Last year’s villains were derelict churchmen and bloated businessmen. Politicians, by comparison, escaped the public lash. It is too bad. Many of them deserved just as much scorn. Some pols even managed to combine the vices of bad bishops with the vices of bad businessmen.
Yet little happens to irresponsible politicians. Businessmen bankrupt companies and go to jail. Pols bankrupt states and win re-election. Cardinal Bernard Law rightly resigned in disgrace for not protecting the flock against sex offenders. Pols release sex offenders early and win awards from the ACLU.
In California, politicians could feast on the fallout of corporate and church scandals even as they created similar scandals of their own. California Governor Gray Davis would take breaks from supping at the public trough to condemn “greedy” energy executives. Never mind that his management of the state would make a cashiered Enron executive proud. Had he not gone into politics, he surely would have made an outstanding colleague of Ken Lay’s. Betraying shareholders is no different from betraying taxpayers.
California’s shortfall on Davis’s watch has climbed to $35 billion. Could a corporate executive lose that much for shareholders and still retain his job? Davis raided the state like the corrupt CEOs raided their companies. They placed their interest above the shareholder, Davis placed his interest above the taxpayer. To pay off his many donors and energize his political network, he hiked up spending by 36%. He gave fat salaries to state employees whose unions gave money to him, state jobs and contracts to his cronies, and all the while tried to keep the voting public in the dark about the magnitude of the budgetary crisis. Some of the corrupt CEOs at least made money for their companies. Davis just took a surplus he didn’t create and squandered it on personal whims.
During his re-election campaign, he played dumb about the possibility of tax increases. But now that he is safely re-elected he can ask Californians to pony up for his spending spree. His proposed budget includes a sales tax increase, and other tax increases are certain to follow. This is equivalent to corrupt CEOs demanding that their wronged shareholders retire their companies’ debts.
But if Davis is no better than a corrupt CEO, he is also no better than a wayward bishop. “33,000 Sex Offenders Elude California,” reports the Associated Press this week. Though public safety is a point of New Democrat pride with Davis, he’s shown himself as feckless as a libertine American bishop in protecting the populace. Crime has risen during his tenure.
Californians are justly mad at Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony for playing musical chairs with molesters. But the state government’s practice of returning molesters to the society of children is also appalling.
How could the Davis administration lose track of 33,000 sex offenders? Because after releasing them — outrageously in many cases, given the 100% recidivism rate of certain sex crimes — the state merely required that they report their addresses. Apparently the state expects rapists and child molesters to send state officials a post card from time to time.
The numbers, according to AP, are probably higher than 33,000. AP only got that number after repeated requests to the state. The state said that 76,350 sex offenders have registered at least once. And they no longer know the whereabouts of 33,296 of them. But many sex offenders probably never registered at all.
The punishment for failing to register is not severe and most California police departments aren’t even enforcing the law. The state’s attorney general blames the problem on the state’s lack of funding for the oversight program. “Our system is inadequate, woefully inadequate,” he said. “It can only be improved by putting money into the local law enforcement agencies. It’s a matter of resources.”
AP reports that the state of Washington isn’t as passive. It doesn’t foolishly wait for criminals to report their addresses. It sends out cops to confirm the whereabouts of sex offenders. In all of Davis’s free spending over the last four years — he once gave a wholly unnecessary software contract to one of his donors, Oracle — he couldn’t finance a program like that one? Davis evidently had more important matters on his mind than tracking sex offenders. He had to figure out how to get Al Gore advisers Chris Lehane and Mark Fabiani on the state payroll, and confer with his political adviser Garry South (who, by the way, no longer works for Davis, having moved on to beat “the bejesus out of George W. Bush,” he said to the San Francisco Chronicle).
Had Davis not gone into politics or worked for Enron, he could have scented out a career, like his old boss Jerry Brown did for a time, with the Church. His level of indifference to sex offenders might have translated into a promising ecclesiastical rise as an auxiliary bishop under Cardinal Mahony. Unfortunately for Californians, he chose a safer line of work, one which provides more netting for falls than business or ecclesiastics — American politics.
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