Constructed in 1968, the Oroville Dam in California was built with an emergency spillway; should water levels on the reservoir side rise faster than could be released in controlled fashion, the lower walls of the spillway were designed to allow overflow to be shunted harmlessly to the side of the main waterway.

Until this winter, we have never had to wonder whether or not this spillway was going to work as advertised, because until this winter, the Oroville Dam has not once encountered enough rainfall to test the design.

However. In 2005, three environmental groups petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to look into what they considered to be design flaws in the dam’s structure. No action was taken. And none was needed, what with the Neverending Drought and all.

On Saturday night, panicked, angry and confused residents of Marysville, CA fought gridlock to get themselves clear of the flooding that might – or might not – occur as the spillway structure began to disintegrate. The Oroville dam is in Yolo County, just northwest of Sacramento. A few years ago, a fad ran through the internet communities that follow these things: YOLO, You Only Live Once. Let’s hope that kind of daredevil lifestyle is not the case for the federal and state taxpayers that live downstream from the Oroville Dam.

So, as a resident of both California and the United States, there are a few things I would like to know.

From the feds, I would like an explanation of why these complaints were not addressed eleven and a half years ago. I would like an explanation because I suspect that I know the explanation: it’s the same bureaucratic wishful thinking that allowed another government agency to rationalize the fact that frequent burn-throughs on the O-rings in the Space Shuttle’s Solid Rocket Boosters had not caused a catastrophe before, and so chances are pretty good that we won’t have a catastrophe on the next flight. This same agency made the same calculation for the same reasons sixteen years later: foam departing the external tank (due to using a “greener” form of cement) had struck the orbiter on liftoff before and nothing had happened, so chances are pretty good that nothing would happen on the next flight.

The dam did not fail for any of the last sixteen winters, so chances are pretty good that it wouldn’t fail on the seventeenth. If this dam had been private property, owned and managed by a private utility, they would have been sued to the heavens - deservedly so. Being sued to the heavens is motivation to check the dam.

Secondly, California has a base sales tax rate of 7.5%, and a top income tax rate of 13.3%. I believe they are both records for the US.

So I would like to know the answer to a simple question: where the hell has all of this money gone?

Well, it hasn’t gone into infrastructure. The roads in Los Angeles are approaching Third World conditions. It hasn’t gone into new airports. It hasn’t gone into bridges, and it seems pretty obvious that it has not gone into dam maintenance either. So where is it?

So, as a resident of both California and the United States, there are a few things I would like to know.

Well, it’s been stolen by people voting themselves pensions of $200,000 per years or so. That’s where it is. A public sector union is a union that sits across the negotiating table from itself and one where both parties know that revenues are unlimited. And I think the reason we do not look at the amount of larceny committed at both the state and federal level is because if we did we would go right out of our damn minds.