Maybe California isn’t Ungovernable…Just Ungoverned.


The LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzick has a an angry and interesting column
in today’s paper about the budget crisis, Tuesday’s election, the lies that we have been told, and what truths we need to stop denying,

Argue with it, if you like. But read it.

Here’s the opening:

Marx Brothers fans will recall that the political philosophy of Rufus T. Firefly in “Duck Soup” boiled down to this:

“If you think this country’s bad off now, just wait ’til I get through with it.”

I’ve often considered that to be the secret slogan of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s
administration. (Just substitute “this state” for “this country.”) After Tuesday’s election, it’s no longer a secret.

Schwarzenegger had the kind of voter support in 2003
that would have allowed him to tell the voters the harsh but necessary truths about California governance and force real reforms down their throats.

Instead, he uttered the same lies about state government and proposed the same nostrums as many of his predecessors: Californians are overtaxed and underserved, the budget can be balanced by cutting waste, fraud and abuse, etc. Like everyone else who has made these claims, he never delivered on his promise.

His cut in the car tax cost the state $3.6 billion per year,
making him directly responsible for pretty much all of today’s $21-billion budget deficit.

Read on.


  • “His cut in the car tax cost the state $3.6 billion per year, making him directly responsible for pretty much all of today’s $21-billion budget deficit.”

    Arnold is the latest in a long line of Reaganite demagogues who preach tax cuts as fiscal responsibility but don’t have either the political will or the political power to deliver budget cuts that might at least rationally justify their tax cut dogmas. The worst in this line was Howard Jarvis and his criminally insane Proposition 13, which has hamstrung the state for nearly two generations and given big business enormous undeserved “grandfathered” cuts in property taxes. This shameless, economically illiterate demagogy- which I well remember when Arnold was running on his “smash the car tax” bamboozlement – is the primary reason California is currently in trouble. That Arnold’s “car tax” demagogy can be nearly directly linked to the scale of the current crisis is beyond ironic. It’s shameful. This entire mess has been made easier by the Proposition process – which has also gone into the red zone of political opportunism and insanity over the years – and the absurd notion that the legislature needs a two-thirds majority to make tax policy. The public is complicit, voting in “feel good” props and half-baked demagogues promising a low-tax nirvana without any honesty about the consequences, but it’s truly been a crisis of leadership. Economically illiterate, opportunistic rightwing “anti-tax” demagogy – unhinged from any respsonsible notion of governance or any coherent political movement to actually cut the services that the populace demands – is at the root of this madness. Any rightwing “fiscal watchdog” politician who can’t achieve a political program of spending cuts BEFORE enacting tax cuts is a fraud – but this bullshit sleight-of-hand is what the GOP is reduced to. Of course, when you’ve got a party that rallies around phonies like Joe the Plumber and Sarah Palin (who is in practice the most “socialistic” governor in the US) , you know it’s little more than a cult – an empty shell of deceptive rhetoric from rightwing gasbags. Apparently even Joe the Plumber got sick of them.

  • Great link Celeste.
    Great points, reg.
    Perhaps the one thing that I might quibble about Hiltzik’s is not noting the virtual corporate sabotage by the energy companies that sparked the debacle leading to Gov. Davis’s recall. Not that I’m excusing Grey Davis for his pitiful response to the crisis when it broke, but I think it’s clear that there was criminal manipulation by the energy companies.
    The CTJ link in the Hiltzik column is also pretty good. Hope everyone reads that. It does beg a question — what happened to all the money? In 2001, right after 9/11, the wealthiest California received a huge windfall of tax relief (completely unmerited) visa via the Bush tax cuts. The most adult thing we should have done then would have been a bargain with those high earners to put some of those federal tax savings into our state to shore up programs here in California.
    Yeah, I know, that makes me a crazy socialist…

  • Just noted reading Bill Bradley’s blog that – adding to the ironies – “Terminator Salvation” opens wide on movies screens across CA today…

  • Hiltzik has quickly become one of my favorite columnists. He’s one of the few reasons to read the Times now.

  • The Coming California Bailout

    Now California’s mostly Democratic political class will petition Washington for a bailout to nourish the public sector that is suffocating the state’s dwindling — and departing — private sector. The Obama administration, which rewarded the United Auto Workers by giving it considerable control over two companies it helped reduce to commercial rubble, will serve the interests of California’s unionized public employees and others largely responsible for reducing the state to mendicancy.

    These factions will flourish if the state becomes a federal poodle on a short leash held by the president. He might make aid conditional on the state doing things that California Democrats and their union allies would love to be “compelled” to do: eliminate the requirements of two-thirds majorities of both houses of the legislature to raise taxes and pass budgets, and repeal Proposition 13, which voters passed in 1978 to limit property taxes. These changes would enable the legislature (job approval rating: 14 percent) to siphon away an ever-larger share of taxpayers’ wealth and transfer it to public employees. Such as prison guards, whose potent union is one reason California’s cost-per-inmate (about $49,000) is twice the national average.

  • reg, your sources and your interpretations don’t even being to represent reality and the truth. Denials from Obama mouthpieces don’t represent intended future actions. Since Obama saw that he could take over the American auto and banking industries with infusion of money that we don’t have, then the states are next. Don’t be stupid or lie.

    From your article”

    Washington declines to help California, at least for now

    Axelrod indicated that federal intervention on California’s behalf would set a dangerous precedent. (I agree that it’s dangerous, but bailing out New York City from bankruptcy set the precedence.)

    Even if the president were to make an exception for California, the aid would need to come on unattractive terms so as not to send a message that distressed states can expect Washington to engineer a painless rescue.

    An alternative would be for Congress to pass a bill authorizing federal relief for California, perhaps through loan guarantees.

    California Democrats are working to build a case for federal intervention, noting the state’s importance to President Obama’s efforts to turn the economy around.

    U.S. Rep. (“Slobbering”) Barney Frank (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said, “Their view is they need legislation, and we’re going to try to give it to them.”

    Obama officials made plain they grasp what is at stake.

    “Obviously the situation in California is serious,” Axelrod said. “There are crises of different proportions in different states, and California obviously is at the front of the list.”

    Also, since you brought it up, global warming is a phony issue, and if George Will said that, then he was correct. It’s just a false scare to end capitalism and an excuse for a major new tax.

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