“Cal-i-for-nia Here I Come, Right Back Where I Started From”

I can’t help but sing that old tune and simultaneously break out into a vigorous tap dance, my cane a-twirling.

          With its melody I tip my straw hat and recall the ideals of my youth, when moving to California from New York meant entering an era of entitlement. It was the land where the sun shines on the poor as well as the rich. The place I found the opportunity to attend community college for practically nothing to attain my nursing degree and a job in the public sector. 

The song comes to mind with the recent effects of Wisconsin’s loss of collective bargaining rights for the public sector workers.  Voila!–now every state with a predominately Republican Congress will follow suit, doing the shuffle towards an imbalance of power that favors the rich and demands that the middle class pay for the poor. In contrast to Japan, it’s our politics–infused with fear and anger–not Mother Nature that has created a seismic wave aimed at destroying our public sector.

Meanwhile each of us knows, no matter what our party–be it GOP, Democratic, Progressive, Green or Green Tea–, that people need a solid infrastructure to pave the way for a civilized government that encourages economic viability while it takes care of its hungry, sick and impoverished. According to Wallstreet the pro’s say that recent gains in the stock market were driven by an 80 percent gain in corporate earnings. These are some of its best profits in over 70 years. CEOs and CFOs are raking in tens of millions in yearly salaries and bonuses that are incomprehensible to me. Why is it so insane to demand that these wealthiest of the rich pay their “shared sacrifice” in the form of taxes?

            I’ll be honest with you, I felt more than a little silly showing up in my blonde wig and pearls to help defeat Meg Whitman. The campaign against “Queen Meg,” in which actors dressed like royal courtiers in a procession in order to portray the governor’s opponent as an evil dictator, was quite a spectacle. Hecklers cried foul as the California Nurses Association funded a bus tour which followed the ex- eBay queen to all her fund raisers in order to alert voters to Whitman’s track record of rewarding the rich, punishing the middle class, and ransacking the poor.

During Ventura’s own county negotiations, it felt wasteful to spend so much money to defeat Meg Whitman while our own workers scrambled to forego take-aways from their retirement and wages. But looking back, I see the wisdom of the California Nurses Association to back the crusade that helped defeat Whitman (and corporate greed). I am proud to have been a part of those rallies that used wit and truth for democracy to prevail, and that despite all the money Whitman threw into the election; we still have a government of, by and for the people.

Today I have a lot to learn from Wisconsin, where sometimes it takes theatrics full of singing and dancing to allow me to see, before the other shoe drops, what could happen if California loses its balance between accountability and entitlement. There’s more work that needs to be done to discover what’s fair when it comes to living within our means.  How do we ”share the sacrifice” to fund the nation’s biggest bank fraud and a war against terrorism, as well as educate our children, treat the sick, and feed the poor?

It took the huge magnitude of Japan’s tragedy (which could have happened to any of us) for me to feel immense gratitude for public leaders who use my tax money to support an infrastructure that enforces building codes and maintains services.  I can’t help but connect the dots from here to Japan and think of a different scenario. What if this had happened in California? Do we have a strong enough public sector to allay a disaster?  Or will corporations come forward to bail us out?  Maybe what happened with Katrina will help answer that question and assist Wisconsin and the rest of America to realize that global corporations are taking over our government and that they take care of themselves before they consider the common good of our country.

Look at the track record: Corporate medical systems own our healthcare.  Big oil owns our energy.  And it’s only a matter of time until China, who owns our debt, will be coming around for us to make good on promises to pay them back. That leaves our citizens at the mercy of private enterprise.  The people must find the means to stay alive while funding the government to provide services that individuals can’t support on their own.  We need to get back to the foundation that made our nation great, a harbor for the poor and the hungry, a place where ambition, hard work, wit, and truth can make the common people unstoppable. It’s time to strike a balance between gluttony and sobriety, between greed and responsibility.  So it’s back to my song, “California, here I come”.

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