Our Businesses Thrive On The Infrastructure We Built

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
The key to California’s successful business environment are education and infrastructure. It is not an accident that our semiconductor and computer and Internet industries, and biotechnology and pharmaceutical and genetic engineering and our other world-class competitive industries developed in California instead of in “low tax” states like Mississippi and Alabama. These industries thrived here because of our well-educated people and our modern, well-maintained infrastructure.
There has been a dramatic wealth-building return on our investment in education and infrastructure. Investors could count on California as a good place to start and grow a business, and it has paid off.
But how much would it cost if businesses had to pay fair market value for use of the infrastructure that We, the People built? What would it cost if companies had to pay the full education cost every time they hire someone who was educated at a California public school or state college or university?
What would it cost if companies had to pay to be provided with police and fire protection? Should companies pay a fee to have the police investigate, catch the perpetrators, and then put them through the criminal justice system?
What would it cost if companies had to pay fair value to use our roads and air- and seaports.
What would it cost if companies had to pay for access to the legal system that We, the People set up. We passed the laws and paid for the courts. We set up the entire legal structure.
We, the People pay to regulate (and apparently bail out) the banking and financial system. What would it cost if businesses had to pay us for setting up this system that (used to) keeps our money sound?
This is what government and taxes are for. We, the People built up California’s comprehensive physical, legal, cultural, education and societal infrastructure. Businesses rely on that infrastructure, and we want them to thrive. This benefits us all. Many, many people became wealthy by betting on California as a great place to do business, and we are proud of that. Now it is tome to give something back.
Building and maintaining that infrastructure does cost money, and that is where taxes come in. For several years California has been cutting taxes and cutting back on our investment in education and infrastructure. Businesses cannot continue to thrive as they have if we continue along this path. We have reached a point where the tax-cutting has brought our state’s education spending to the second-lowest per-pupil of all the states! We have been and are deferring maintenance on roads and other infrastructure. We are cutting back on all essential services and we still have a $40 billion budget shortfall!
Our companies are getting a good deal. If we charged fees that were based on the actual value of the service that the infrastructure provides businesses would have to pay much, much more than any level of increased taxes companies and wealthy individuals might be asked to pay to help California meet the budget shortfall. The businesses and individuals who thrived because of the infrastructure we built need to contribute to the future by agreeing to pay taxes to help invest in rebuilding that infrastructure.
The payoff is clear. As I wrote above, there is a reason that Silicon Valley and genetic engineering and other wealth-creating industries developed in states like California and Massachusetts instead of “low tax” states like Mississippi and Alabama.
Click through to Speak Out California.

California’s Conservatives Want To Get What They DON’T Pay For

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
California’s elected Republicans continue to block any and all efforts to pass a budget, because any honest budget must ask the wealthy and big corporations to pay their fair share. Even the Governor’s extremely modest one cent sales tax increase was too much for them.
So let’s talk about paying a fair share. David Sirota has a good column today at the Campaign for America’s Future blog, The Aristocrats, Part II – Starring George Will. In the column Sirota writes about wealthy Republicans who complain when regular people get decent pay for performing services that benefit … guess who … wealthy Republicans. Sirota writes,

In a column about underfinanced municipal pension systems today, Will expresses deep anger that veteran police, firefighters and municipal workers eventually get paid well for their services. In one California town on San Francisco Bay, Will tells us that – gasp! – “after just five years, all police and firefighters are guaranteed lifetime health benefits.” The horror.
Such salaries and benefits, of course, are part of a bargain: Enticing people to turn down the high-paying private-sector job and instead run into burning buildings (firefighters), do the dangerous work of apprehending criminals (police), disposing of sewage (garbage collectors) and administrating all the other services that conservatives pretend aren’t necessary (municipal workers) requires, well, an enticement – namely, the promise that making such a public-minded choice will result in decent and stable pay and benefits.
When you accept a public sector job, that’s the bargain: In exchange for being willing to do a tough job and accepting that you won’t have the chance to make hundreds of millions dollars like a corporate CEO, you are rewarded with the chance – if you play by the rules – to make a pretty good living.

Yes, there is a BARGAIN at work here. We, the People have built a system that has been working pretty darn well for the rich. We built a system of roads, schools, courts, police departments and firefighters. We built up a system of laws. We work in the factories and offices.
So we built the system and the rules, and we enforce the rules, and it works out pretty darn well to make a few people really rich. But when we then ask for something BACK — pensions, health care, even worker safety laws — that is just too much. Never mind the bargain, the social compact that was in place. Asking for a penny sales tax increase or asking the wealthiest to pay the same sales taxes as the rest of us when they buy a yacht or jet, well NO that is just TOO much to ask! So they block the budget.
Sirota continues,

That is, conservatives want to renege on the bargain – forgetting the old adage that you get what you pay for, and you don’t get what you don’t pay for.
The hypocrisy of this logic is obvious when you consider that the Right rarely – if ever – complains about, say, executives ripping off shareholders and harming companies’ fiscal health.

So there you have it. California’s elected Republicans want it all, but don’t want us to ask the corporations and wealthy individuals who finance their campaigns to help PAY for it all.
P.S. Adding insult to injury, the column in which conservative George Will complains that firefighters don’t deserve health insurance and pensions was written to run on September 11. Some of us remember the incredible bravery and sacrifice of New York’s firefighters and how it demonstrated the importance of the physical, legal and services infrastructure that We, the People built.
Join the discussion at Dave Johnson, Speak Out California