With California’s Republicans fulfilling their sacred vow to Grover Norquist to stuff government into the bathtub and destroy the most basic services government was meant to provide, California’s Democrats, who–by the way–ARE in a majority, are finally standing up to this bully governor.
Throughout this recent highly expensive special election that the Republicans forced upon us, it was obvious that Californians were not buying the lies any longer. Much has been made about how we brought this on ourselves by all the initiatives and bond issues that we’ve passed. This totally misses the point.
California’s initiative system was put into place precisely BECAUSE the state legislature was bought out by the railroad monopolies. Roll this picture forward a century and we have a state legislature that is now bought out by the current corporate elite and their minions of lobbyists that descend on a capital now devoid of most media coverage.
Initiatives exist because the state legislature does NOT respond to the needs of the citizens, or, rather, our needs are placed a distant SECOND after the corporate masters’ requests are fast-tracked through.
And, initiatives ALWAYS have problems. First, there is the language that is often poorly written, or ambiguous, and sometimes not even constitutional. Then there’s the summary blurb written by the Attorney General’s office. GOOD LUCK if that bears any resemblance to what is actually IN the initiative. Usually, there are significant parts that are NOT in the summary–the Trojan horses that haunt us later.
Not to mention that the forces for and against the initiative immediately reduce whatever it is into bite-size slogans that are then bandied about the pathetic corporate media that we have left and stuck onto the mailing pieces and slate cards that go to the most likely voters. The few who still bother. Only 12% came out May 19th. After the budget, PLEASE get on with a serious reform of the initiative process!!
Meanwhile, back at the negotiating table, the telegenic (he thinks so) governor has proposed a “reality show” starring himself and the four leaders from the Assembly. Just great!!! We SO want to see our macho narcissistic terminator posturing about some more!!!
During these last weeks, as Arnold holds his breath and turns blue while reciting his “No New Taxes” chant, I’ve been reading Ethan Rarick’s book The Life and Times of Pat Brown: California Rising (University of California Press). Gore Vidal has always admonished the U.S. as having amnesia about its past. In California, I think it’s probably NOT amnesia, because that would assume that Californians knew, or were taught, their history in the first place. Not likely. Or at least not for most. So, back to a time of giants–
“The governor walked over from his suite of offices and took the podium in each chamber, first the assembly and then the senate, greeted both places by clamorous standing ovations. After the noise died away, Brown said that his first legislative session as the state’s chief executive had been ‘the most exhilarating six months’ he had ever experienced. He pointed especially to the antidiscrimination bill that created the Fair Employment Practices Commission. It was, he said, a ‘great symbol of human progress– an achievement of enlightenment and understanding.’
There was much to be proud of. He had already signed into law 1,109 bills and had at least 1,000 more waiting on his desk. The increased aid to schools was only the second such boost since World War II. More than nine thousand poor, disabled people were provided with state-funded health care. For the first time, standards were set for air quality and for pollution from cars. Safety regulations for farm labor trucks were increased. Consumer protections were stiffened. Disability benefits were raised. Unemployment insurance payments were increased and the time limit for benefits lengthened, at least during periods of high unemployment. State workers got a pay raise.
All of it was funded by the biggest California tax increase in a quarter century, which was perhaps the most important accomplishment of all, since it provided money desperately needed by an ever-growing state with ever-growing public demands. This was not necessarily an obvious outcome. Republicans and business groups complained that the proposed tax increases were too steep. Brown said no. Cautious legislators suggested that the tax increases be phased out after two years. Brown said no. The legislative analyst urged steeper budget cuts and an increase in college tuition. Brown said no. Again and again, in other words, the governor and his allies fought to keep intact an ambitious fiscal program that raised taxes–mostly on rich people, corporations, and cigarette smokers– in order to pay for important and expanding public programs. ‘Responsible liberalism,’ as it turned out, was an activist’s creed.”
Wow!! Contrast that with our so-called leaders today. And, Democrats who supported the recall and who wouldn’t support Phil’s bid to deny Arnold his second term need to re-examine their allegiances if they’re okay with what’s happened as a result of their poor judgment. We DO have a state in financial crisis for many reasons, not the least of which is the Republican intransigence over paying for the services often most needed by their own constituents. They need to be given a new framing: Paying taxes is patriotic!
I think back to those times of Pat Brown and his incredible leadership and wonder what he would do with this mess. I wasn’t in California during his time in office, but I was fortunate enough to know him as our party’s patriarch during Gov. Jimmy Carter’s campaign in ’76 and for several years after. There is NO WAY he would allow the type of cuts Arnold is trying to force onto Californians. Our Democratic leaders must find a way, and if it’s impeaching the governor, then let’s get on with it.