All Hands in the Piggy Bank: California’s Red Light District and the Money Whores at Work


I ejected BOB, my “safety buddy,” from his bed in the trunk and stuck him up front in the passenger seat so I could cruise the carpool lane the entire way to Sacramento. I ordered BOB late one night off an infomercial, catering to women alone on midnight’s road and afraid of blood-thirsty lunatics. If it could fool the predators, I thought, it would certainly fool the Highway Patrol.

I did not have high hopes for this assignment, for the piecing together of an elaborate spending puzzle, considering the obvious mess that was California’s current budget as well as the assumed corruptions and misperceptions handed down to us by state officials and media outlets. Nonetheless, BOB and I set out shortly after midnight on the road north to the Capitol, to decipher some truth in the madness of the state’s bank account.

Six hours. Just after dawn, and the great white pillars came into view. Considering I hadn’t slept all night, I picked up two cases of NoDoz at the local pharmacy upon reaching the Capitol, and—because the mescaline still lingering in my bloodstream and jaw bones hindered me from swallowing anything at all—I crushed up the NoDoz in the bathroom at my hotel and snorted two thick lines before jumping in the shower. Wearing my usual Black-on-Black tie and shirt and the black press-room fedora, I hoped to drive enough attention away from the dark half-moons under my eyes to conduct a reasonable interview. I was waiting patiently in the Cal Tax office on K Street for the Teresa Casazza interview, aiming to get her side of the Prop 1A argument—a relatively confusing and seemingly overly-simplified plan to reform the budget by extending recent tax raises in order to create more money for the state’s “rainy day” reserve funds.

After 30 minutes of waiting, I was informed by Casazza’s secretary, however, that the President would not be available, after all, due to a last minute interview with a reporter from the Sacramento Bee. The secretary politely handed me a form statement instead, which the office was handing out to all press affiliates. It gave me the usual jazz on why The Cal Tax office supports a YES on Prop 1A vote: That the measure will “force accountability and stability over the budget process” by reforming the budget process and increasing the size of rainy day reserve funds from 5% to 12.5% of the overall budget. These changes were supposed to help protect schools and other vital public services. But nothing in these measures, which I tried to read at length, seemed to clearly illustrate how exactly enhancing rainy day funds or increasing/extending taxes would serve to protect anyone any better than simply redirecting current non-essential budgetary expenditures. What the passing of this Prop meant to the taxpayers’ minds is one thing alone: More Taxes. Most people didn’t even get as far as considering that we’d be charged “more taxes” so that these lazy—or perhaps greedy—backdoor politicians could forget redirecting funds into likely unnecessary current spending puddles and rather just increase taxes to create bigger revenues. Who needs smart financing when you can get big financing?


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