It’s hard to believe a California governor could sink any lower than Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger did but Jerry Brown has achieved the impossible.
It’s hard to believe that in this the fourth year of economic stagnation, the eighth year after the bursting of the housing boom and the 12th year of unbearable budget deficits that have destroyed the economy, the public education system and the hopes of the tarnished Golden State’s nearly 40 million people, Jerry Brown has gambled the future on pipedreams.
It is hard to believe that Gov. Moonbeam who promised in his dotage to bring mature and competent leadership to the state Capitol seems to know as much about the financial consequences of his budget deals as the man on the moon.
It’s hard to believe alright because it isn’t true.
At a time when the state cries out for courageous leadership we get yet another governor dancing to the tunes of the devils — the unions who cut deals with him for temporary savings through furloughs, Democratic legislators who win deferred cuts in social welfare spending, the developers and other special interests who keep on getting what they want in the name of “creating jobs” no matter what the cost to the environment and the quality of our lives.
All the deals Jerry Brown has cut as part of a budget for this fiscal year are predicated on the same insane notions of fiscal responsibility that have ruled in LA City Hall.
These elected officials, these public servants, these self-important nobodies have decided year after year to put off facing the new economic reality as if there will be an economic boom that will lift all ships, cover the outrageous pensions and benefits they awarded public employees and themselves and soothe the wounds endured by the masses.
It isn’t going to happen. A fundamental restructuring is occurring in the global economy that is forcing Europe to face the fact they cannot indefinitely consume wealth faster than they created it. The bills are coming due and to pay them severe austerity measures are being imposed.
But not here in the good old USA which at 236 years old on Wednesday is old enough to know better. You can’t have anything and everything is what you want all the time.
You don’t hear Obama or Romney talking about anything except how they are going to make us all rich again. It isn’t going to happen. There’s too many people — 7 billion and soon to be 9 billion — willing to work for next to nothing to have a better life than they got so we have to change dramatically to create a new normal, a new America, that works better than the two-class society we are so rapidly becoming.
Jerry Brown’s soak-the-rich tax proposal seeks to exploit the resentment against the rich felt by those getting poorer these days as much as those already poor — which itself is sort of funny since his family’s wealth comes largely from his father’s sweet deals with Indonesian oil barons during the Suharto regime and presumably is carefully invested to minimize income taxes.
The same is true of most of those who have held great wealth for a while: They have all the advantages of low capital gains taxes and various tax shelter schemes. So the Brown plan protects people like himself at the expense of all those Californians who are making it big now like Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook team and many others whose activities are generating wealth for the future, not sitting on golden eggs. And, of course, it sticks it to all us little guys in the form of the increasing the nation’s second highest sales taxes.
The deeper problem was put into focus in the LA Times Tuesday by Chris Megerian who counted up all the ways Brown and the Democrats — no longer needing any support from Republicans who offer no solutions of their own — have gambled the future of California, your future, on if-comes and maybes that even if they happen only defer the day of reckoning a while longer.
Here’s examples of the high-risk assumptions approved to make the nearly $16 billion deficit:
- Nearly 10 percent of Brown’s $91.3 billion budget counts as revenue the $8 billion in sales tax/income tax revenue that voters may or may not approve in November — a number that itself is inflated.
- The budget assumes that over the next four years the state will reap almost $2.3 billion from the federal estate tax on inheritance that was abolished in 2004 and likely to be extended.
- The Facebook initial public offering of stock was a dud and will fall short of generating $1.9 billion in new tax receipts.
- The abolition of community redevelopment agencies without a road map was so badly botched that it is expected to provide only half of the $1.7 billion expected this year.
It may look great politically to Jerry Brown way up high in the sky on the moon but down here on earth it’s frightening.
But Brown’s finance spokesman, H.D. Palmer, assures us that “if the state pulls in less revenue, it won’t be required to spend as much on public schools under California’s voter-approved funding formula. That would ease the burden on the budget,” according to the Times.
So Brown’s tax plan doesn’t really put the money into education as he claims though Molly Munger’s competing soak-the-rich plan does and if it fails, the gun to your head is your kid won’t learn to read and write, will be relegated to in overcrowded classrooms with a sharply shortened school year, your jobs will be in jeopardy, public safety put at risk with all those criminals released early from prison . . .
This is political blackmail: Your money or your life.
And why? Because after all these years of economic turmoil, they still don’t have the courage to face the changing reality and deal with it.