A modest proposal for fiscal misery: Make them hurt in Brentwood and beyond

Michael Daly, a retired political aide, suggests raising fees until middle- and upper-class people feel their fair share of the pain.

We're in a bind here in California, mates, in case you hadn't noticed. The till is tapped, the budget deficit is bigger than the great outdoors, and lately even the sun has disappeared.

What's crystal clear is that the governor can't fix this mess. His mouth still runs, but his muscle has turned to flab.

The Legislature? Give me a break.

And so when I got an e-mail from John Q. Public with an offbeat solution to the Golden State's ongoing financial fiasco, I gave it a second look, and then a third, because to be honest, it made more sense than anything coming out of Sacramento.

The answer, Michael Daly told me, is not less suffering, but more. That's the only way out.

Daly said that if I wanted to hear more over good coffee and sweet rolls, I was welcome to visit him in his lair.

Hmmm. Coffee, rolls and suffering.

Sure, why not?

So I drove down to southern Orange County and into the hills of Mission Viejo to meet up with Daly, a retired political aide and economic development manager, a big redhead who towers over me and has hands like a bear's mitts. We went out to his back patio, and he delivered on the coffee and rolls, and then he began talking about putting a hurt on his fellow Californians.

"I'm talking about real pain," he said, grimacing as though a dagger was at his throat. "Catastrophic pain."

What we have to do, Daly said, is take a bigger cut out of government spending than anyone has ever imagined. He is not, by the way, a love child of Howard Jarvis, but is in fact a Democrat, though he tends not to advertise that in his neck of the woods.

The problem up to now, we agreed, is that middle- and upper-class people haven't had to feel any pain because budget cuts are always aimed at the poor, elderly and disabled. If Daly were king of California, he would swing such a mean blade that Republican legislators would start calling for higher taxes to pay for the services their constituents demand, and Democrats would have to make hard choices instead of throwing money at every social service imaginable while the state goes broke.

So how would Daly take aim at the middle class?

"If we shut down half the DMV offices in the state, that would cause real pain," he said with an evil grin.

He has got a point.

Take away state support for canes, seeing-eye dogs and wheelchairs and you might spark a small protest rally in Sacramento. But force people to drive past a shuttered DMV office to have a license renewed, only to find that the lines are twice as long as normal, and we'll have a revolution on our hands.

What other ideas does Daly have for wreaking havoc from Shasta to Sherman Oaks?

"Close every other state court," he said. "Shutter half of the state's libraries."

The libraries that remain open, by the way, would have to pay for themselves. So the next time you check out a book, it might cost a couple of bucks.


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