Friday, May 15, 2009

California Headed for Disaster Again

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.


  1. Democrats keep spending money and Arnold tried to fight it but was put in his place so now he just gets rolled every time.

    This state is a mess thanks to high spending.

  2. Harrison, I think you just proved my point. You are surely entitled to take the position that the whole problem is too much spending, but you can never win that argument. It is like a husband wife arguing about why they are running up debt. One says it is because they spend too much, and the other one says it is because their income is too low. Guess what? They're both right! So the only way to solve the problem is to put all options on the table, including cutting spending and also including trying to find ways to raise revenue. This is just a political reality if nothing else. And even if it were true that the whole problem is that the government spends too much, you should recognize that cutting spending is not going to be a painless solution either. Real teachers will be fired, and real students will suffer with larger class sizes. Real prisoners will be released early. And real patients will not find treatment at hospitals. If it were easy, we would have done it already.

  3. The less you spend the more you have. What happened is CA made a lot of money (read: took from taxpayers) when the economy was good and the Democrats spent like bandits. Tax income fell and spending stayed at previous levels. Now instead of cutting spending we get BS ads saying they will cut our firefighters and police. There is tons of pork in the CA budget, which Arnold tried to fight when he took office but he lost in the propositions and were rebuked by the voters so he just went along with the Democrats.

    It is too much spending. Remember, the government takes the citizens money and spends it, should they not take less of it when they have less of it?

  4. Here is the flaw in your logic: we live in a democracy where the people are sovereign. WE are the government. They government is not THEY taking OUR money. The government is US making collective decisions about how to spend some of OUR money. And our representatives spend our money on things that WE want. Everything that the government spends money on is voted on by our representatives. And most of us approve of most of the things that our representatives spend money on. So when revenues do not match expenditures, we have painful choices to make, because a lot of us think the government should be spending even more money on schools and hospitals and roads and lots of other things.

  5. This is true only in text books. Right now in Kalifornia we are getting all of these urgent ads saying our police and firefighters and teachers are being fired because the state is poor. Nevermind all of the pork in the budget that could be cut... politicians know if they layoff some teachers and police that people will panic and vote for whatever is needed. This is how the voter is manipulated. Sure, people could vote everybody out of office and, ultimately it is the voter's fault, but let's be realistic most people don't even know who the VP is much less follow budget issues.

    And if you get down to it and ask people about many of the programs that are funded they can't believe their tax dollars are going for that.

    The governmnet should take the minimum amount of money out of my pocket to get the job done. There has been a 60% increase in governmnet spending in Kalifornia and this show that this is not the minimum amount to get the job done.