The three Assembly members who joined with Democrats at a union-sponsored rally to oppose government cuts to In-Home Supportive Services — Jim Silva of Huntington Beach, Brian Nestande of Palm Desert and Paul Cook of Yucca Valley — didn’t betray their conservative principles. They never had any such principles. But they did betray the GOP caucus and they did humiliate Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, who either didn’t know that the officials were joining this press conference sponsored by left-wing union organizers or she couldn’t do anything to stop them. Nestande is Conway’s top lieutenant, so this is a huge embarrassment for the Republican leadership, which can no longer has much credibility on budget matters.
If a top GOP leader is against cuts, then there’s not much left to do than to raise taxes. And how can Republicans now move forward with reforms to the reform-plagued, scandal-ridden and oftentimes abusive IHSS program if top Republicans oppose cuts to it at any cost?
It’s pretty amazing when Gov. Jerry Brown’s spokesperson has to remind Republicans of the need for budget cuts in tough times: “Cuts are never popular. We expect that this is the first in a series of bipartisan protests against the cuts that the governor has proposed.” Amen to that. It’s pretty bizarre when Brown outflanks Republicans on the right!
Meanwhile the three Republicans were perfectly comfortable standing in front of a union crowd that was chanting, “No more cuts.” So now that Silva, Nestande and Cook agree with the state’s most liberal elements that we cannot cut programs, especially not ones that they like (and there is a constituency that likes every program), then what choices are left? You can go on to each Assembly member’s Web site and find all the usual Republican blather about limiting government and holding the line on taxes. Silva boasts that he signed a “no new taxes” pledge, but this is dishonest and craven at best.
If they believe in “no more cuts,” then taxes or debt have to go up. There are no other choices. And debt simply is a tax increase on future generations. At least the Democrats are honest when they call for higher taxes to pay for all these programs.
It’s ironic that these three pro-union Republicans would champion the IHSS program in particular. It’s a crazy wasteful program that ends up subsidizing family members to take care of their own.This is cradel-to-grave socialism at its most extreme and support for it undermines any claim of conservatism. Even the Los Angeles Times made the point about the system’s waste: “State-subsidized in-home care such as shopping, laundry and housework for the frail and disabled, often provided by family members living with the recipients, has been the object of GOP charges of waste and fraud, and assailed as a symbol of Democrats’ unrestrained appetite for spending.”
Check out the deep level of corruption in this program, as reported by the Schwarzenegger administration. This is from a letter from the former governor to the Legislature regarding the program’s tendency to hire felons as caregivers:
“In 2009, we enacted a series of IHSS reforms to address fraud, waste and abuse in the program and ensure the benefits are going only to those who genuinely need them. One of the basic reforms was to require IHSS caregivers to undergo criminal background checks before they go into the private homes of elderly or disabled individuals to care for them. This simple requirement is standard protocol for almost every other licensed or certified professional in California. A good example is the requirement for all volunteers at public schools to receive a background check. No one questions the responsible policy of ensuring that children are protected, even when they are participating in after-school sporting events. How, then, can we continue to allow convicted felons to provide unsupervised care in a disabled or senior’s private home?”
The Schwarzenegger letter was in response to a Sacramento grand jury report that found: “At its best, [IHSS] is a dysfunctional system plagued by upper management who refuse to make meaningful changes or even look into matters that will be beneficial to the truly needy people [IHSS] is pledged to support. … The lack of fiscal controls and oversight at IHSS has made it an easy target for those who are greedy.”
Yet Silva, Cook and Nestande love the program and stand side-by-side with the unions that resist reforms. Listen to the selfish stupidity of Cook’s argument, as quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Well, it doesn’t take a magnifying glass — I’m pretty close. I won’t tell you how old I am, but I’m pretty close. And they say you have to be nice to your kids because they will pick out your nursing home. You should be nice to your loved ones, too, because they will pick out your In Home Supportive Services provider.”
Maybe it’s too much to expect statesmanship from this group, but one does expect an Assembly member to do a little better than, “Gee, I might want that program for myself.” The three GOP Assembly members were of course applauded by a progressive blog, which expressed the hopes that they will now drop their anti-tax pledges.
I’m not surprised by this. Cook is a tool of the prison guards union and Nestande is a big-government guy. I covered Jim Silva when he was an Orange County supervisor. Silva was as reliable a union vote as they come. Silva voted twice to retroactively increase pensions for union members and he defends those votes to this day — despite the evidence that his giveaways led to an enormous pension liability. Silva supported the county’s project labor agreement, the most wide-ranging union-monopoly agreement in the state because it gave all county work to unions. Silva was rewarded by the code enforcement officials’ union for his work giving them expanded police powers.
These three should at least dispense with the limited government, tax-limiting claptrap. They like big government. They like high taxes. Their rhetoric is dishonest — designed mainly to win over GOP voters. Now that Silva, for instance, wants to run for a Senate seat in an open primary, perhaps he made the calculation that he wants to lure Democratic voters. Who knows?
I missed Silva’s callback today, but will talk to him soon and include his explanations for his behavior.
State Sen. Juan Vargas of San Diego praised the men’s bravery and said he got to know some of them at a Bible study. Apparently, their support for these programs comes from their faith. There’s no doubt that Jesus preached the need to help the poor — but since when does that mean supporting taxation to pay for government workers to provide bureaucratic programs? There are many ways to help the poor voluntarily. Government often makes life tougher on the poor and keeps more people in poverty thanks to confiscatory rates of taxation and regulatory burdens that stifle enterprise and freedom. Unions are friends only of the workers, not of the recipients of their services.
Well, at least we know which three Republicans are likely to support Democratic tax-raising budgets.
About the author: Steven Greenhut is the editor-in-chief of Cal Watchdog, an independent, Sacramento-based journalism venture providing original investigative reports and news stories covering California state government.. Greenhut was deputy editor and columnist for The Orange County Register for 11 years. He is author of the new book, “Plunder! How Public Employee Unions are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation.”