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How To Succeed In California Without Really Trying

by: David Dayen

Mon Jul 20, 2009 at 21:40:30 PM PDT

After witnessing enough of these budget negotiations, I've finally found the formula, under this broken system, to get the best of any deal.

Whoever cares the least about the outcome wins.

If you don't care whether children get health care, whether the elderly, blind and disabled die in their homes, whether prisoners rot in modified Public Storage units, whether students get educated... you have a very good chance of getting a budget that reflects that.

If on the other hand you claim to care, you will concede and concede and concede so you can at least play the responsible part and say at the end that you didn't completely eliminate the social safety net, though what you did get in return will be totally unclear.

And you will do it every single time.

How anyone in public service who claims to care lives with themselves under this current system, then, when your proportion of caring is inversely related to the proportion of care your constituents will receive, is baffling to me.  You'd think at some point over the last 31 years, someone would cry "Stop!"

UPDATE by Brian: I just wanted to add a simple link to meetnori.com, the site that produced that video. To say it is powerful is an understatement, but when you get the full background of Nori's story, you'll feel depressed all over again. Sorry...

David Dayen :: How To Succeed In California Without Really Trying
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inverse disproves (0.00 / 0)
I reject all the thinking behind this. Do Democrats care more by hating so much as to vote for the GOP crap?


The rule is Democrats cave. GOP wins.

Voting for big 5 budgets is not a sign of caring, it is a sign of incompetence.

Twitter: @BobBrigham

Did I say care? (0.00 / 0)

I said claim to care.

I'd love to hear the 23-dimensional chess that turns an innately conservative budget system progressive, however.

[ Parent ]
do what you've done and you get what you've got (4.00 / 1)
You are right in pointing out the difference between Democrats claiming to care and then supporting Bass and Steinberg after the winter budget and May 19th and now this.

"Leadership" should be treated under three strikes and literally locked up for good as their crimes are far more devastating then the crimes of your average lifer.

Twitter: @BobBrigham

[ Parent ]
You are so right... (0.00 / 0)
"Leadership" should be treated under three strikes and literally locked up for good as their crimes are far more devastating then the crimes of your average lifer.

Where are the tar and feathers, rails for riding them out of town, or stocks in the public square and a goodly supply of rotten tomatoes?

Where is the leadership of the Democratic Party that would make a travesty like this impossible. Sure as hell ain't Newsom.

Stainberg and Bass are in an intolerable position, but they have done nothing effective as far as I can see, to appeal to the people to just say no to such a terrible deal.

How could a constitutional convention improve anything? Where is the leadership?

This deal is a shameful disaster. How has our wonderful state come to this?  

[ Parent ]
Not to be cynical, but... (0.00 / 0)
To be depressingly honest, I suspect that Arnold will outlast Ahmadinejad.  He'll go back to directing traffic before Arnold goes back to directing movies.

A recall sounds nice, but with the dearth of leadership in this state, where do we find the change agent who has the cojones to stand up and say that the California Constitution is fatally flawed?  Has that become the third rail of California politics?  "Yes, we all know that the constitutional budgetary provisions are going going to turn the state into a governmental version of Enron, but if we try to fix it, we'll get voted out of office by the Jarvistrolls, so let's just go merrily along.  As you were."

Without a political party around which to rally (and without the institutional support of a labor movement that presently rallies around the CDP), it's hard to identify how you get a movement behind amending the constitution and fixing this once and for all.

I get the now-daily Courage Campaign e-mails, I get that people are angry, and that anger is righteous, but righteous anger only gets you somewhere if you can get a couple hundred thousand people to march down Wilshire or Geary.  I don't see that in our future, and I don't see any kind of person in Sacramento who's willing to lead.

So, I guess what I want, since I feel like I no longer know what to say here, is to see, instead of all the posts on how terrible this deal is, to start seeing some posts about how to fix this.  "Recall Arnold" sounds nice, but so did Davis and "total recall."  The problem isn't the person, the problem is the paper, and I don't see people outside of the blogosphere talking about how to fix that.

yeah that's my point (0.00 / 0)
A recall would be fruitless.  Changing the structure of government is the only way to go.

[ Parent ]
A recall would be about next year's budget (0.00 / 0)
and setting the stage -- by educating the public -- for the 2010 election, with or without initiatives.  That may or may not be worthwhile, but the ends are hardly fruitless.

[ Parent ]
When people are angry, first rule is Give Them Something To Do (5.00 / 1)
It can be a recall, or it can be setting up at the supermarket getting signatures for a set of useful initiatives, or something else, but the first rule is:

Don't Waste The Moment.

People are paying attention right now.  Mobilize them while they are motivated to act on their anger.

[ Parent ]
what about the Cal Grant? (0.00 / 0)
Any word on how the Cal Grant fared in this budget slashing?

they actually did OK (0.00 / 0)
I don't think they ended up being cut at all.

[ Parent ]
We should take a page from Club for Growth (5.00 / 1)
They are the ones who are running the place these days. They did not get to where they are by initially going after the mushy middle. They started with the most conservative districts and got no tax pledges and established a foothold. They then went after the mushy middle. Now they have solidarity in the Republican Caucus. They also provide cover because the conventional wisdom says that if Republicans vote for tax increases, they will get primaried. That apparently makes it ok for them to destroy the State.

Progressives need to stop whining and start whacking the people that betrayed us. It means no money for any so-called progressive that voted for this budget. We need to find candidates that will take a pledge of no more cuts. The place to start is the most liberal districts. It means primaries or third party candidates to challenge the people who have demonstrated that they cannot be depended upon to uphold progressive values by voting for this budget. If we could turn two or three seats it would drastically change the equation in Sacramento. Even if the seat turns Republican, at least we will have an unabashed opponent rather than a hypocrite.

Here's my hesitation about that: (0.00 / 0)
If we knew that we were going to have Republican Governors forever, I think you'd be right.  But while we badly need structural reform, electing a Democratic Governor in 2010, along with willingness to employ formalistic legislative tricks like the Steinberg maneuver, would take care of most of the problems in the meantime.  With a better Governor, we have a better result this year.  So I'm not prepared to scuttle the legislative party in search of ideological consistency that Democrats, in any event, pretty much never achieve -- not at a time when we can hope for a better budget, with reforms in place or not, after what will be next year's disaster.

[ Parent ]
What Better Governor is running? (0.00 / 0)
Neither Brown nor Newsome sound like someone who'd fundamentally change the situation.  And it's not like either of them have taken a leadership role in this fiasco so far.

Let's start fighting now.  If either of these guys are really worth electing, they can start showing us now.

[ Parent ]
I agree, but a little less cynically (0.00 / 0)
Look, either of them would be an improvement -- but if either (or both) sees that taking the lead on these issues is the path to winning over the party, it will finally give these issues the prominence that they deserve.  We should take advantage of their competition as well.

[ Parent ]
You have it backwards (0.00 / 0)
"Whoever cares the least about the outcome wins"?  No, whoever cares only about the outcome wins.  That is, the winner is the side that cares only about winning and not about the consequences of stalemate.  As I've said elsewhere, it's the side that, when the Judge says that the solution to the custody dispute is to cut the baby in half, pulls out a book entitled "101 Recipes for Split Baby" and makes sure everyone sees them salivating.

The concept you've hit on is, in the mediation literature, called BATNA -- Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement.  Arnold's BATNA was always pretty good; the Dem leadership's was, in their view, pretty bad.  So, their brinksmanship was lousy.  The failure is in not inducing the public to see how much Arnold, that narcissistic sociopath, was willing to see others suffer just so he'd win.

well, some focus would help... (5.00 / 1)
And it's hard, because there are so many things going pear shaped here it isn't even funny.

But I'd argue to have an effect here, we'd need to really focus on a few things that would give us the most bang for the (rapidly disappearing) buck...

The first one that pops to my mind I think would be the easiest and could be done in a way to help educate more Californians about the dysfunction in the government (I am continually surprised and appalled by how many people are just going "Oh the legislature is f'd up!" without understanding a) the 2/3's thing, b) the existence of prior budgets being vetoed, not by leg. but by Arnold and so on, and on...).  Put together a boatload of ads targeting the whole oil companies giveaway over the last year or so.  Have them point out they are NOT taxed, the giveway they got earlier this year, the new drilling that's been approved, and I guarantee you that the entire population, left or right, can be properly whipped up given the right framing.  The Courage Campaign might be a good place to start this.

Second would be a series of ads, again, about the property tax rolls and splitting them between commercial and residential.   Alternatively, we could focus on what the 2/3's rule does to our system of government -- but pick one and focus on it.

Thirdly, supporting progressive (not Democratic per se) candidates everywhere.

None of these are new or original ideas or anything at all like that.  But what I think is necessary is to pick one and try to use it as a tipping point to push back.  Otherwise we're flailing around in a sea of possibilities.

Let's Be Honest and Apologize (8.00 / 2)
I would feel much better if the Democratic leaders admit the process is stacked against them and apologize rather than pat themselves on the back. Not only is it more honest, it also sets the stage for the political fight by blaming this mess on Arnold and the GOP.

Even better would be a few Democrats in both houses identifying specific corporate tax cuts (like the one from last February) and a couple of others and informing the Big 5 they will not vote for the budget until these are included and the cuts reduced.  But then, I have been known to live in fantasy land at times!  

[ Parent ]
Speaker Bass (0.00 / 0)
What the f@#% was Bass smiling about?  

She doesn't have to worry about this again (0.00 / 0)
until next year, she thinks.  I'll bet it was entirely personal relief -- deluded personal relief.

[ Parent ]
David is right. It is about brinkmanship (0.00 / 0)
David Dayen is absolutely right.  This has been brinkmanship.  The Governor and Republicans were willing to go to the brink to get what they wanted.

Our Democratic leaders were afraid and avoided the brink and so we lose.

I voted against the Propositions because they were gimmicks that merely kicked the can down the road.

I should have known that my Democratic representatives were cowards and fools.  They have never seen the fight for what it is, an ideological struggle. They have been afraid to go to the mat for our values.

They have been trying to make numbers balance and get a "deal" instead of forcing a choice on how we address the structural deficit.

I am so disappointed in my party leaders for their lack of will, conviction, and vision.

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