Letter to the editor by Tom McClintock
Congressman, Fourth Congressional District

(Added to this website on 6/5/09.)

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A generation ago, California exemplified its nickname, The Golden State.   State spending was less than half per capita, inflation adjusted, what it is today.   Its debt-service ratio was less than a third.   Yet Californians enjoyed one of the finest highway systems in the world and one of the finest public education systems in the country.   Water and electricity were so cheap that many communities didn't bother to meter consumption.

Only a few decades have passed, yet California is a dramatically altered place.   The tax burden is one of the heaviest in the nation.   State government consumes the largest portion of personal earnings than at any time in history and yet can no longer maintain its basic infrastructure.   The once legendary California quality of life has declined precipitously and produced an historic first: more people are now moving out of California than are moving in.

One thing - and one thing only - has changed in those years: public policy.   The political Left gradually gained dominance over California's government and imposed a disastrous agenda of policy changes that are now being replicated at the federal level.

Prior to the 1970s, California policy aimed at accommodating growth and encouraging prosperity.   These priorities changed radically beginning with the era of limits announced by Governor Jerry Brown.   Conventional public works were branded growth inducing, and it became state policy to discourage the construction of highways, dams, power plants, and housing.

At the same time, public employee unions acquired unprecedented power to coerce public employee membership, automatically direct public employee earnings into union political coffers, and to strike against the public.

Radical environmental restrictions have devastated the agricultural, timber, and manufacturing industries, culminating in Governor Schwarzenegger's hallmark bill to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 25 percent by 2020 - a goal that can't be reached even if every automobile in California is junked.

Meanwhile, the state has suffered a radical centralization of revenue collection and decision-making in Sacramento, usurping local prerogatives in every field from education to transportation.   This trend has destroyed local accountability and annually misspends billions of dollars of public funds as Sacramento vainly attempts to force every community into rigid formulae and mandates.

The recall of Gray Davis in 2003 offered California the last chance to avert the fiscal collapse that now appears imminent.   Voters elected Arnold Schwarzenegger on a pledge to stop the crazy deficit spending, reduce tax and regulatory burdens, blow up the boxes, and cut up the credit cards.

Alas, he did exactly the opposite.   He increased the rate of spending that had proved unsustainable under Davis, began an unprecedented borrowing binge that has tripled the state's debt-service ratio, and has now imposed the biggest tax increase in the state's history.

As predicted, that tax hike has made the deficit worse.   The recession has reduced the state's March sales tax collections by 19 percent.   After Schwarzenegger increased the sales tax by 13 percent on April 1, April sales tax revenues plunged 44 percent.   The Laffer curve is alive and well.   [Arthur B. Laffer is the author of The End of Prosperity and in 1986 was the Republican primary candidate for the U.S. Senate in California.   The Laffer curve is used in economics to illustrate that increased taxes do not necessarily increase revenue.]

What can California do?   Its credit is stretched to the breaking point and increasing tax rates now produces decreasing tax revenues.   Its deficit vastly exceeds resolution by conventional budget reductions.   There is no line-item labeled waste, and the state's deficit now vastly exceeds the truly obsolete and overlapping programs strewn throughout its budget.

The real savings are in how the state's money is spent.   California pays $43,000 each year to house a prisoner, while many states get by with half that amount.   An average classroom accounts for more than $300,000 of public resources, but only a fraction of it actually reaches the students.

Fortunately, California has service-delivery models that once delivered vastly higher levels of service at vastly lower costs, before it centralized, bureaucratized, unionized, and radicalized them.   But tragically, it lacks both the political will and the time required to restore them.

The decline and fall of the California Republic is a morality play in the form of a Greek Tragedy.   Before dismissing California's agony as the just price for its hubris and folly, though, heed this warning: Congress is well underway toward imposing the same policies on the rest of the nation.   California is just a little further down the road.

Congressman Tom McClintock,
Fourth Congressional District

California is the chief national source of vegetables, fruits, meats, fish, wines, brandies, lumber, gold, steel, petroleum, natural gas, asphalt, various minerals, and more.   It is to the United States what Ukraine is to the Soviets.   It also is a large state with a large representation in the House of Representatives.   Consequently, it was targeted very early by the communists in their efforts to turn the United States into a socialist nation.   Were it not turned, then having it fail might damage the nation in general.   Either way, the communists would win.


Comments made by Tom McClintock
Congressman, Fourth Congressional District
on the House floor, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011.

Today the House will consider HR 822, a long overdue measure to assure that states recognize the concealed weapons permits issued by other states.

This very simple measure has unleashed a firestorm of protests from the political left.   I noted one polemicist, who obviously has not read the Constitution, fumed that this is a Constitutional violation of states' rights enshrined in the 10th Amendment.

What nonsense.   Article IV of the Constitution could not possibly be more clear: "Full faith and credit shall be given to each State to the public acts, records and judicial proceedings of every other State.   And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof."

It is precisely this article that requires one state to recognize driver's licenses, birth certificates or arrest warrants issued by another state. Without it we are not union but a loose confederation.

We are told it is "dangerous" and "risky" to allow honest and law-abiding citizens to exercise their lawfully issued permits in other states.

Upon what basis do they make this claim? Certainly not upon any empirical data.

The impact of right-to-carry-laws - that is, laws that require the issuance of a concealed carry permit to any law-abiding citizen - has been studied extensively, with the vast preponderance finding that crime rates have fallen in those states after they have adopted such laws.   No credible study has ever found that the enactment of such laws has produced an increase in crimes, suicides or accidental deaths.

Overall, states with right-to-carry-laws have 22 percent lower violent crime rates, 30 percent lower murder rates, 46 percent lower robbery rates and 12 percent lower aggravated assault rates as compared to the rest of the country.   Indeed, right-to-carry laws have been so successful that no state has ever rescinded one.

So if the left cannot make a rational case on constitutional grounds or empirical grounds, what is the problem?

I suspect it comes down to what Ronald Reagan once called "This irreconcilable conflict... between those who believe in the sanctity of individual freedom and those who believe in the supremacy of the state."

Years ago, I had the honor to work for the legendary chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, Ed Davis.   During his eight and a half years as chief of the LAPD, crime dropped in Los Angeles while in the same period, across the rest of the nation, it ballooned more than 50 percent.   Chief Davis invented "Neighborhood Watch" and "community-based policing", and was an ardent opponent of laws restricting ownership of firearms by honest citizens.

His successful philosophy was predicated on the principle that, as he put it, "It is not the responsibility of the police department to enforce the law.   That is the job of every citizen.   The police department," he said, "is there to help."

As citizens we are an integral part of the laws we enact.   That does not mean we act as vigilantes - but it does mean that each of us has an inalienable right to defend ourselves and our families from violent predators with whatever force is necessary.   If we see a child being molested or a woman being robbed or an old man being beaten, we have a moral responsibility to intervene to the extent that we can.

Concealed weapons in the hands of honest and law-abiding citizens makes us all safer.   Simply knowing that there are responsible citizens among us capable of responding with force is itself a powerful deterrent to crime.

That is the well-documented experience of every state with a right-to-carry law.   But a society in which honest and law-abiding citizens are disarmed by their government is a society in which the gunman is king.

This is a truth that should be self-evident, but is lost at the altar of the authoritarian left, which seeks to concentrate all power in government at the expense of the people.

Perhaps the best test of the self-evident nature of this truth is illustrated in a full-page newspaper ad I once saw that offered a cut-out sign, which in 150 point type read: "There are no guns in this house."   The caption under it asked, "Would you post this sign in your window?"

At one time, most of the members of various environmental organizations were actually interested in the welfare of the planet and its people.   The "progressive" American left (actually communists and their useful idiots) began to infiltrate and take over with the intent to destroy the American way of life and the American economy.   The left has also taken over the American labor unions, teachers' unions, any other unions, AARP (healthcare organization), and most of the government bureaucracies.   Their use of leftwing, corrupt, and greedy attorneys, as shown below, is typical of their tactics.

The environmental organizations had good reputations before the leftwing take-over.   These reputations allow the left to collect donations from those of us who have not yet discovered their duplicity.   The donations are now funding a large part of the communist agenda in the United States.   One way to fight against the communist take-over is to stop donating to the environmental organizations.

The Plunder of Colfax (below) is an excellent example of the way the left has used environmental organizations and donations to them to influence the creation of adverse legislation and to take advantage of that legislation by using legal means against us.


Comments made by Tom McClintock
Congressman, Fourth Congressional District
on the House floor, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011.

Mr. Speaker, in the Sierra foothills of northeastern California lies the little town of Colfax, population 1,800, with a median household income of about $35,000.

Over the past several years, this little town has been utterly plundered by regulatory and litigatory excesses that have pushed the town to the edge of bankruptcy and ravaged families already struggling to make ends meet.

Colfax operates a small wastewater treatment plant for its residents that discharges into the Smuthers Ravine.   Because it does so, it operates within the provisions of the Clean Water Act, a measure adopted in 1972 and rooted in legitimate concerns to protect our vital water resources.

The problem is that predatory environmental law firms have discovered how to take unconscionable advantage of that law to reap windfall profits at the expense of working-class families like the townspeople of Colfax.

In the case of Colfax, an environmental law firm demanded every document pertaining to the water treatment plant from the date of its inception.   It then poured over those documents looking for any possible violation - including mere paperwork errors.   By law, those documents include self-monitoring reports by the water agency itself, and any violation, no matter how minor, establishes a cause of action for which the law provides for no affirmative defense - even if the violation is due to factors completely outside of the local community's control, including acts of God or acts by unrelated and uncontrollable third parties.

Prove one such violation - and remember, the law allows for no affirmative defense - and you have just guaranteed the attorneys all of their fees, which in this case were billed at $550 per hour.

But that's just part of the problem.

The law requires constant upgrading of the facilities to meet ever-changing state-of-the-art regulations that have nothing to do with health and safety, and with absolutely no concern for their prohibitive costs.   In fact, Colfax is now required to discharge water certifiably cleaner than the natural stream water into which it is discharged.   In Colfax's case, this required a $15 million expenditure divided among 1,800 working-class residents who are now paying $2,500 per year just for their water connections.

And once the town has met this standard, there is no guarantee that in five years it won't be told "Sorry, the rules have changed and you'll need to start over."

It is time to restore some form of rationality back to this law, and to stop the plunder of small towns like Colfax.   And Colfax isn't alone - any community that operates a wastewater treatment plant is in the same jeopardy.

No one disputes that we need to maintain and enforce sensible and cost-effective protections of our precious water resources.   But legitimate environmental protections must no longer be used as an excuse for regulatory extremism and litigatory plundering of our local communities.

Today, I am introducing legislation to offer six reforms to protect other communities from going through the same nightmare as the people of Colfax.

First, to limit private-party lawsuits to issues of significant non-compliance rather than harmless paperwork errors.

Second, to shield local agencies from liability for acts beyond their control.

Third, to give local agencies 60 days to cure a violation before legal action can be initiated.

Fourth, to allow communities to amortize the cost of new facilities over a period of 15 years before new requirements can be heaped upon them.

Fifth, to require a cost-benefit analysis before new regulations can be imposed.

And sixth, to limit attorney fees to the prevailing fees in the community.

Like many movements, the impetus for stronger environmental protection of our air and water was firmly rooted in legitimate concerns to protect these vital resources.   But like many movements, as it succeeded in its legitimate ends, it also attracted a self-interested constituency that has driven far past the borders of common sense and into the realms of political extremism and outright plunder, and I am hopeful that we are now entering an era when common sense can be restored to the Clean Water Act in this session of Congress.

Congressman Tom McClintock, District 4, California
(916) 786 - 5560     mcclintock.house.gov  

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