Slice through those pensions and tap state’s oil

Looking Behind the Scenes
By: Jim Ruffalo
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By and large, adages and sayings are verbal shortcuts helping us to think about, or remember particularly sage pieces of advice or admonition. Problem is, many of us just mouth the wise words without giving them the needed thought. For example, who among us wouldn’t want a nickel for every time we’ve been advised to be part of a “paradigm switch,” or why haven’t that many of us been shamed for being fooled more than once by the same person or event? Another example could be those who continually beseech us to “think outside the box.” Turns out that if we’d be much better off if we’d just think, whether in or out of the rectangle. Too many of us, especially those who are part of government on any level, do not think. Forgive me, I almost used the term ”public service” in describing those elected leaders. After all, if your job pays six figures and requires very little heavy lifting, and somebody else is footing the bill for your per diem, insurance and car allowance, you can hardly term yourself a public servant. Meanwhile, most of those elected officials and their minions have all learned to react quickly and predictably to any mishap, and for too many times, each of us can predict just what that reaction will be. Fiscal messes? Don’t worry! Most of those on the Left will insist that we are not taxed enough, while most of those on the other side of the aisle think if we just cut the budget down to a single digit, we’ll all live well and prosper. As usual, the correct answer lies in between, but who notices that? In the meantime, we continue to waste taxpayers’ funds at a rate equal to the now-daily hikes in gas-pump prices, Try this one on, for size. Recently, the Placer County Sheriff’s Office sent two deputies back to Vermont to pick up an in-custody miscreant who had outstanding warrants both here and at Nevada County. Judging by less than complete court records, the player (Sean Funsten Oliver) was wanted here on a beef involving the theft of a snowboard from the Tahoe area more than five years ago. The deputies jetted to Vermont, grabbed Oliver, spent the night at Boston, then enplaned back home. We don’t know the total expenses incurred by PCSO, although two plane tickets there, and three to return, along with overtime, lodging and meals easily had to take the tab into four figures. And once home, Oliver was arraigned, ordered to post $500 and was released on bail. Obviously the lesson here is if you’re somehow stranded in New England without the price of traveling costs, merely dust off a years-old charge and notify the local authorities. They’ll gladly spend a couple of thousand dollars to get you home where you can again freely roam the streets. But gullibles travels aren’t the only thing demonstrating a total lack of thought these days. Consider the state fiscal crises. We’re at least about $25 billion short of balancing the budget, yet the Legislature continues to flood the floor with mostly insipid bills, although in fairness, I should point out that a few of those rise to the level of inane. Each of those proposals will cost us bill payers even more tax money, and nearly all of them that I’ve read take away yet another thread of self-reliance, personal responsibility, or another handful of our hard-earned. The state — heck, the whole country for that matter — sits on huge pools of untapped oil. If we drill, baby, drill, California alone would realize not a penny less than $2 billion per year in new revenue, to say nothing of how such an influx would dramatically lower the price at the pump while simultaneously creating new jobs. Yet we continue to sit on those reserves, too afraid to raise the ire of the environmentalists who, when the unions allow them, run nearly every level of government. Granted there should be some controls over what could be a polluting operation, but I think that recent technology has provided more safeguards on the process than ever before. Still, in the interest of fairness, why not impose a royalty on all new drilling? Put aside a couple of pennies per barrel. Then take that growing mountain of pennies and start a clean-up fund to be used should the unthinkable happen someday. Think about it, and while you’re at it ask yourselves why we continue to pay pensions and retirement for nearly every governmental employee, although every time I re-read the Constitution, I find nary a word about why we’re forced to pay for somebody else’s good times while we barely make ends meet. It all needs to stop, and it needs to stop now. Think! Jim Ruffalo’s column runs Sundays in the Journal. Reach him at