“All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.” — George Orwell in his novel “Animal Farm
If you are one of the 38.8 million Californians apparently classified as serfs and you are drunk and are smart enough to call someone to take you home and if it’s not a friend or relative you have to fork over money for a taxi or a ride sharing service.
But not if you’re one of the 120 “more equal” Californians who happen to serve in the California Legislature. If they booze it up they can call for a driver funded by California’s taxpayers.
The State Senate has two part-time workers who apparently do nothing but wait around for a senator to tie one on and call for a ride regardless of the time of day. Each worker is paid $2,532. That comes to $61,920 a year. What could your kid’s school do with $61,920 a year? How many seniors unable to pay for both food and medicine each month could be fed with $61,920 a year? How much water would it buy for the people of East Porterville that are out of drinking water due to the drought?
Ask the office of the almighty Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon about details or how the legislature can justify such a program and the answer may surprise you.
Anthony Reyes — the spokesman for de Leon — told the Sacramento Bee, “We’re not going to provide comment, because it’s a security issue.”
Really? A security issue?
Perhaps he meant it was a job security issue.
Four legislators in the past five years have been arrested for drunk driving including three near the State Capitol. Since such an arrest typically costs votes, then it is obviously about job security so perhaps Reyes may be on to something. If there’s one thing legislators can do well it’s take care of their own job security by squeezing every penny they can out of taxpayers to protect it.
But before you let your friendly “Animal House” legislator off the hook — you think it was by accident that John Belushi’s character eventually because a senator in the movie by the same name — consider who wrote and adopted the laws for drunk driving and the heavy penalties they carry. One hint, it wasn’t Joe Six Pack as politicians sometimes like to call the working stiffs in this country.
It was the Legislator Lushes more likely to get bombed on whiskey and martinis than pedestrian stuff like beer.
A legislator gets caught up in a DUI and it could cost him his job.
The same is true about Joe Six Pack.
So why doesn’t the legislature provide a free service for Joe Six Pack to call 24/7 when he’s too drunk to drive instead of dialing for a taxi or a Lyft driver? Can’t do that, of course, became it would cost money that, depending upon your political persuasion, is needed for schools and the poor or shouldn’t be taken from the taxpayers in the first place.
No problem, just do what politicians have done for decades when it comes to funding “non-vital” pet government projects — slap on sin taxes.
The most obvious and most lucrative target apparently would be to impose a $1 a drink tax every time a Sacramento politician drinks alcohol.
Given how big of a security issue we are told it is such a tax could probably generate thousands of dollars a day. The taxes generated could be used to reimburse taxi services and ride sharing firms every time they pick up a “less equal” Californian drunk driver and ensure their job security just like the legislature now does with intoxicated lawmakers using tax dollars to fund the effort.
If a big uproar happens over the revelation taxpayers are providing a free ride service for drunken politicians, how much do you want to bet we will be told it primarily covers lawmakers when they need a quick ride someplace.
Nice, but why can’t they just pay for taxi service and such on their own like the rest of us?
As it is, lawmakers get vehicles supplied by taxpayers. If they want chauffeurs as well then they should run for governor and — assuming they are elected — get a CHP officer that also doubles as a body guard.
But let’s be honest. The newspaper was told by one legislative chief of staff that the service is intended to prevent drunk driving by legislators.
So in a way it is about keeping our streets safe.
Too bad that when the taxpayer paid drivers pick up said legislative lushes instead of taking them home they don’t take them to the middle of Nevada and dump them out.
If enough of them take such rides, it might keep our wallets safe as well.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.