Friday, May 15, 2009
We have a bunch of truly awful propositions on the ballot next week, but if we don't support them, the state appears headed for even worse short term disaster than already exists. Conservative commentators, like my friend Hugh Hewitt, are saying that a no vote will demonstrate the people's rejection of tax and spend government. The trouble with that theory is that a lot of more liberal analysts, like Calitics, are also calling for a no vote. The polls show almost all the propositions, except the most trivial one cutting legislators' pay if they can't pass a budget, headed for probable defeat.
The governor is attempting to scare people with the contingency plans for dealing with this budget shortfall, and people should be scared, because these plans will entail some real pain. It is hard to see how anyone will benefit by cutting the budgets of schools and hospitals and prisons, and no one should be cheerful at the prospect of having to make such cuts.
Having lived through what was essentially a bankruptcy for New York City in the 1970's, I remember what it was like when city services all went to hell, and the city was unsafe, dirty, and basically non-functional. But what ultimately saved New York City was that people were forced to get together and agree on a plan that required that sacrifice be spread fairly among all of the players. The unions had to take pay cuts; people had to accept even fewer services; and everyone had to pay more taxes. Felix Rohatyn still likes to talk about his glory days saving New York City from ruin, and how the lessons learned at that time can be applied today. And I think he's probably right about that.
Unfortunately in California right now, everyone would rather play the blame game, or perhaps it is a game of chicken, rather than sit down at the table in a cooperative manner and do what is necessary to get the state fiscal house in order. The Democrats close their ears when talk comes to service cuts, and the Republicans close their ears when the talk turns to tax increases. So I almost think it might be necessary for these propositions to fail on Tuesday, and for the fiscal sky to fall in, before all the players will be motivated to sit down and agree on a serious package of BOTH service cuts and tax increases that will be necessary to bring the budget back into balance. That said, I'm still not sure I am ready to vote on Tuesday knowingly to cause a disaster on Wednesday.