| California voters are against cuts, mixed on taxes.
by Brian Leubitz
When the Republican realized that they could make some electoral gains from becoming the "Second Santa"with their tax cuts, they knew they were on to something. They didn't have to be the bad guys promoting spending cuts, and their tax cuts would somehow net just as much revenue because the magic "Laffer curve" would make everything better. And if it didn't work, well, the Democrats would have to cut spending and do the dirty work.
And, unsurprisingly, it worked. It has clearly worked in California, where Prop 13 and its anti-tax brethren have wreaked havoc on the state. For a few decades we were able to hide much of this through some huge bubbles and creative accounting, but that is a thing of the past. And so we have a huge deficit, a dysfunctional tax system, and a government that only allows cuts. What's a Republican to do to keep up his role as a second santa?
Well, blame it all on "waste, fraud, and abuse." It's a simple lie that, when repeated enough, becomes mantra to the media and, eventually, the general public. Take the latest PPIC poll and the latest finding:
Most Californians (59% adults, 55% likely voters) believe state government could cut spending and still provide the same level of services.
"There remains a strong belief that the state government could spend less and provide the same services even as Californians notice local service reductions from state spending cuts and show early support for a tax increase," says Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. (PPIC)
When the budget first got bad a few years back, perhaps there was a bit of fat to trim around the budget. Some unnecessary expenditures here and an unsuccessful program there. Not enough to fix the budget, but a few billion could be saved without fundamentally changing the role of government.
Those days are gone. Cuts to government expenditures mean direct cuts to services. There is simply no way to provide the same level of services for an ever decreasing amount of money. Go take a look at your local government offices and then compare it to the offices of your local bank corporate office. There are no fancy waterfalls and lavish breakrooms offering wide selections of Odwalla and Rice Krispies, there are just a dwindling level of state employees working ever harder to keep up. Teachers are spending large chunks of their paychecks to provide supplies for their classrooms and their students. Cuts to CalFire put firefighters in very real danger and mean more damage to California homes.
And yet, a strong majority of Californians are living in a world where we can somehow make painless cuts? Do they know of any of these painless cuts? Do the Republicans? Have they ever presented any of these so-called painless cuts?
But while 40 percent of adults and likely voters prefer closing the state's budget gap with a mix of spending cuts and tax increases-the approach Brown has proposed-similar proportions (35% adults, 41% likely voters) prefer closing it mainly through spending cuts. That being said, when read a summary, 72 percent of adults and 68 percent of likely voters favor Brown's initiative proposal.
Interestingly, the PPIC data also shows much stronger support for raising the highest income tax bracket(74% adults, 68% likely voters) than the sales tax. The sales tax is opposed by 69% of adults, 64% of likely voters. That particular question raises the specter of competing tax measures, the "Kardashian" tax and Brown's own measure. There is still a lot of time before signatures are due, and Brown has been working to shut down any other revenue measure. Whether he is successful or not will still take a while to know, but may end up dramatically changing the odds of his own measure.
While there have been efforts at public education on the budget by state politicians, it is a monstrous task, especially when there are players on the other side actively promoting misinformation. But, at every opportunity, progressives must be sure to emphasize the point that waste, fraud, and abuse is not an answer to all of our budget woes and to explain the real budget situation.