Things are getting gloomy in California, and I don't just mean our stormy skies.
On Friday the Governator told more than 200,000 Californians who work for the state to stay home. From now on they'll get two days off a month until June 2011.
I know. You're probably saying to yourself, Gee, I wish I could get a gig like that!
But trust me, the deal is not all it's cracked up to be. They have to take the time off. And it's unpaid.
For workers this will amount to a 9 percent pay cut, all so that the Governator can patch a tiny hole in the state's gaping $40 billion deficit. He and the Democrats who control the Legislature were supposed to solve the budget crisis months ago but then couldn't agree on what to keep and what to cut. They've been name-calling and blaming each other ever since. Sound familiar? This almost makes me wistful for the days when our cigar-smoking Republican governor used to huddle with Democrats out behind the Capitol in a big white tent.
On Friday the Governator's decision wreaked all sorts of havoc. Teenagers eager to take to our crumbling freeways showed up at DMV offices to find the doors closed. (Come to think of it, this might not be so bad, at least until we get the potholes fixed). People needing to take exams for state jobs had to cool their heels. Folks who'd been laid-off couldn't apply for unemployment benefits. This wouldn't be such a problem, except that more than 9 percent of Californians have lost their jobs.
Alaska, here we come!
We can't keep going on like this, that's for sure. But apparently Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska thinks Yes we can! Over the weekend, he and Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican, told the President what to do to make Republicans like his stimulus bill better: Cut $40 billion in aid to the states. Never mind that, as Paul Krugman pointed out in the New York Times, the money "would have provided a quick boost to the economy while preserving essential services." (That's a bit like trimming 50 cents out of a $10,000 grocery bill, but never mind.) In a delightfully euphemistic turn of phrase, Nelson even insisted to MSNBC that they weren't "cuts," but "adjustments downward." So now we can watch California and Nebraska and a dozen other states adjust downward. Sounds fun.
Obama has been doing his best to get the Republicans to like him, in the service of getting beyond partisanship. Reaching across the aisle. Blah Blah Blah. A lot of good that's done. In behavior that reminds me of high school, they keep dissing him. Even John McCain, who keeps trying to convince us he knows something about economics, has been treating Obama like he's a member of the Bowling Club. The latest snub came courtesy of Sen.Richard Lugar, who declined Obama's invite to hop aboard Air Force One.
Maybe if Obama spent less time reading about dead presidents and more time watching "Gossip Girl" with Malia he'd get it. The Republicans aren't interested in playing nice and being his friend.
And now they've dissed him again. A few minutes ago, Politico.com reported that only three Republicans voted with the Democrats on the Senate's $827-billion recovery plan.
I guess you could look on the bright side. At least that's better than the zero votes Obama got from Republicans on the House version.
I know it's premature, but let's have a President's Day party and celebrate!