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Not With A Bang, But A Whimper

by: Robert Cruickshank

Sun Jul 19, 2009 at 15:27:25 PM PDT

And so the budget drama hurtles toward its inevitable conclusion, perhaps as soon as tomorrow. Democrats have caved and given Arnold Schwarzenegger what he wanted - a cuts-only budget that does massive and lasting damage to the state of California, to the people who live here, and to our collective future. It's taken 31 years, but Howard Jarvis is finally going to get the wholesale destruction of public services he always wanted.

After resolving their major education dispute Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders hope to finalize a budget deal today that closes California's $26 billion deficit with spending cuts, accounting shifts and revenues from local governments.

State leaders have agreed on a general budget framework and gave attorneys and budget aides time Saturday to draft a bill, sources close to negotiations said....

Besides spending cuts, the budget proposal includes capturing more than $4 billion from cities, counties and special districts.

It also relies on accounting tricks, such as increasing income tax withholding schedules by 10 percent to shift money from 2010-11 to 2009-10, as well as delaying state worker paychecks next June 30 to July 1.

In the coming days we will hear Democratic legislators claiming this is some sort of victory - that Cal-WORKS wasn't eliminated, that California can again pay its bills. These are hollow, pyrrhic victories. The raid on local government funds will ensure dozens of cities go bankrupt and will lead to reckless public safety cuts, especially to firefighters. Schools are going to get another hit without any firm guarantee that they will be repaid - we haven't seen details of the "agreement" to repay the $9.5 billion schools are owed, but Arnold seems to have won the battle to prevent repayment from becoming a constitutional mandate, meaning that repayment shouldn't be counted on until the checks are actually cut.

Still unclear is the fate of health care, IHSS, state parks, and other proposed cuts. But at this point it's not clear that their exact fate matters much. Democrats have signaled that they will abandon their half-hearted efforts to demand new revenues, to close corporate tax loopholes, and to have a more fairly balanced budget. When the next mid-year budget adjustment has to be done in 6 to 9 months from now, or in the battle over the 2010-11 budget a year from now, Arnold will have little incentive to listen to Democratic proposals, since he has proved once and for all that he can get Democrats to do his bidding by holding firm and demanding massive cuts.

For their part, Democratic legislators likely believe that they are merely living to fight another day, especially on Election Day in November 2010 when they hope to elect a 2/3 majority in both houses.

It seems highly unlikely they will get that result. Democrats have given Californians no good reason to vote for them in state legislative races, as they refused to stand up for Californians and the services they need to survive. They refused to make a strong push for tax fairness. And they refused to plan for economic recovery.

This is the way California ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper. With a failure of leadership so complete, so total, as to leave the state bereft of hope for its future.

Robert Cruickshank :: Not With A Bang, But A Whimper
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A hint of victory (0.00 / 0)
Surely you don't think it wld be terrific for the state to continue to pay IOUs and have no budget!

That the Dems have no power in this bizarre game with 2/3 majoritiy requirements is no surprise. That the Dems are seeking some level of stability and a budget is also no surprise - and not a defeat.

If only we can get some real initiatives on the 2010 ballot -- to end the 2/3 majorities; to split the Prop 13 roster so that businesses pay their fair share; to get an oil extraction tax.

And ... wouldn't it be nice, and worth the effort, to get 3 more Dems in recalcitrant districts so that people can get their schools and services back.

If the schools crash - as how could they not - then won't the Repubs be branded, the "no taxes" minority -- as holding the state back from proper funding of schools and services?

Eh... (4.00 / 1)
If the schools crash - as how could they not - then won't the Repubs be branded, the "no taxes" minority -- as holding the state back from proper funding of schools and services?  

You're assuming that the people who vote for Republicans by landslide margins actually care whether or not the folks down the street have a quality education or public services.  Having listened to the mewlings of these teabaggers the last few months, I honestly don't think they do.  They're off on some sort of paleo-libertarian wanderjar that bears no relation to reality.

[ Parent ]
Yes. So we just have to outnumber them by 70% (5.00 / 1)
Whether they ever get it, I no longer really care.

I'm union staff, but not a spokesperson for my union - all posts represent my views solely.

[ Parent ]
Pshaw, Dems have plenty of power (0.00 / 0)
even with the 2/3rds rule. They just refuse to use it.

They won't do what needs to be done. They won't go on the offensive, shaming the Reactionaries, dragging them through the mud, and forcing them to do the right thing for once in their useless lives.


When it comes to Republicans, they simper. They are concerned. They are disappointed. They worry. They wonder. They wish.

Are they ever outraged? Do they ever eviscerate the opposition? Have they heard of Willie Brown?


They negotiate. They compromise, and when their compromises aren't accepted, they cave. Do they ever fight for what's right? Hell no, their consultants would have cardiac arrest, and they can't have that.

And they spin and explain and fail.

But they do have the power, plenty of power, to reverse the trend. If only they would use it.

[ Parent ]
Does the healthcare that the Dem politicos get (0.00 / 0)
cover Spinal transplants? Apparently they are all missing one.

Beginning to think I will never vote for a Democrat again.
I don't have a bazillion dollars...who the hell represents me?

It's never over.... (4.00 / 1)
......when folks get a taste of the CA Ahnuld and his scumbag posse have fashioned it's gonna be 'Hasta la Vista...' to him and his vile policies.

That is if the NYC hooker doan take him down....

Knocking the table over (5.00 / 1)
What are the consequences of, well, sabotage here?

This is an awful deal.  Can we blow it up?  What are the consequences of doing so?

Also: why does the Democratic leadership want to do this deal, and what can be done to change their incentives here?

A Screwy Thought, but... (6.00 / 2)
Why not surrender?  Not the whole magilla, but put Blakeslee & Hollingsworth in charge of the budget committees and let THEM come up with the 2/3 votes for a change.  Every year we claim a moral victory because we only cave on 90% of their demands.  Enough's enough.  Let them come up with a budget that gets the support of half of the Democratic caucus instead.  It's not like we can do any worse!

Not screwy at all (0.00 / 0)
In fact, I think it's rather brilliant.

[ Parent ]
The problem is that (0.00 / 0)
they might well come up with the votes to pass a budget, with liberal Democrats in the minority.  As bad as this looks, I don't imagine that it couldn't look even worse.

[ Parent ]
But what a great bloody shirt that would be (5.00 / 1)
It would be the biggest "please primary me and hound me after I'm termed out" invitation any Democrat could make, voting for this bill.  And the folks who voted well could run for governor or other state office and know they had a core of supporters.

[ Parent ]
I don't mean to be naïve here, but... (4.00 / 2)
What is the point of voting in state Assembly elections?

You can either vote for the Democrat, who under our current leadership has no power and will capitulate to destroying the state, or you can vote for the Republican who really does want to destroy the state.

Seriously.  I love all of this yapping about how we need to reform California, but if the Dems pass off on this deal and the budget slips out of the news, it's hard to see how any reform proposals stay on the table.

Yes, I'm absolutely bitter, because I feel like there's simply no hope in this state, not with the open sewer that is the CDP.  I accept that they can't exactly change the 2/3 rule by parliamentary motion, but that doesn't mean that they can simply surrender in the shadows rather than bringing this state's crisis to public light.

Well, the "good news" (0.00 / 0)
(and I put that very much in scare quotes) is that this budget may well lead to enough carnage to rouse the public.  Remind me again why some people oppose joining the recall campaign?

[ Parent ]
another party (4.00 / 1)
It's like we need a new state party or something.  I'm not about to vote Republican as they are actively trying to destroy the state.  But voting Democratic isn't fixing the problem either since all they do is cave to the Republicans.

A better idea (0.00 / 0)
I got an email from Pedro Nava this morning. He's running for Attorney General and is sending emails about any issue he thinks will cement support. Today's is oil drilling off the coast. He claims Arnold wants it, the Chronicle reported it, and I should oppose it.

Under normal circumstances, I probably would. But hardly anything is normal in California any more. And I think I have a better idea.

Arnold did a dumb thing when he rejected the bipartisan temporary budget bill. He thought he'd hold out for something he could trumpet as a PR win. Instead he got IOUs, sinking bond ratings, and rising deficits. He needs a win.

Let's give him his oil drilling under two conditions:
1. Stringent safety regulation
2. Approval of the oil severance tax

Let's also give him an Assembly commission on government waste. Hand out bonuses to any state employee who identifies viable savings in state government and then institute them. Then tell Arnold that, since he keeps talking about how much this will save the state, we want to offset these HUGE savings by revoking the $2.5 billion in corporate tax cuts that were part of the failed February budget deal. If he doesn't agree, he's admitting the government waste he keeps banging on about is really quite small. If he does, we get $2.5 billion to fund programs we need and want.

Arnold gets the PR. We get the money. I can live with that.

"Stringent safety regulation" (0.00 / 0)
Are there federal rules that might pre-empt such an agreement?

Are the entities that would be doing the drilling subsidiaries  that could just go out of business in the event of another Santa Barbara level oil spill?

These people make their livings off of screwing us over.  I'd rather wait for 2011 for a real oil severance tax if it came to that.

[ Parent ]
Victory-averse mindset (0.00 / 0)
Great victories require great sacrifices and daring risks.

CA-Dems just cowered away from a fight in ways strikingly similar to WGA & AFTRA last year: "We can't fight a battle with these villains because it will hurt a lot of people!"

This failure impulse embedded in the genetic code of the Left comes from a tragic urge to hold onto whatever shitty, patchwork leftovers of Commonwealth remain, as we clutch the charred scraps of civilization in our hands.

It is the weakness within our strength -- being good guys -- that any ruthless villain can see to exploit: "Their strength is that they are empathetic, constructive, cooperative good guys. So attack the civilians, attack the bystanders, attack the entire society. They stop fighting us in order to protect the remnants of their community."

Come on, call that villainout philosophy what it is: (0.00 / 0)
the terrorists have won.

[ Parent ]
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