Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Aftermath

California was in no mood to approve short term solutions yesterday as the map demonstrates. Mainstream politicians have not brought before the voters fundamental changes to our socioeconomic structure such as the ones I discussed in yesterday's entry, because they are perceived as politically inviable. Voters have demonstrated that the short term solutions they were asked to approve are not politically viable either. It will be interesting to see how politically viable the cuts in programs and social services which are now being threatened will be, and what effect they will have on the society in the context of a plummeting economy. The opportunity for real changes is the best when the society has collapsed, or is perceived as being on the verge of collapsing. May Californians see the light and transform their socioeconomic structure which is neither ecologically, nor economically sustainable, and which I would characterize as sadomasochistic.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Useless Election

Today, California is voting on six initiatives that have all been placed on the ballot by the state legislature. Among them, proposition 1A extends recently passed tax increases for two additional years. Three of them combined will raise $6 billion dollars through borrowing and redirecting money, thus reducing the projected budget deficit to $16 billion from $21 billion. A mass of mainstream politicians including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa support the measures which were the result of the most overdue budget in state history. The Los Angeles Times endorsed all of them except 1B. Five out of six are expected to lose and the measure with the most minimal impact, limiting pay increases for legislators if there is a budget crisis, is expected to pass.

I have not been paying much attention until very recently, don't plan to vote, and have taken the time to learn about the propositions out of curiosity. The measures are largely short term solutions that avoid fundamental changes the state needs to make, such as reforming proposition 13, which Arnold Schwarzenegger has explicitly opposed in the past. Borrowing $5 billion from future lottery earnings essentially relies upon the same logic as borrowing $15 billion to fix the budget problem in 2004. Except now the problem which Arnold Schwarzenegger pledged to fix when first elected is worse than ever. According to the election material provided by the Secretary of State of California, "Even with the adoption of the 2009-10 budget package and assuming that all of the propositions on this ballot pass, it is expected that the state would face multibillion-dollar budget shortfalls in the coming years."

Yet Arnold Schwarzenegger has never considered taking the advice of his economic advisor in 2003, Warren Buffet, to repeal or reform proposition 13. Neither have the voters been asked to approve a reform of this measure, even though a reform of this measure is ostensibly of mutual interest to the Governor and the average Californian. The proposition capped property taxes and created an unfair property tax system which contributes to the budget crisis, shortchanges the education system and local governments, and creates housing scarcity and higher housing costs.

We've also never been asked to vote for universal healthcare, even though bills have been introduced in the legislature in the past. We've never been asked to fund the mass transit system our state direly needs, and we've never been asked to vote for publicly financed elections. We've never been asked to make the fundamental changes which are necessary to create a fairer and more sustainable society.

California collects most of its revenue from the personal income and the sales taxes. During what is being referred to as the most severe recession since the 1930s, revenue from such sources will fall more precipitously than revenue from property taxes. The palpable sudden loss in wealth, power, and prestige that the U.S. is undergoing is the sound of the empire crumbling. California must transform itself and not allow itself to be buried under the rubble by perpetuating a system which is regarded as malfunctional .

The election is as useless as Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor. He pledged to fix the budget problem, now its' worse than ever. He denied that California had a revenue problem, but instead had a spending problem. The current drastic conditions have changed his mind. He began as a right wing advocate, only to confront defeat, and subsequently move further and further to the center until now he's just about the same as the man he replaced, Grey Davis.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is historically important not just because he's a movie star married to a Kennedy, but also because he broke with the Anglo-saxon hegemonists. During newscasts covering budget negotiations anchors and reporters have commented, "Arnold is not acting like a Republican, he's acting more like a Democrat." Every significant piece of legislation which he has signed during his governorship is virtually guaranteed to have been written by a Democrat. The most historically important perhaps being AB 32, The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which was not only written by Democrats, but by a Mexican! Fabian Nuñez and Fran Pavley coauthored the bill. What awaits us after Arnold is perhaps the first Mexican governor of California since Pio Pico.

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