and that together would clearly restore that
Golden Age of California that those of us who lived there remember so well. But
how do we enact them when our Legislature is controlled by the lunatic Left
acting at the Direction of the public employees unions?
The answers is that we do not enact them through the Legislature – we enact
the around the Legislature. And that’s why the Governor needs the support of
every citizen in this state who believes that California is worth fighting for.
And I have no doubt that we will succeed in the end – because of what I
learned during the recall election.
I discovered that there are moments in the life of a Democracy when people
put aside their own pursuits and focus very intensely on the issues at hand.
The recall was one of those rare elections when the people were totally
completely focused on the future of California.
In those moments, advertising means nothing. Political parties mean less
than nothing. News coverage means next to nothing. People actually listen to
each of the candidates. They listen long and hard. And they form their own
And when they do that, their judgment is exceedingly good. In 2003, the
result was the historic recall of a governor – in a record turnout election. In
that election, the Republican candidates for governor received a combined 62
percent of the vote – literally two votes for every vote cast for the Democrats.
And – I might add – by the end of that campaign, according to every
published poll from the Field to Gallup to the Los Angeles Times, the most
conservative candidate (that was me, by the way) had the HIGHEST approval ratings and the
most liberal candidate (Peter Camejo, of the Green Party) had the LOWEST
I don’t say this to brag (all right, I do), but also to illustrate that the
people of California – when they are paying attention to the debate and
actually listening to the candidates – agree with us in overwhelming numbers.
I used to fret about public apathy. That’s not apathy. That’s just the
process of getting up in the morning and getting the kids to school and getting
to work on time and picking up the dry cleaning – and all the other things we
do to make our lives work. When things are going reasonably well – or even
reasonably poorly – it doesn’t make a lot of sense to devote a great deal of
time and attention to politics.
So, in normal times Democracies tend to drift because nobody pays much
attention to what government is doing. In that vacuum, special interests tend to
dominate the system and they start to plunder it. And as the damage
accumulates, public attention begins to focus.
It is when a crisis approaches, that the true strength of a Democracy emerges
– and it is an awesome thing. One by one, individual citizens sense the
approach of a common danger and they rise to the occasion. One by one, people
begin putting aside their daily cares and daily pleasures and begin to engage in
their classic role as citizens – not because they want to, but because they
have to – because the situation has become intolerable and can no longer be
We are watching that mobilization begin to sit today in California.
The ancient Athenians had a word for “citizen” that continues into modern
usage today. The Athenians called a citizen a “politicos,” from which we get
the word “politician.” In the Athenian view, when one accepted the rights and
privileges of citizenship, one also assumed the responsibility of a
Today, individual citizens are sensing that something is desperately wrong
and one by one they are devoting their time and resources to setting things
And that process begins in groups like this, groups that gather not around
politicians and not around parties, but around principles – solid principles –
and the most solid principle of all – Freedom.
To that principle the American founders pledged their lives, their fortunes,
and their sacred honor. How little is asked of our generation in support of
that principle – no one is asked to risk their lives or their fortunes. But
one thing history does demand of us in full – our sacred honor – not to fail or
falter until we have restored to our children that Golden State – that land
of opportunity – that California – that our parents gave to us.