By Tom Kando
Here is the solution to the state budget deficit of $18 billion this year and $41 billion within the next year and a half:
1. It’s a big and complicated budget. Let’s assume that there are 1358 (or whatever number of) separate items over which the democrats and the republicans are fighting.2. Let’s assume that for each issue, there are two sides - what the Democrats want and what the Republicans want.
3. Let’s list all 1358 (or whatever) issues randomly.
4. Let’s go down the list, one item at a time, and flip a coin for every issue: Heads the demos win, tails the republicans win.
5. We can assume that a democratic victory will mean: fund the program. A Republican victory will mean: shut down the program.
6. Clearly, each side will win about half the issues. Of course, one item may be an $900 million program, and the next one a $200,000 program. Each side will win its share of large items and small items as well. The random process will guarantee not only that each side wins about half the time, but also wins about half of the large items and half of the small ones...
The point of my absurd proposal is this: By now, the state is governed so badly that randomizing public policy may make more sense than trying to plan rationally. Things work so appallingly badly that a government which governs randomly might make things better for the people of California. But remember - I mean statistical randomness, not haphazard arbitrariness. The laws of probability must be strictly observed.
You might object that the random process may have adverse consequences. Maybe item #147 is “funding for the State University,” a $6 billion item, and item #784 is the state prison budget, also in that order of magnitude. Using the coin flipping method, both of these items might be funded, or one of them might, or neither of them. Would shutting down one or both of these systems be bad? Yes. But to repeat: In the larger scheme, even that scenario might not be as bad as the dismal way the state is presently run.
P.S. The astute reader will realize that my piece is a joke. More serious is what innumerable reasonable people have been saying for years, including Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters on December 22 ‘08 again: Cut the bloated and dysfunctional prison budget a great deal, cut education less, etc. I.o.w., establish priorities. But that gets us back to political paralysis, and it was in order to point that out, that I wrote the above spoof.
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Thursday, February 5, 2009
By Tom Kando