Sunday, August 17, 2003

The CA Recall

The LA Times published a big spread comparing the leading candidates answers to a single issue - the increase in vehicle licensing. Under the current plan, approved by the legislature and signed by Gov. Davis, fees on vehicle licensing will triple. By doing so, $4 billion in revenues will be raised. This is a small but significant portion of the $35 billion deficit in the CA state budget.

Most candidates are running with this as their main issue - if elected, I will repeal the tripling of the fee. So the Times asked each campaign: Would you really repeal this law and, if "Yes", where are you going to raise the $4 billion in funds that this measure provides?

In other words - talk is cheap. How are *you* going to manage California's fiscal crisis?

Arnold the Actor did not even bother to reply. Yup, the big Rethuglican front-runner doesn't think he has to bother giving people real answers. Loser.

The Rethuglican morons who lost the last election still hold to the same line - cut services for poor people, let the infrastructure of the state go to hell, don't tax the rich. Simon will cut all state services across the board, and the others all claim they will find the money by cleaning up government fraud and abuse. OK, good enough. How are you going to fund the enforcement and investigative agencies needed to root out the "fraud"? How do you know there is $35 billion in fraud going on such that you can balance the budget just by getting rid of it? Aren't you really saying you intend to lay more state employees off, cut services to ordinary Californians, and then finger-point at Mexican migrant labor as the source of the state's woes? Like you Rethuglicans always do? Or will you admit your dirty secret - you will pass the SAME budget measures Gray Davis is trying to get passed, with the same taxes, except now your Rethuglican buddies in the legislature will vote yes instead of stonewalling? Liars.

Huffington and Camejo propose taxing wealthy Californians and/or corporations at a higher rate. Sounds good until you realize that you can't do either without getting a super-majority in the legislature - which is what is preventing Davis from getting moderate measure passed in the first palce. So, an 8.5 for social activism, a 0 for political reality. Also, taxing companies is a sticky wicket. Some have excess profits (Enron, anyone?) but often are not CA corporations, while small businesses are just getting by in the stagnant economy, and can't cough up more until the business environment gets better.

The only candidate who had an answer with any substance was Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante. He would exempt the first $20K value of a vehicle, so as not to unduly penalize low and moderate income citizens, which would cut the revenue by $2 billion. He would then increase the alcohol and cigarette tax to make up the amount lost by exempting the first $20K value of a car. These are measures that try to address conflicting class interests in the state (c'mon folks, this is a class war between the rich and the non-rich, complicated by the usual racist, homophobic, and religious hysteria that grips Central Valley Californians. Get a clue), and has a chance of being approved by the legislature.

The real problem is the super majority (2/3) required to pass the budget. It needs to be made a strong majority (55%, the same as school bond measures) which allows budgets to be passed but not rubber-stamped. Right now, a minority of legislators can hold the entire state hostage to their ideological posturing, circumventing reasonable majority rule.

Meanwhile, the 5th largest economy in the world (if California were a nation, not a state) is unable to provide social services or get the economic engine back up to speed. Think of it this way - had California not been so badly fucked over by George W. Bush's buddy Kenny Lay and the other "energy bidness" robber barons, the *world* economy would be much stronger, the national economy would probably be growing at a good clip, employment would be higher (though not back to Clinton-era levels), and individual families would not be struggling so hard to make ends meet. California would not have lost BILLIONS down that open rat hole.

It is the economy, stupid.


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