Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memo To Sacramento: Lead, Follow, Or Get the F@ck Out Of The Way (Pt.2)

Since May 19th, when California voters soundly rejected Schwarzenegger's scheme to drown our state government in Grover Norquist's bathtub, Republican pundits from New Gingrich to LA radio asshats John and Ken have been furiously spinning the results to match their own twisted ideology.

Republican legislators must absolutely, unconditionally oppose additional taxes — come hell, high water or the public employee unions.

(GOP gubernatorial candidate) Meg Whitman....called Thursday for sharply shrinking California's work force by laying off more than 30,000 state employees.

What idiot in their right mind - especially running for the highest office in the state - proposes cutting 30,000 middle-class jobs during the worst recession since WWII?

Worse, what idiots would go along with it?

Well, apparently our Democratic "leadership" in Sacramento.

Unfortunately, Darrell Steinberg and Karen Bass failed the first test, stuck in a mindset that will bring the state to ruin. First, Steinberg.

"The voters have spoken and they are telling us that government should do the best it can with the money it has. We will immediately and responsibly get to work to balance the budget and head off a cash crisis in July. Delay is not an option. The necessary decisions we must make will only get harder with time."

That is not what voters are telling you.... California is a big state and no one message from a statewide election can predominate, but the mass boycott of the polls certainly suggests that we don't want to do your job anymore. I know it's been so long since Democrats exercised their Democratic muscles and principles in Sacramento, but this election called out the political leadership for failed governance. And everyone who has studied this for half a second understands that the failure will continue until the structural barriers are removed. And so making this absurd and vindictive statement about voter intentions both misses an opportunity to refocus the discussion and angers the grassroots further.
Here's Bass:

"There are many difficult choices and a lot of hard work ahead of us. We now have to responsibly fill the budget hole that has been caused by the national recession and deepened by the failure of today's ballot propositions. I hope the bipartisan cooperation between the Legislature and the Governor that went into this effort will continue as we move forward - the people of California clearly expect us to work together to get the job done. And we will."

The people of California could give a rat's ass who works together with who. They don't want to see this level of dysfunction anymore. Bipartisan cooperation was clearly rejected last night, because inevitably that gives leverage to the minority and provides unworkable non-solutions.

These "solutions" the Republicans are proposing and the Dems in Sacramento are buying into aren't solutions at all, but feel-good propaganda built on the myth that California government, and by extension spending, is wildly out of control. 

California could fire every state employee -- including well-paid prison guards and university professors -- close every government office, stop all travel and even cease the purchase of paper clips without closing the budget gap. The government would be gone but the deficit wouldn't.

The runaway spending is caused largely by an ever growing group of Californians making use of basic state services as the cost of those services escalates. Since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took office, for example, the amount the state spends on Medi-Cal health insurance for the poor has grown more than 40%, from under $10 billion annually to more than $14.4 billion. Spending on community mental health services has nearly tripled, and the state's program that provides services for the disabled leapt from a $1.6-billion annual expense to nearly $2.4 billion.

This has happened despite efforts by the state to contain costs. Primary care doctors, for example, are paid just $26 for an office visit with a Medi-Cal patient. There is no simple way to seriously limit these healthcare costs short of eliminating the benefits for hundreds of thousands of Californians.

The same scenario holds true for prisons, where state spending jumped from $6.5 billion to nearly $10.5 billion under Schwarzenegger. The federal courts mandated much of that spending after ruling that the state's prisoners have been widely mistreated. The alternative to spending the money is releasing tens of thousands of inmates and parolees.

Similar challenges confront other big states too. Yet few of them have plunged into the same condition of financial despair. They move quicker to spot and confront financial problems as they arise. Here, problems mount fast and then are left to fester as political leaders bicker.

Folks, since we don't have any control (yet) over the Republican obstructionists in Sacramento, we'll need to put pressure the Democratic Leadership instead. We need to demand they not give in to Republican blackmail. 

The Democratic leadership should listen to its grassroots.

They should immediately stop negotiating with the governor and other Republicans on how to destroy even more of what makes our state human. The Democrats, as a whole body, not just the leadership, should assert their majority, decide for themselves how they want to deal with the shortfall, and then invite the defeated Republicans publicly to join them and take their proposals to the public, first organizing serious grassroots support.

Call and send letters now:

Speaker of the Assembly Karen Bass:
5750 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 565
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 937-4747
(323) 937-3466 fax

President pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg
1020 N Street, #576
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 651-1529
Fax: (916) 327-8754

California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton

Sacramento Office
1401 21st Street, Suite 200
Sacramento, CA 95811
(916) 442-5707 phone
(916) 442-5715 fax

Los Angeles Office
1801 Avenue of the Stars, Suite 825
Los Angeles, CA 90067
(310) 407-0980 phone
(310) 407-0981 fax

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