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Passing The Borrowed Buck

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Wow! The new Blogcritics site! Real futuristic! I dig the fins!

But I digress. I did have a reason for posting, so I should get to it.

One of the worst recent political disasters Californians have imposed upon themselves was the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor of California. The reason he is one of the worst is that he refuses to use his star power to break up the legislative logjam we Californians know as the State Legislature. Arnold would rather increase California's indebtedness than confront the high priests of political privilege over their irresponsible expenditure of precious tax revenue.

Both parties share in the blame for the Legislature's malfeasance, since both sought to stabilize their relative power through redistricting (read:horse-trading) safe seats for each other. This has negated any movement toward dealing with California's many important needs.

Because neither party wants to be the one to upset the horse-apple cart, the best budget that they could enact only came about when Arnold called the party leaders into his office and got them to hammer out a passable compromise. This passable compromise — a sell-out of the voters of California — essentially dumped the tough decisions about what to cut and how much upon the people of California. Is that the best he could do? we think not!

Unfortunately, the voters of California are only offered a few limited choices among which to select for fiscal pruning, and have to make these decisions based on faulty and deliberately misleading information. The Governor's office chose only to issue a statement of the "available" budget choices – which noticeably did not include the police, fire, or private business subsidies hidden away in the darkest recesses of the deal. This perfidious political protocol did not, however, protect the prisons, public health, or education – things that directly benefit the public – from the newly-sharpened budget knife. KXTV Channel 10 in Sacramento, California found this to be so, stating in a recent report that "… the hardest hit areas would likely be education, and the prison system, possibly including early releases for inmates." Certainly, expediency and a desire to retain their seats prevents legislators from taking responsibility for unpopular acts.

I'm not naive enough to believe that these specific budget items shouldn't be examined for spending cuts, but I tend to agree with Ballotpedia's revelation of the sleight of hand at work with Prop 1A: "Although the measure is characterized as a limitation on state spending, it does not cap the amount of revenues that could be collected by the state or the amount of spending that could occur." This fact alone stands as mute indictment of the legislators' attempt to evade their responsibilities to the people of California.

A bad bill is still a bad bill. I tend to agree with The ex-Hollywood Liberal, who states his opposition to Prop 1A's State "Rainy Day" reserve as "nothing more than another pot of money to feed the big government monster." Allow me to provide an example which would fit this description.

Central Valley farmers are currently clamoring for relief from environmental water usage regulations and regulations, and they will expect their pet "conservatives" in the Legislature to ensure that they get their way – at public expense – as was past practice. The most likely way the necessary funds would be raised would be to hike the user fees for water customers in a manner which doesn't require the legislature to take any action. If the benefiting farmers truly believed in the free market, they would find ways to compete in it. Stiffing their work force on their wages is already a current and on-going strategy, so lowering their expenses in other ways is now all they could do. Changing the ways they waste water would be a wonderful way to begin, but as long as they can pilfer the public purse to cover their willful ignorance, this isn't going to happen.

But then, an ignorant public suits private business concerns. The nonpartisan California Legislative Analyst's Office announced in early March that tax revenues are down significantly. California's government appropriated $8 billion more for education than realized by tax revenue. Ergo, in the on-going effort to avoid their benefactors paying for a public benefit in which they share, attacking education is a constant goal of the lapdogs of "private" enterprise, the Republicans. Blaming the teachers for the high costs of education is a frequent tactic used by them, but it's clear that those who advocate reducing teacher salaries as a solution don't teach. The job is so frustrating that many teachers have gone into other lines of work rather than continue as teachers. Usually, it's the good teachers you don't want to lose who leave. (Disclosure: many of my relatives are teachers, and this observation comes from their reports)

About pessimist

  • Bliffle

    Words to live by:

    “Damn Party affiliation to Hell! Turn off the TV! Vote the issues and not the party!”

    You are exactly right. Until voters realize that their principles are only mimicked by cheap politicians currying votes, the politicians will continue to victimize us with fakery.

    Politicians come and go, but the evil they do lives on long after them.

    In CA Arnold has used a trick developed long ago in DC: separate all spending into ‘contracts’ and ‘entitlements’. ‘Contracts’ are the no-bid handouts to your friends that are backed by ‘Full Faith and Credit’ and cannot subsequently be cancelled or re-negotiated. “Entitlements” are programs for the general public or needy groups in the public who have weak political influence, like children, aged, disabled, crazy, etc.

    Then, later, when the budget squeezes come, you say “we can’t cut or negotiate those contracts, they’re backed by Full Fail And Credit. But those ‘entitlements’ are charity to the leeches, let’s cut them!” So, school budgets are cut, tennis courts closed, city parks deteriorate.

    See, it’s easy to be a swindller: study politicians.

    The only way to control them is to reject their dilatory politicking (over junk issues like gay marriage, abortion, etc.) and vote the issues.

  • roger nowosielski

    It’s almost incredible how Arnold has squandered his star power. He could have easily broken the California legislature’s stronghold on the state within his first two years in office. But it takes a principled person to do it. Instead, he took the easy way out, trying to please everyone.

  • Bliffle

    Arnold was partly victimized by his own naive preconceptions, partly by the absurd requirement for 2/3 legislative approval on budgets, and partly by Grover Nyquist twisting arms on republican legislators to make them SIGN a document saying they will never vote for a tax increase.

  • roger nowosielski

    Well, wasn’t he stuck with the “2/3″ part?

  • Bliffle

    Yes, Arnold was stuck with it.

    I think the CA finances have become so screwed up that the state has to be divided up into several new states (which would also improve our representation in the senate – if the damn thing has to be retained we should at least get better representation equity).