No matter your station in life, your political party affiliation or your ethnicity, if you live in California you're probably hurting and have been for years.
The state's unemployment rate has been above 8 percent since 2008 and is much higher in some counties. Income levels are stagnant. For home owners 40 or younger, nearly 48 percent have negative equity.
According to Census Bureau statistics, more than 6.1 million Californians live in poverty, putting the state's poverty rate at 16.6 percent, up nearly 1 percent from 2011. A family of two adults and two children counts as poor when its combined income is less than $22,811. Welfare usage including food stamps is on the rise. More than 25 percent of all California households depend on at least one welfare program.
To re-elect and send back to Washington, D.C. the same congressional representatives who have presided over California's slow but steady decline into the fiscal abyss is the definition of lunacy.
Yet Tuesday night, Californians overwhelmingly voted for two of Capitol Hill's least effective congressional Democrats — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Dianne Feinstein — and thus signed up for what is certain to be more of the same dismal leadership.
Pelosi is 72 years old and has served in the House since 1987; Feinstein is 79 and a California official since 1970, when she was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Pelosi and Feinstein have had more than enough time and countless opportunities to restore California to its former greatness, but have consistently failed. Their reward is a new term for each.
Also kept in the congressional mix is Lodi's representative Jerry McNerney, elected to his fourth two-year term.
Californians are apparently eager for more Pelosi/Feinstein/McNerney incompetence. Although Congress has an abysmal 10 percent favorability rating, incumbents keep winning and keep dishing out more punishment to the uninformed, disinterested electorate.
All have egregious anti-American voting records. They've lobbied for more foreign-born workers in the high-tech and agriculture industries, despite California's surplus of labor in both fields. Even though university tuition in California has soared in recent years, Pelosi, Feinstein and McNerney support the federal and state DREAM Acts that would allow illegal immigrant high school students to pay lower in-state tuition. To Pelosi, Feinstein and McNerney, border enforcement is a meaningless term that they've falsely dangled as a carrot in exchange for an alien amnesty.
Arguments that explain why voters return the same failures back to Congress election after election usually focus on the challenger's shortcomings. This year, Feinstein's opponent was the politically untested Elizabeth Emken; Pelosi's, John Dennis; McNerney's, Ricky Gill.
But in past elections, Feinstein and her equally entrenched Senate ally Barbara Boxer have faced and handily defeated legitimate rivals with accomplished records. Among them, former Hewlett-Packard chief executive officer Carly Fiorina, former Secretary of State Bill Jones, five-term Congressman and former Stanford University law school professor Tom Campbell, former state treasurer Matt Fong, and one-time California Assemblyman and State Sen. Richard Mountjoy.
The major reason that more than 90 percent of incumbents keep their jobs is simple: money from those most interested in manipulating the political system, like professional lobbyists, special interests, big business and organized labor. Less than 8 percent of average voters donate more than $100 to a candidate.
While I understand that money is a political necessary evil and further understand that indivduals' party affiliations are often deeply ingrained and hard to dislodge, I don't grasp the etched-in-stone resistance to voting for the other guy once in a while — especially if you have been mercilessly hammered in the pocketbook since the last election cycle.
Maybe the old axiom "change is good" should be amended to "change is good except in Congress, where voters are committed to going down with the ship."
Joe Guzzardi is a California native and former Democrat who never voted for Feinstein, Boxer or McNerney. Contact Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org.