Tuesday, February 03, 2009

California: broke, broken and still predictive?


Sunset over the Pacific.

Finally, as we look forward to IOUs instead of tax refunds, the people of California are beginning to understand that we broke the state government and we'll have to fix it. Here's a hopeful development.

The PPIC Statewide Survey taken in mid-January finds for the first time that a majority -- 54 percent of Californians -- believe that it is a "good idea" to change the two-thirds majority to a 55 percent majority for the state Legislature to pass a budget. Five years ago, California voters soundly rejected an initiative that would have done exactly that. ...

Pollster Mark Baldassare

The state still doesn't have a budget or any plan to deal with the deficit because it takes two-thirds of the legislature to pass one. Not a majority, not 50 percent plus one -- but two-thirds, 66 percent. Democrats have 63 percent of the legislature, a margin that would be plenty to complete a budget in any other state -- but no go for us. In the '70s and '80s, Californians fell for a right wing fiscal con, a promise that we could have the services we need without taxes, and now we have this nonsense.

Having pissed off the emerging majority of people of color, Republicans are a dwindling bunch of cranks, "dying at the box office" as their own cartoon character governor admits. Their sole remaining power is obstruction that thwarts the majority.

Peter Schrag, former Sacramento Bee editor and author of some of the best descriptive political journalism about the state, recently nailed it.

With each passing day, Republicans look ever more like a suicidal cult than a political party. ...

Forty years back ... California Republicans didn't take no-new-tax pledges, and those who voted for tax hikes didn't face primary opponents backed by their own party.

In 1967, faced with a serious fiscal crisis, Ronald Reagan signed the biggest tax increase in the history of this or any other state.

...what applies to ideological narrowness applies as well to gender and ethnicity. Of the 15 Republicans in the state Senate, one is a woman and one is a Latino. Of the 29 GOP Assembly members, one is Vietnamese and four are women. If you don't count the members of Portuguese or Azorean extraction, all the rest are non-Latino white men.

Of the 51 Democrats in the Assembly, 16 are women, 17 are Latinos, six are black and seven are Asian; of the 25 Democrats in the Senate, 12 are women, nine are Latinos and two are black.

The San Jose Mercury News, no bastian of liberalism, chimes in:

Californians should be furious. ... The governor and all 120 legislators share responsibility for this. But most of the blame for the immediate crisis falls on Republicans in the Legislature, who this past summer -- to a person -- signed a pledge to not raise taxes. ...These lawmakers constitute barely over one-third of the Legislature. But because the California Constitution requires a two-thirds vote on the budget, it enables the tyranny of a minority to trump majority rule.

Just how we're going to do away with the two-thirds rule is not clear. Paul Hogarth explains why we can't do it in a June election, even though voter sentiment seems to be edging toward breaking the dam -- and sweeping the Republicans away in the subsequent flood. But clearly, because the right wing state GOP has fallen into contributing nothing but obstruction to our governance, we'll finally have to take away their power to destroy. To climb back to influence, they'll have to decide to contribute the general welfare -- and that seems a distant notion.
***
Watching Washington these days, especially the House, perhaps California, with all its idiosyncrasies, remains predictive. Can't say the national Republicans are doing much better avoiding the "obstructionist crank" label than our local ones.

1 comment:

Darlene said...

I love your term for the Republican politicians (local and national). Obstructionist cranks fits them like O.J.s glove would have if he had pulled it down.

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