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California’s Board of Equalization does not equalize anything, so even its name is misleading. It’s a tax agency, with a budget of more than $650 million, so no surprise that the BOE has misallocated $50 million in tax revenue and members use BOE events to promote their own careers, at taxpayer expense. State government has wasted countless millions on BOE’s ramshackle headquarters in Sacramento, known as the “bottomless money pit,” appropriately enough. More recently, the BOE confirms that in government things are usually worse than they seem.
The BOE has 4,200 employees and, count ‘em, more than 800 have relatives on BOE staff. This is according to the BOE’s own personnel audit, which launched back in April and relies on self-reporting. So doubtless more than one in five BOE staffers have family connections. They were hired not because of merit or competence but because some relative pulled the strings to get them on board. The BOE’s incredibly shabby record suggests that most if not all were unqualified and incompetent. Nepotism is a form of parasitism, and therefore not a victimless problem. Conveniently enough, the BOE’s in-house audit provided taxpayers with no names of the nepotistas.
In recent months, legislators have been mounting a charge against the BOE, but headlines announcing plans to “blow up” the tax agency turn out to be fake news. Most BOE employees will be transferred to a new revenue department that reports to the office of governor Jerry Brown, a born-again tax hiker who has made California’s income and sales taxes the highest in the nation. In effect, the BOE nepotistas get a promotion and Brown has good reason to keep them in place. His father was governor and that was son Jerry’s main qualification to run for the same post.
“Of the various forms of government which have prevailed in the world,” wrote historian Edward Gibbon, “a hereditary monarchy seems to present the fairest scope for ridicule.” That is also proving true of a hereditary, recurring governor.