Before the music swells, the long dissolve, and the credits roll, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his merry band of right-wing Republicans who control a third of the state legislature are intent on making one final power play to squeeze the last drops of blood from California's public institutions. Schwarzenegger's hackneyed "State of the State" address was pathetic and unconvincing. If it weren't for his acting chops and his ability to emote on cue he couldn't get away with the simplistic platitudes that roll off his tongue. Then again, if he couldn't act he wouldn't be governor either.
"First, as bitter as the words are in my mouth, we face additional cuts. We know what that means. We know the pain it entails. What can we say at this point except the truth? That we have no choice." This is a false statement because it ignores all of the revenue generating measures that have been attempted in the Legislature, such as the oil severance tax Assembly Bill 656, that Schwarzenegger and the Republican minority have already rejected on ideological grounds.
And what does the Governor mean by "we" exactly?
"We" know the pain? Really?
Last summer Schwarzenegger told Mark Leibovich of the New York Times Magazine: "Someone else might walk out of here every day depressed, but I don't walk out of here depressed . . . I will sit down in my Jacuzzi tonight . . . I'm going to lay back with a stogie."
Schwarzenegger and the Republican minority that controls the state's finances insist on dismantling the state's institutions, privatizing prisons, beating up on state workers, kicking disabled and elderly people off of programs that allow them to stay in their homes, yanking health care from kids, turning away 40,000 college students, and gutting Child Protective Services. And all of these heartless, counterproductive attacks on the public sector are done in the name of protecting the richest 1 percent of California income earners from paying a little extra in taxes. And somehow all of these cuts rammed down our throats amidst the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression are going to benefit the state?
How can you run a state while pretending it has 20 million people when in reality it has 38 million people?
I thought Schwarzenegger told us that California already had its "Day of Reckoning."
During his speech he quipped: "If I had hesitated to attempt something because it was too hard, I'd still be yodeling in Austria." It will be so nice not to have to hear this kind of sophomoric crap anymore. With Arnold, it's always all about him.
But as much as I would like to do so I cannot put all the blame on Schwarzenegger and his lackeys. In California a myopic kind of identity politics have contributed to the same old weaknesses that have plagued the Left for decades. So long as Schwarzenegger makes the right noises about gay people and being "green" he gets a free pass to seize the opportunity of the economic crisis to dismantle public institutions that took decades to build.
Schwarzenegger showed in the speech that he intends to be a bully to the end. He must think he is very clever by trying to pit the correctional officers' union against the educators' unions in another "divide and conquer" power play with his proposal to spend more on education than incarceration. But it's a ploy that is going to fail this time around. Schwarzenegger's only goal here is to hand over more tax dollars to a private prison corporation that contributed to his campaigns, the Tennessee based "Corrections Corp.," which already receives over $600 million in state funds in no-bid contracts. On the way out of Sacramento Schwarzenegger wants to privatize prisons to make big bucks for his friends in the private prison business -- in Tennessee! His other big proposal is to create "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs" by gutting the state's environmental and consumer protection laws so his Republican friends in the corporate sector can pollute the state and victimize consumers more easily. So much for the "green" governor. This man has been a disaster for the state of California and for the nation. The sooner we are rid of him the better. He is arguably the worst governor in the history of the Golden State.
In the 1990s, when the California economy was chugging along Republican politicians said: "Times are great: We must cut taxes, deregulate, and roll back public institutions." Today, the economy has hit the skids and Republican politicians say: "Times are bad: We must cut taxes, deregulate, and roll back public institutions." Schwarzenegger called for privatizing state institutions long before the real estate bubble burst. This morning's gas-fest was just a preview of coming attractions. On Friday Schwarzenegger will unveil his final budget, which promises to be his most Dickensian yet.
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