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Two Months To Midnight

by Mytheos Holt, published

Governor Schwarzenegger's continued persistence in the face of Democratic demands for higher taxes is, as already mentioned, one of the more risky moves of the governor's political career.

With only two months to go before California completely runs out of money, there are many people who are looking frantically for some way to shift the blame either from Schwarzenegger to the Democrats, or from the Democrats to Schwarzenegger. One YouTube video even compares Schwarzenegger explicitly to Scrooge, from Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, a frenzied reaction that betrays the desperation which the Left must feel when faced with a governor who, for years, they probably thought would cave in to their demands if they going ever got politically tough.

Now, staring down the barrel of Governor Schwarzenegger's metaphorical shotgun, California's Left wing is shocked and horrified to at last discover that "Hasta la vista, baby" wasn't actually a bad campaign slogan intended to drum up Hispanic support, after all!

As this is still the season to be jolly, (it's still Christmas, you know) and a little holiday charity may be in order, it might be less productive to make nasty remarks about the sad state of Schwarzenegger's opposition than to genuinely reflect on what caused this budget crisis in the first place. In this respect, there is blame to be laid at the feet of many people, Schwarzenegger and the Democrats included. As the World Independent Newspaper reports, one of the problems which Schwarzenegger has faced is an inability to manage the budget effectively because of "Direct Democracy." The instances of "Direct Democracy" the report cites are shamelessly biased (Proposition 13 caused the budget crisis!), but still hold a grain of truth. There are times when, conceptually speaking, a measure limiting taxes might be undesirable, even if its consequences are desirable 99 percent of the time otherwise. Thirty years ago, it seems unlikely that anyone could anticipate a time when California would run out of money, as no state has ever done such a thing. But as it may happen now, Prop. 13 is getting a bad rap for not being designed for an unforeseeable situation - unjust, perhaps, but still a good point.

But there are other problems with the "direct democracy" process besides tax limitations, and the biggest one has to do with controlling spending. People tend to be extraordinarily cavalier with other peoples' money, and even if all the direct ballot measures trying to increase spending don't always pass, they often center on emotionally satisfying areas of spending that are very difficult to refuse.

It's worth noting that similar propositions that were on the ballot in 2008 - Proposition 1a, Proposition 2, Proposition 3 and Proposition 12 - all passed. This is no accident. It's very hard to say no to increased spending to high speed rail, more protection for farm animals, increased spending on children's hospitals or increased veterans' benefits. But like bulimic children in candy shops, California's citizens continually need to understand that no matter how large and sweet a particular bit of welfare statism might sound, consuming too much of it will ultimately lead to a need to purge.

That, or the citizens may end up choking on their own profligacy, and need a strong-armed governor to come in an execute the Heimlich maneuver. Whichever result happens, California's government needs to move quickly, before mommy runs out of money and the candy shop permanently closes, leaving its customers to starve.

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