Ask Not What You Can Do For Your State

December 20, 2011

This list of California state agencies, headlined “Why California is broke” (and courtesy of Maggie’s Farm) showed up in my inbox Saturday morning.  At first glance, the sheer length and the titles of some agencies (“California Access for Infants and Mothers”) make you think it’s a gag.

But I didn’t need to check Snopes to know it was true.  The day before I’d had a drink at the Sacramento airport bar, where I found myself next to a young woman who identified herself as a “budget analyst” for the something-something health agency.  (It could be any of four on the list.)

At first I overheard her telling the guy on the other side that the whole budget process was “bullshit,” because legislators always find ways to hide monies in bills and pretend that there’ve been cuts.  I asked how many of her agency’s functions overlapped with other state and federal agencies.  “Most of them,” she said, though she appeared to consider that a good thing.

Later she explained that she’d grown up the daughter of an Air Force officer, a fourth-generation Republican, and had voted Republican until 2008, the year after she began working for the state.  “Now I vote Democrat,” she said.  “I’d be stupid not to.  I have to protect my interests.”

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