Two Months To Midnight

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.