Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
Published: Sunday, Sep. 23, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

The true bane of good government isn’t corruption. As unseemly and intolerable as it may be, corruption – politicians taking payoffs – usually has only relatively minor and short-lasting effects.

The more insidious enemy of governance is expediency – doing something, even with benign intentions, without considering long-term consequences.

It would be fair to say that most of the civic ills that afflict California result from voters and the politicians they elect making snap decisions.

The syndrome’s apogee – or nadir – was the Legislature’s unanimous approval in 1996 of an ill-conceived, poorly designed and misnamed “deregulation” of electric power.

Its assumptions were faulty, and within a few years, one major utility had been driven into bankruptcy and another came very close to insolvency.

The state was compelled to spend billions of dollars to keep power flowing. The plan’s advocates said it would reduce Californians’ power bills, but they increased instead.

As the very shortsighted energy decision was still playing itself out in 1999, the Legislature did it again, enacting a sweeping increase in state employees’ pensions on blithe – and fallacious – assurances from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System that the boost would cost taxpayers nothing.

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