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Arnold Schwarzenegger Presents: Apocalypto (UPDATED)

by: David Dayen

Wed Apr 08, 2009 at 12:12:59 PM PDT

I'm telling you, this special election campaign resembles the Bush-Cheney "9-11 9-11 9-11 Terrist comin' to kill you in your beds!!!!1!" 2004 campaign more with each passing day:

As he launched a radio ad campaign Tuesday for his budget measures on the May 19 ballot, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said failure to approve the package would worsen the state's already-dire fiscal crisis.

"If they don't pass, we will be facing a $50 billion problem," Schwarzenegger said at a meeting with Daily News editors and reporters. "It will mean massive cuts in education, hospitals, prisons. These are things people don't want to see cut."

$50 billion.  How does the Governor arrive at that figure?  He includes $16 billion dollars for the two years of regressive taxes that would be washed out in 2012 and 2013 if Prop. 1A fails.  He includes an expected lawsuit from education interests to force payment of $9 billion in raided Prop. 98 funds if 1B fails.  He includes the $6 billion that would not fill budget gaps from the last budget if Prop. 1C-1E fail.  And then... I don't know, that's only $31 billion, I guess $50 billion sounds like a nice big number.

You can put it on posters!

This is not the first time the Governor has flat-out made up numbers to win an election.  That was his road to victory in 2006, when he lied about Phil Angelides' tax programs.  The True Lies are back, and sadly I don't expect a soul to call him on it.

Let's partially accept the Governor's premise and agree that we would have a deficit caused by cutting two years' worth of tax increases in 2012 and 2013.  Is he suggesting that the legislature would be barred from acting on anything for 3-4 years until that future problem arises?  He might as well say we have a $200 billion dollar problem, extrapolating out to 2050.  

The "doomsday scenario" only exists if you accept the premise of the conservative veto.  Only then does California risk going over the cliff.  A responsible, functional legislature that has the ability to reflect the will of the people of the state is in no danger, which is why the only reforms anyone should be voting for are the full repeal of the 2/3 requirement for budgets and taxes.

Somehow the Governor feels that ratcheting down services and leaving behind millions of Californians is the "responsible" course.  Right now we're at the bottom of per capita spending in almost every major category - 44th in health care, 47th in per-pupil education spending, dead last in highway spending and 46th in capital investment among all states.  Heck, the state can't even get people their unemployment checks in a timely fashion.  The so-called "responsible" course has utterly failed, and the Governor and his allies want to constrict this pitiful investment even more.

I will quickly tire of these nonsense efforts to scare people into backing another layer of restriction onto an already failed budget process.  Hopefully the voters feel the same way.

UPDATE: This is amazing.  Shane Goldmacher queries the Governor's spokesman on where the hell Arnold came up with the $50 billion dollar figure, and look at the response:

"He was speaking hypothetically," said spokesman Aaron McLear. "His point was if we don't reform our budget system then we'll be right back where we were with that huge budget deficit."

I'm sure he'll continue to "speak hypothetically" in the most hyperbolic way possible.  Some would call this manner of speaking, um, "lying."

David Dayen :: Arnold Schwarzenegger Presents: Apocalypto (UPDATED)
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Dems need to show some backbone and prevent the state party from endorsing these measures. (0.00 / 0)
Dems are blowing it by allowing the GOP's anti-tax, anti-government message to be the only anti-1A message on the airwaves.  There are legitimate, progressive reasons to be against 1A, starting with the fact that all of its tax increases are regressive -- but unless that message gets out and is heard, no one will credit that reason when the propositions fail.

I spoke yesterday to an active member of a state group that just endorsed all of the propositions -- he said the regressive structure of the tax increases was never even mentioned in their discussions; all they knew was that the right wing was against it, so they were for it.

By supporting these measures, Dems are also blowing their best argument to repeal the 2/3 rules.  These props send the false signal that everything is fine in Sacramento -- that bipartisan cooperation has been achieved, and that all the 2/3 rules do is require everyone to work hard.  In reality, the 2/3 rules give veto power to the far right, and thus force Dems to sign off on -- and then publicly support and defend -- public policies they perfectly well know are destructive (1A) or ridiculous (1F).

That has got to stop.

Agree and disagree (0.00 / 0)
I think the state party ought to reject the initiatives, but for different reasons.

I pretty strongly disagree with the notion that the taxes in Prop 1A are regressive and that it would be good for progressives to use that framing. First, sales taxes are less progressive than income taxes that skew toward the wealthy, but they are far more progressive than spending cuts. Second, to restore the safety net, funding for public services, and government action to grow the economy and address global warming and energy independence, everyone will have to pay more, including in sales taxes. But we must take steps to ensure the total tax burden hits the wealthy harder than it hits the working class.

However, you nailed it in the last paragraph about how this impacts the 2/3 rules.

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave

[ Parent ]
I wouldn't be so quick (0.00 / 0)
to dismiss the plain fact that the wealthy pay on the average 4% less in state taxes than those making under $50,000.  I understand your point, which you've made repeatedly, but it does not poison future tax decisions to assess who benefits from our current tax laws.  In fact, it strengthens those decisions, because asking for every to pay up now in an environment where the rich get off so easily won't work politically.

[ Parent ]
Well (0.00 / 0)
I've been writing over the last few days about that disparity in taxes, and why we need to restore progressivity to the tax structure by instituting higher taxes on those making over $250,000. So I'm not dismissing the issue by any means.

What I see as a risk is that we reinforce an anti-tax attitude. Anti-tax views can be found across the class spectrum, and my fear is we "poison future tax decisions" by not challenging the attitudes among some in the working class and middle class that they should be exempt from taxes. I have specifically in mind higher gas taxes, but a sales tax modernization would also be applicable.

I agree that the best way to go after those kind of taxes is to restore progressivity to the code and hit the wealthy, which I've been arguing for and plan to ramp up in the coming days and weeks. But I don't think that means we should go around calling sales taxes regressive, when I just don't think they are.

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave

[ Parent ]
I agree to an extent (0.00 / 0)
Taxes are the price we pay for a free society.  I don't seek to reinforce an anti-tax attitude.  I also don't want to undermine a tax fairness argument, which ultimately is the larger near-term problem here in California.  We don't have to talk in terms of sales taxes but overall taxes, and the fact is that they as currently constructed disproportionately impact the least of society.  The late change to the income tax increases in the budget which result in the lowest-income Californians paying the largest share of their incomes is a very real issue, for example, and one that should be brought to public attention.

[ Parent ]
endorsements (0.00 / 0)
So what are the chances that the state party says no to these propositions?  With a couple of exceptions, our local groups appear to be in lockstep with instructions from their Dem state legislators.  Their eyes glaze over when asked to look at the details; all they know is that Republicans, other than Arnold, are against them, so therefore they must be good.  There has been almost no news coverage of any Democrat saying these measures are bad.  (Garamendi spoke against them at the UC and CSU meetings, but where is everybody else?)

[ Parent ]
Eric Bauman has spoken strongly against them (0.00 / 0)
And he's likely to be Vice-Chair.  Also Loni Hancock and a few others are on record against 1A.

sadly, the institutional forces won't allow a "no" endorsement on this to protect their legislators; the best we can hope for is probably "neutral."

[ Parent ]
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