Monday, March 21, 2011


What will Jerry do?

Jerry Brown, recently elected governor of California, has some bit problems.  He has to present a balanced budget to the legislature for the next year.  At present the revenue collected in the form of taxes is less than the annual expenses of the state by about twenty or more billion dollars.  Governor Brown would like to distribute the pain somewhat fairly between rich taxpayers and relatively poor people who depend on state services.  A minority in the legislature does not share Mr. Brown's belief in spreading the woe and oppose that part of his budget that calls for some increases in taxes.  Not only does this minority reject having the legislature enact the increases in taxes, but even refuses to agree to submit the proposed increases to the voters in the form of a legislative initiative.

If the minority has its way (in case you've forgotten, the California legislature can enact a tax increase or propose a ballot proposition only if 2/3 of the members agree) certain services will have to be drastically reduced.  State universities, public schools, and community colleges all depend on the state for most of their revenue.  They will have to accept big cuts.  Medical, assistance for handicapped persons, and other medical services will be cut.  I won't try to describe the hardship and misery that these cuts will make.

What can Jerry do?  At least, if the additional revenue is not forthcoming he must make sure that the minority in the legislature are shown to be largely to blame.  Even though the Democrats have majorities in the Senate and Assembly, and even though Jerry is a Democrat, independent voters (i.e., voters who don't pay enough attention to politics to belong to a political party) will naturally blame the party in power for the misery and the protection of the rich from experiencing any of the misery.  Some will conclude that the Democrats are incompetent and will try to put the Republicans in charge of running the state.

If I thought the Republican intransigence were merely a political trick to discredit the Democrats and that, if Republicans were given power to propose and pass budgets, they would act responsibly and let everyone share the misery, I wouldn't bother writing this post.  Evidence indicates that the Republicans are not interested in acting responsibly.  The previous governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, had just as much trouble with the Republicans as Jerry Brown is having. Instead, Republicans are hewing to the line laid down by such leaders as Grover Norquist and the late Howard Jarvis.  The line is that people depend too much on government and that government should stop trying to relieve the misery of being both poor and disabled, of being poor and poorly educated, of being unable to pay for needed medical care, and the like.  The way to make government stop doing such things is to cut off the supply of money.

Jerry Brown, as governor, must make sure that every California voter understands what the Republicans in the legislature are up to and that they, making use of the 2/3 vote requirement, are bent on putting California at the bottom of the list which ranks states on how much they spend per pupil on education, how much they spend per person on health care, etc.                     

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