Government By The People?

Abraham Lincoln championed “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” He did so not in passing but at a unique moment in history: his Gettysburg address.

We are now 145 years removed from his comments that day and it is not too serious to ask whether his complete quote still rings true: “… that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

The California budget crisis certainly places a fine point on the issue.

If we recall, our founding fathers believed the chief executive of the future United States would be a unique institution because he would be the one government official that would represent all citizens. Although the President would not be elected directly by the people, the great voice of the people would be heard in his selection. As our Republic evolved, that voice has grown even stronger because the state legislatures no longer select Presidential electors; the direct vote of the people elect them.

Prior to the adoption of the Constitution, our colonies had governors, and they too represented a far wider electorate than assemblyman or senators. The same holds true in California – only to a greater degree. Californians have the right of direct democracy in the form of the right to recall a governor and the right of direct initiative.

In that light, all Californians should be more than a little concerned with the recent turn of events in this year’s version of the California budget “crisis.”

Government has grown dramatically over the last 5 years – so dramatically that government expenditures have continued to outpace even record government revenues.

In response, to this yearly “problem,” Governor Schwarzenegger has set about the process of blowing up some boxes. His proposed trimming of the massive California bureaucracy as well as the reduction in pay is not business as usual, at least we hope it isn’t. It is, after all, why he was chosen governor in the first place. California voters sent him to Sacramento to be our chief statewide representative with a mission: to clean up our government and resolve the budget “crisis.”

The reaction of government to the demands of the people should be a wakeup call to all Californians. Rather than do what citizens do when their budgets are in deficit, i.e. reduce spending to match revenues – this government is rebelling against us.

Government employees are suing – in effect you and me - to block the layoffs. They filed unfair labor practice charges against – in effect, all Californians. The State Controller has sided with the bureaucracy and is fighting government cutbacks. Beyond that, Democrats in the legislature are demanding that we pay more taxes to support them and their needs.

In 2003, we the people spoke. We recalled our sitting governor and demanded real action from a new one. This Governor is, finally and belatedly, and to his political peril, providing that real action.

Simply put: It is time for government to be for us, not against us.