May 2009 Archives

Did the results of the special election on the budget propositions really show that the public is against taxes and government, as the Republicans claim?  Recent polling looked at the reasons the propositions failed.  Polls are a useful way to understand what people really thing because they take a scientific sample, actually asking the voters what they think, instead of just repeating something that Republicans just say.  Let's see what the voters give as their reasons for opposing the propositions.  From the polling:

  • 74% of voters polled thought the election was just a gimmick, not an actual fix for California's budget problems.
  • 70% of the voters polled said the legislature is a captive of special interests (possibly because people are learning that the "budget deal" that they came up with in the middle of this emergency included a huge tax cut for large, multi-state corporations.)
  • In a budget battle dominated by Republican demands for spending cuts instead of asking the rich and corporations to pay their fair share only 19% of voters polled said that Californians are being asked to share the pain equally. 
  • And to drive that point home, only 29% of voters polled said that the budget should be balanced only with spending cuts.  According to the polling "even among 'No' voters, less than half (46%) say the government should rely entirely on spending cuts with no tax increases."
In summary, voters resented that the legislature is held captive by the 2/3 rule, and want them to address that instead of coming up with short-term gimmicks to get through another year while making things even worse later.

Additionally, and completely contrary to anti-tax and anti-government claims, the polling showed "broad support for new revenue streams."  According to the polling report, the public supports:


Comments (9)
Speak Out California
Statement on the California Supreme Court Ruling Upholding Proposition 8

The California Supreme Court has upheld Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that denies a specified group of our citizens the same rights as other Californians are allowed.

It is unfortunate that instead of being in the forefront of civil and human rights California is now in the position of denying a core human right to a selected group.

We are pleased that the Court allowed 18,000 couples whose decision to make a life commitment to each other to keep that right, but this apparently one-time-offer is no longer available to others who wish to have the same rights as all other Californians. This has happened because of a misguided and deceptively misleading religiously-based ballot initiative that was financed by big money from out of state and the intolerance of other well-funded organizations.

This is not over. The next step is to bring the matter back to the people. This time we need to dispel the fears and hatred that drove Prop. 8 by making it clear that it is a fundamental issue of human dignity for people to have the right to choose a life partner.

We at Speak Out California look forward to participating in that effort and in finally allowing all people the right to marry in the state of California, as many other states have now recognized as a fundamental right and a matter of simple human decency.

Please click here to join our ranks at Speak Out California, and please join the Courage Campaign's Fearless efforts to organize the fight to bring equal rights to all Californians, and visit http://www.couragecampaign.org/1million.

In addition, please join the Meet in the Middle for Equality rally in Fresno, Saturday May 30, 1:00pm at City Hall.

Here is the Courage Campaign "Fidelity" video:

Please read the following statements by California and national leaders on this unfortunate decision:  (We will continue to post statements through the day.)


Comments (5)
In the op-ed piece titled, "A rising anti-government tide," Republican leader Newt Gingrich wrote last week about California's special election,
"This vote is the second great signal that the American people are getting fed up with corrupt politicians, arrogant bureaucrats, greedy interests and incompetent, destructive government."
For those unfamiliar with the history of Newt Gingrich here is a quick lesson in what you are hearing.  Newt Gingrich is a father of Republican nasty-talk.  In 1990 Gingrich introduced a memo titled, "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control," advising Republicans to use certain words over and over, always describing opponents as "destructive," "incompetent," "greedy," etc., and always describe Republicans as "humane," "fair," "principled," etc.  Please go read the memo and see for yourself.  Gingrich's advice was to just insult and insult and be nasty dirty up the discourse, and you will win elections.  And, of course, that is what they did and they did win elections - for a while.  They are still nasty and just insult and insult, but they haven't been winning elections. 

So, knowing that, take anything Gingrich says with a grain of salt.  (Never mind that Gingrich is also known for committing adultery in a car in the parking garage of the U.S. Capital, with a much-younger Congressional aide while he was Speaker of the House, during the Republican effort to impeach President Clinton for adultery!)  And ask yourself why any supposedly respectable news outlet would give him a platform to do the damage that he does.  
 
But back to the subject-at-hand, whether voters really, as Gingrich claims, expressed an "anti-government" message last week?  Does Gingrich have his facts right?  Let's check a fact. Gingrich wrote, "This model of high-tax, big-spending inefficiency has already driven thousands of successful Californians out of the state..." But everyone who actually knows anything about California knows that the reason people leave the state is because of high real-estate prices.  And the reason they are high is because so many people want to live here.  Of course, the implication (because it coincides with another Republican talking point) is that businesses leave the state because of taxes.  Studies that look at actual facts show this isn't true, either.  Brian Leubitz on Friday wrote about this at Calitics,

"He [Gingrich] highlights the Yacht Party theme that all these businesses are leaving California...except that they aren't. As noted by the CA Budget Project blog, the PPIC has shown that this really isn't true. PPIC event went so far as to say, in a report, that "it is important to be wary of anecdotal evidence of businesses fleeing the state to support arguments that California has an economic climate hostile to business.""
Can any readers name even a single business that has left California because of taxes?  If so, leave a comment.

Next: A look at the polls. 

Comments (0)

As we face this state budget crisis, we would like to remind people that it didn't have to be this way. The Democrats in California's legislature tried to do the responsible thing to keep the state running and head this off, and passed a good budget in January. The Republicans and the Governor instead wanted to create a crisis and force the state into bankruptcy.

From January, Schwarzenegger vetoes budget bills,

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this afternoon vetoed the Democratic plan to reduce the budget deficit by $18 billion and will urge lawmakers to use his January proposal as a template for implementing midyear cuts...

The move forces leaders to start over in their efforts to close a budget deficit estimated at $40 billion over the next 18 months. It jettisons -- for now -- what Democrats hailed as "the only game in town" -- because it included tax increases approved without Republican votes.

Schwarzenegger rejects latest budget proposal,

Democratic leaders sent Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger an $18 billion deficit-cutting package on Tuesday, a plan he quickly vetoed as anti-tax groups filed a lawsuit to stop it.

The activity came amid the Legislature's third special session since the November election to deal with California's worsening budget deficit, projected at $42 billion over the next 18 months.


For some reason, it has been forgotten that this budget would have solved this problem and avoided the May 19 election and resulting chaos. But the anti-tax extremists blocked it because they don't want government to work, they want it to shut down. It is a strategy they are following because it keeps their base active and brings them corporate donations. They do not believe in government, they have said so, and they have all signed a pledge to that effect.

The Democrats should be strategic as well as responsible and pass this budget again. This time if the Governor vetoes it or the anti-tax extremists take it to court they will be doing so while people's own schools are forced to lay of teachers, and their own police departments are being forced to reduce patrols. It won't be hypothetical, it will be happening in their neighborhoods and their cities. The public will be able to see for themselves who is trying to keep the state running, who is trying to keep their schools open, and who is trying to shut the state down. And if it goes to court they will be forced to ask why we do not have majority rule in California, how there can be a law allowing a small number of extremists to block everything.


Comments (8)

Government Spending

user-pic
Vote 0 Votes Favorites
Corporations have convinced the public that government and government spending are bad for the economy.

Question, was President Eisenhower's building the interstate highway system good or bad for the economy, the public and in the end for corporations?

Discuss.

Comments (10)

Democracy

user-pic
Vote 0 Votes Favorites
Over at Calbuzz they make the case for democracy,

"Since the 1978 passage of Proposition 13, when Sacramento took on the task of managing the impact of property tax cuts ... across the state, the on-the-fly reorganization of political and financial relations between the Capitol and its provinces, coupled with a decades-long binge of budgeting by ballot box, has steadily evolved into a Byzantine patchwork of stunted and often self-canceling imperatives and ideologies.

By now, democracy -- in the sense of a government by, of and for the people -- has become so completely distorted, perverted and corrupted in California that tinkering, however well-intentioned, is not enough. It's not about "blowing up boxes," as Arnold famously, and demagogically, promised to do. It's about dismantling and rebuilding democratic government based on three key values: accountability, trust and modern, measurable performance of the people and programs funded by taxpayers.

[. . .] Specific solutions aside for now, fixing the fetid mess in Sacramento will require the commitment, not just of politicians who see the writing on the wall, but also of the mainstream media, which has nurtured widespread ignorance about the business of state politics and government by systematically ignoring it: Not a single TV station from a major California city has a bureau there.

Most of all, it will require the involvement of taxpaying citizens, who must bear responsibility for choices that have yielded harmful, if unintended, political consequences.

"We need a citizen-induced fix," as Wunderman puts it: "California government is not only broken, it has become destructive to our future."
Go read, at Calbuzz.


Comments (0)
(This is a guest post by George Lakoff.  We will have more to say here on the special election results -- we think that this is bigger than just complaints about spending or taxes or politicians.  What the people are crying out for is reform of the broken system of governance in California.  George says the results of this election present the Democrats with an opportunity to accomplish that.)

Hooray! The outrageous propositions 1 A-E have been crushed by voters who just can't take any more.

California voters have rejected the nonfunctional minority-rule government that has bankrupted the state, along with the governor who led the state into bankruptcy.
 
The voters want a functional democracy, and that means majority rule. No more blackmail by a 1/3 plus 1 Republican minority.
 
In short, the voters have given the Democrats a new freedom - if they will only take it.



Comments (2)
Watch this great video:


The video is funny, but it makes a point: We need government.  Republicans say "government is the problem" but just who is government a problem for?  If you are a top executive in a large chemical corporation and your bonus depends on lowering the cost of discarding toxic wastes, government stands between you and the river into which you want to dump the wastes.  It costs the company less to dump the waste into the river, you will get your bonus, but We, the People don't want that stuff in our water.  So for you, government is the problem.  And that is a good thing.  But our government is us.  Our government protects us.

Government also empowers us.  In the 1950s President Eisenhower proposed building the interstate highway system.  That was an example of government spending, and the top tax rate was over 90% on income above a certain amount, so after executives and owners of big companies made several hundred thousand dollars additional income was taxed at a very high rate.  (They could still become very, very wealthy, but more slowly.)  This meant that the major beneficiaries of our government helped pay for our government.  And it paid off.  The interstate highway system triggered a surge of economic growth, new industries, new products -- and even greater income for the very people who were taxed to help pay for it.

Of course, at the time, some (not all) of the wealthiest objected to being taxed, even though the taxes led to even greater gains for them as well.  They were shortsighted and considered government to be a problem.  Lucky for all of us, even for them, it didn't turn out that way.

P.S. They're serious about hating government, and they really do hold up Somalia as an example of what they want!  Go see for yourself at the libertarian Mises Institute, which "defends the market economy, private property, sound money, and peaceful international relations, while opposing government intervention as economically and socially destructive" where they write in Stateless in Somalia, and Loving It,

Somalia has done very well for itself in the 15 years since its government was eliminated. The future of peace and prosperity there depends in part on keeping one from forming.
And see for yourself at the libertarian Reason Magazine, "the monthly print magazine of "free minds and free markets," where they write about The Anarchy Advantage in Somalia.

I guess if Cholera and lawlessness don't bother you, maybe you don't need government. The rest of us, however,...
 

Comments (7)
There is a myth that businesses and people are leaving California in droves because of taxes.  A recent example is George Will, in California as Liberalism's Laboratory, writing as part of an anti-tax column,

For four consecutive years, more Americans have moved out of California than have moved in. California's business costs are more than 20 percent higher than the average state's.
Notice the obfuscation.  Will cites "costs" and the thrust of his column implies that he means taxes are forcing this exodus.  But the costs that cause businesses to leave California are the high real estate prices, not taxes.  This higher cost of owning and renting in California is, of course, because more people want to live here than other places

A December LA Times story, More are moving out of California than in, made clear the reasons for the exodus,

The outflow -- last seen during the economic and social struggles of the 1990s -- started when it became too expensive for most people to buy homes in the state, and has kept going throughout the bust with the loss of so many jobs.

[. . .] "This was the epicenter of the housing meltdown," said John Husing of Economics & Politics Inc., a regional economic research firm. "People started leaving California because of housing prices -- particularly younger couples that just couldn't afford to buy a house."
The Public Policy Institute of California studied California job losses in 2007 and released, Are California's Companies Shifting Their Employment to Other States?,

... Given that this shift was sharpest during the economic boom of the late 1990s, it cannot be attributed to business climate problems unless one is willing to argue that the business climate was worse during that period, which strikes us as implausible.
One thing to understand is that taxes are not a cost, because taxes are calculated after the end of the year, all costs are subtracted before calculating the profit, and only profits are taxed.  Salaries and other business expenses are deducted before profits are calculated. Companies that are not making money are not taxed at all. 

Actually there is a tax problem affecting businesses here.  The effect of Prop 13 on commercial real estate gives a tremendous disadvantage to new businesses - the very entities that provide most new jobs.  Commercial property held for a long time has a much lower tax rate, providing advantages over innovative new companies.

Another tax problem (data from California Budget Project) is that the poorest fifth of California's households earn and average of $11,100 a year and pay 11.7% of their income in taxes, while the wealthiest 1 percent bring in an average of $1.6 million and pay only 7.1% of their income in taxes. 

Looking past the surface hysterics there is something disturbing about the implications of this conservative-corporate threat to move companies rather than pay taxes.  What does the threat say about their perception of the relationship between the people and the corporations?  After all, who is supposed to be in charge here?

Corporations are creations of our government and We, the People created them to benefit US.  (Why else would we have created them -- to harm us?)  Our laws enable their existence in the first place, our courts enforce the contracts and settle disputes, our police and firefighters protect them, they deliver their goods on our roads, and we educate and train their employees.

We created these entities, and gave them rules.  And now they are telling us that if we ask them to share the gains with us, they will throw a tantrum, pack up and leave?  It sounds like it is time for We, the People to put our foot down and explain the rules: We tell you what to do, not the other way around.     



Comments (8)
Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen ("Single-Bullet") Specter switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party this week.  Rush Limbaugh reacted to this news by welcoming Specter's departure, and added, "take McCain with you."

Specter left because the extremist wing of the Republican Party -- the ones who listen to and agree with Rush Limbaugh and will tolerate absolutely no compromise of any kind from the most extreme conservative positions -- have taken over and are driving others out.  This rightmost element, who call themselves the only "real Republicans" have a special name for people like Arlen Specter and John McCain.  They call them "RINOs."  RINO stands for "Republican In Name Only" and refers to Republicans who are not conservative enough to meet approval of the absolutists.  (What is conservative enough?  Half of Texas Republicans want Texas to secede from the United States.)

Arlen Specter is hardly a liberal.  He has a solidly conservative voting record, (after switching parties he voted against President Obama's budget), but not conservative enough for the hard core purists.  John McCain won the ire of this element for not supporting torture.

The Limbaugh branch of the party have been working to drive moderate-right members like Specter and McCain out, and are increasingly successful.  Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe, another target of this element, warned that,
 
"being a Republican moderate sometimes feels like being a cast member of 'Survivor' -- you are presented with multiple challenges, and you often get the distinct feeling that you're no longer welcome in the tribe."
This demonstrates just how far the Republican Party has moved from its roots.  They have drifted so far away from their mission that even their last Presidential candidate is being urged to leave the party!  They have drifted so far from their mission that the "party of Lincoln" has a solid contingent supporting having their states secede from the Union!

This hard-core extremism is also being demonstrated in California, where not a single Repubilcan will vote for a budget -- any budget -- because their strategy for the state is to "let it go into bankruptcy, let it go off a cliff, we need to prove a point."  The reason that crazy-sounding line has quotation marks around it is because it is a quote.  It is also the definition of extremism.  And, combined with the 2/3 rule that lets them block budgets, it is the reason California is becoming ungovernable.

Comments (0)
OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Join Our Mailing List
Email:




About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

April 2009 is the previous archive.

June 2009 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.