California Budget Deficit? What California Budget Deficit?

The Gubernator announced his last May Revise  this past Friday.  It was greeted with the usual rending of garments and gnashing of teeth now a customary part of the California budget blowout.   To close an almost $20 billion deficit His Arnoldness is now proposing freezes on local education, more slashing of government workers’ numbers and pay and huge cuts in social welfare and state medical care, including the complete termination of Calworks. Take that , you million mooching kids living off of state handouts.

But what are you going to do when the state is running almost 25% in the red?

And Our Last Action-Hero Governor can’t even depend on a last minute uber-dramatic rescue from Obi Wan Obama.  Washington’s response to  the Governor’s January request for $7 billion in reimbursements for Federal programs?  Drop dead.  Washington’s likely response to his new $3.4 billion beg?  Ditto.

Our Term(Limited)inator in Chief shouldn’t be  asking for a paltry $3.4 billion, anyway.  If the Feds have the audacity to insult the Golden State with such brass tribute he should throw it back in their faces.

No, what  one of the most successful businessmen in Hollywood History should demand is $70 billion.  That’s BILLION, with a big “B”. $70 billion is how much more California pays the Feds then the Feds give back in services and spending.

Californians get back about 78¢ for every dollar collected here by the Feds That means for the $313 billion  per year Californians pay the Federal government the Feds put back around $224 billion  in services and payments.  Which leaves California with that magic $70 billion deficit vis-à-vis  D.C.

Rather than running a $20 billion dollar budget deficit  in terms of revenues and spending  California actually has a $50 billion surplus. That is, if the Golden State got to keep all the gold it ships off to Washington.  Who then ships it off Red States like Mississippi, Alabama and all the others who get more back than they put in to the Federal slot machine.

I heard a commentator on the Dennis Prager show today compare Germany bailing out Greece to Texas bailing out  California .  Sorry but that’s the wrong comparison.  Texas gets back 94$ per dollar it sends.  Alaska gets back  a whopping $1.84.

So it’s Germany is to Greece as California is to Alaska, SAT fans.

Note to Feds: pay us our $70 billion, please.  We’ll take it in gold, if possible.

Note to Sarah Palin:  Shuttup already.  Your state takes more federal money per dollar sent than any other and you have the nerve to cry at your own Tea Party?  How about  you send us Californians—Real Americans who pay a lot more in shouldering the burden of being Americans than you and your mooching Alaskans—the $3.6 billion more you get back from that hated American government than you send in?

Consider it a down payment on monies owed California by a grateful nation.

Advertisements

Up In Smoke

Happy 2010, y’all.  I’ve been hobbling around on a wrenched knee since New Years (its an old injury—never try to take down a 6’4”. Damn you, ’94 International Rugby finals…) so time and energy to blog has been limited.  My  first observation of the New Year is:  hats off to the City Council last week for putting off the inevitable yet again and delaying coming up with a  municipal set of rules for medicinal marijuana use by San Diegans.  (Wow, San Diego is now officially less progressive than New Jersey! I can’t wait for the City Council to take a position on Prohibition and Women’s voting rights…) 

I say inevitable because, I as lay supine last week, knee strapped and iced, it occurred to me that complete legalization  of devil weed, medicinal or otherwise, is only a matter of time.  We aging baby boomers will see to that, trust me.

You know us baby boomers.  We’re the  most spoiled, obnoxious generation in human history–the “I want it now, I want it all and when I’m done with it there won’t be anything left for anyone else” generation. (Kids, this is your Uncle Carl speaking in a moment of complete generational candor, so listen up.  If you really want an inheritance from your Boomer parents go out tonight, slip under their car and cut the brake lines.  Otherwise they will take your inheritance to the crypt,  Pharaoh style. Mayhap the people in Soylent Green had it right…) 

Boomers? Do you really think we Boomers are going to go into infirmity feeling any pain?  I mean, my knees are going out at the mid-century mark (oh,  why didn’t I run the down and out like Fouts told me to instead of going into the Bengal’s line.  Damn you, Freezer Bowl…).  What they’re going to like in twenty or thirty years doesn’t bear scrutiny.  And there is only so much OxyContin (Rush Limbaugh excepted, of course) or ibuprofen  you can take .   So as I and the rest of my Boomer cohort feel the pain of age, do you really think we won’t vote to legalize the substance that defined our generation from our parents’ in the first place?  Hell, in ten or twenty years Marijuana won’t just be legal, it will be subsidized under Medicare!  The children of the Baby Boomers will have to tell their children not to eat the brownies at grandma’s house and grandpa will spend all his time giggling in a rocking chair of the front porch.

So, kudos to the City Council for once again being at the cutting edge of being behind the times.  As for me and my knee,  for now I’ll be content deal with the pain the old fashion way—ice and Advil–as I internalize my first lesson of 2010:  Never chest bump someone younger and bigger than you on New Years Eve while dancing if you want to walk the next day.  Damn you, Chumbawamba!

Meanwhile, just what has the Governor been smoking lately?  Thinking the state should spend more on education than prisons? Sheesh.  How Cheech can you get.  And the Mayor tonight, telling everyone how the city is going to ride out its current fiscal shortfalls without some real, serious municipal pain?  That, my friends, is pure Chong.

Summer Song

 Broke my long hiatus from punditry today with an article on the city’s faux-budget. Read it, hot from the pages from CityBeat Analog, here. Haven’t written since my last, aptly named entry, “Last Hurrah” back in April. Don’t really plan to write any more until the end of August. I’m not teaching this summer, for the first time in around 20 years, so I’m taking the summer off from my usual concerns–teaching, administrating, teaching, punditrying and, of course, teaching–to pursue other pursuits (beach, patio, other writing projects, beach, patio and, above all, five o’clock proseco time in the gazebo. I’m not kidding. We have a freakin’ gazebo and, every summer day at 5, adjourn there for a glass of cold proseco. It’s a good life.)

In any event, what is there to say right now that’s worth saying? At the local level things in June, 2009 are not really all that different than in June, 2000 or 2001. The city continues to muddle along with the usual mediocre municipal mundanity: precarious finances, feckless leadership and a gentle diminishment of America’s finest city to just another over-extended, under-repaired American town. Frye will be off the council soon, Jerry will be off to gentlemanly retirement and DeMaio will be Mayor—so it has been written, it seems, so it will be done. The Tribe of Five Old White People will continue to dominate the County. The Airport Authority will continue to plan billions of dollars in new projects that will never be spent for an airport that will never be adequate or replaced. The Chargers will continue to lobby for their new stadium which will inevitably be built with public monies (my suggestion, alas, that they build it beneath a three trillion dollar convention center expansion—which, I think, around the amount the convention center really dreams of spending) whether it takes another year or ten. Only the decline of the UT and the tantalizing possibility that the new owners might realize that if Kittle and Kompany continue to dictate editorial viewpoint the paper’s circulation will continue to shrink to the sixty-five and older north of Mira Mesa Boulevard crowd offers some hope for a break in the local monotony. Who knows – by fall the UT may have a new crowd (albeit probably a bunch of twenty-somethings paid minimum wage) flogging the pagewaves. Couldn’t hurt.

Of course, things have changed dramatically in Sacramento. Six years ago we had an unpopular second-term governor disowned even by his own party presiding over massive state deficits, declining services, increasing taxes, unrestrained partisan warfare with absolutely no realistic solutions being offered by the legislative leadership lugs. Oh, how times have changed. (Dramatic pause for sarcastic effect.)

And, at the national level, we have our Obama moment, Act One. Tobacco has been regulated. Some form of healthcare reform is on the way. The economy is no longer sinking. Yay. Except that the tobacco reform is about two generations too late to really matter, the healthcare reform is going to be delightfully watered down and any leveling off of economy we’re currently seeing is actually a consequence of actions taken last fall before Obama came into office. It takes around six months or more for policy decisions in DC to trickle into the real economy—the Obama stimulus won’t really begin to be felt until late summer and, by then, will be revealed, I fear, to be too little. Unemployment continues to rise – my bet is it eventually hits 11%-12%. Foreclosures continue to mount and the other shoe of the real estate debacle—the commercial side of the house—is caving. (Count empty storefronts and commercial “For Rent” signs next time you’re out.) At some point Obama’s love affair with Wall Street and Wall Street types has got to end and more aggressive Keynesian tactics aimed at homeowners and consumers have got kick in. According to retail experts, it’s going to take ten years, at this point, to get back to consumer spending levels in 2007. If everything starts turning around now. Obama keeps going the path he’s going and he runs the risk of becoming the American Kiichi Miiyazawa, (the Japanese Prime Minister who helped keep Japan from falling into depression back in 1990-1991 but, instead, ushered in a decade plus of stagnation.) The world can—and did—survive a stagnant Japan. It won’t survive, with any stability, a stagnant United States. Meanwhile national discourse has degenerated to a nasty level that simultaneously makes dock workers blush and insults the intelligence of second graders. I’m taking the summer off from Fox, MSBNC and the entire AM dial. I haven’t heard one original thing said (Obama is a radical, communist-socialist-muslim-American-hater and Republicans are Rush Limbaugh) in months by any of my brethren (albeit it far more lucratively compensated kin) in punditry. My bet is, come September 1, I turn on Sean Hannity and Chris Matthews after a two-month hiatus and I won’t have missed a beat. Maybe, by end of summer, democracy will have come to Iran. (Which I doubt. Erstwhile president Ahmadinukejihad will emerge from this ultimately stronger, probably having co-opted the authority of the religious clerics and, thereby, regressing Iran back to a standard authoritarian model.) If democracy does triumph, however, people are going to (oh, it gives me gout right down to my little toe to write this) reassess the Bush-Cheney theory of viral democracy. Look at Lebanon. But that’s a debate for another month.

In short, I go into the summer feeling crotchety and persnickety about all things political. By summers end, though, batteries recharged, feelings reinvigorated, I’ll be back to pound the punditry pages. Hopefully in a reformatted format—one of my summer projects is to try and upgrade and integrate this blog into more comprehensive website that can be useful to both my students and you, my faithful reader. (If there are any of you left – alas, even poor Mlaiuppa has bailed on me given my niggardly natterings. ) As such, a bid you summer time adieu. Look for me when the dog days are over, if you care to.

And the Winner Is?

Well, not my homies in the California Community Colleges. We saw our ballot Prop 92 go down to a 3:2 defeat tonight proving that in politics, like in comedy, it’s all in the timing. Had the prop cutting tuition fees and raising funding for the Cal Comms been on the ballot in November 2006 my bet is it would have passed by 55% or more. Such is life. The pity is, of course, it is in the economic hard times that funding for higher ed — especially Community Colleges–is even more of a public need. You can send people to colleges or prisons when the economy heads south. Colleges cost less and yield a heck of a lot more.

Californians proved they’d rather lose their money to Indian Casinos than the tax man approving all four casino compacts. And Californias also proved they don’t like their legislators but they also know the current system of term limits doesn’t work that well–notice the narrow 4% points the prop lost by is much narrower than the 16% (58% to 42%) Governor Gray’s term limit proposal was defeated by in 2002. Most striking, both the liberal Bay Area and conservative San Diego and Imperial Counties voted for the measure while liberal LA and the conservative Central Valley voted against it. Go figure.

Oh, and there was something about presidential primaries going on tonight too, as I reccall. Romney is a dead man walking. I expect him to pull a John Edwards sometime in the next fortnight and drop out of the race even as he insisted tonight he was in it to the convention. And Huckabee has VP, not P, written all over his primary showings.

Meanwhile the Hillary and Barack dance continues though her heir-apparentness’ large victory in California has got to give the party pause. Given the size of her victory and the distribution across the state, I figure she wins 260+ of the 441 state delegates which will put her clearly in the delegate lead. Clinton won New York, New Jersey, Florida and California — exactly the big states Dem’s have to win to triumph come November. Barack (like Romney) did best in the smaller state caucuses where turnout is skewed to the party left (or right, in Mitt’s case.) I’m still betting that post-Super T day the double big Mo’s — momentum and money-swing back to Clinton. Then Obama will have to decided how long he wants to draw out the Democratic contest to the Republican’s benefit.

OK, time to pack it in. Just spent 4 1/2 hours in the studios of KGTV with Hal Clement (yes, he’s as nice in person as he seems on TV) doing election pontificating. Tomorrow it’s These Days with Tom Fudge and Gloria Penner (9a-10a on KPBS 89.5) and then a keynote speech tomorrow night to the San Diego and Imperial Counties Community College Association’s annual Trustees dinner at USD. Topic: today’s election, of course.

And if you have a chance, check out my article in this week’s print edition of City Beat.

On to the Conventions.

Birds of a Feather

What does the Gubenator and Gentleman Jerry have in common? Both are on the losing end of fiscal policy. What neither the politicians in Sacramento or San Diego were willing to accept was that the last two years were the good years in the tax revenue cycle and that the housing bubble bursting in 2007-2008, just like the dot.com bubble burst in 1999-2000, is going to take down their fiscal house of cards like Hurricane Katrina versus a Gulf Coast trailer park. It’s time we get use to the “R” word — recession — and with it renewed fiscal crisis. That’s my second “told you so” of the day.

Wilsonian

What is it with San Diego politicians who build their early civic careers based on outreach and understanding to the regions large Hispanic community, including those who are, shall we say, legal-status challenged but then, when the bug of national attention bites them, become rabidly anti-illegal?

Why do they, at least if they are of the Republican persuasion, tend to get the Wilson flu?

That would be the Pete Wilson flu (scientific name: Influenza I-Love-Hispanics-Unless-There-Are-More-Votes-To-Be-Gained-From-White Xenophobes Wilsonious variant 1996). Back in the day, Wilson was “Mister community outreach personalized,” “Mister Mayor of America’s Finest Ethnically Diverse City” and later US Senator from California who received large backing from the state’s Hispanic community.” But then he got the Presidential flu bug and suffered delusions that immigrant bashing was his surest route to the 1996 GOP nomination.

OK, illegal immigrant bashing. But I’d bet my last dollar that the large majority of those who are the most fired up over “illegal immigration”—the kind who like to sit in lawn chairs tailgating by the border they watch with army surplus binoculars—would, if given a helpful dose of truth serum, admit they’d be really happy if all those foreigners from points south were shown the national emergency exit. Yes, Rick Roberts—and most of your listeners—I mean you.

Boy, that worked out well.

And then there’s Brian Bilbray, erstwhile congressman from the 50th Congressional, a district he’s spent less actual time living in than D.C. Back in the day, when he was a South Bay poll representing the most ethnically diverse area of greater San Diego as a member of the city council and later mayor of Imperial Beach and then on the County Board of Supervisors, Bilbray was a moderate bordering on progressive on most issues,, including illegal immigration. Same when he ran and won his race to represent the 49th Congressional. Then he got voted out of Congress largely over his Clinton impeachment vote. One successful carpetbagging run to succeed Randy “the Dukester” in the more conservative (and far whiter) 50th Congressional District and, viola, Mister Moderate is now one of the harshest anti-illegal immigrant voices to be heard.

Last April Bilbray co-sponsored former California Attorney General cum Congressman Dan “The Man Who Was So Inept He Lost to Gray Davis” Lungren’s bill to essentially strip 14th Amendment protections – including the birthright of citizenship—from the children of illegal immigrants born in the US. Lungren said he thought this legislative attempt to circumvent the constitution would pass constitutional muster because there are already exemptions to the 14th Amendment in regards to the children of foreign diplomats born on American shores. Except that exemption is there under standards of international law affection diplomacy and national sovereignty, not immigration status. Congress can’t trump the constitution without an amendment.

And this guy was the top law enforcer in California?

Today Bilbray cosponsored legislation to punish cities that adopt “sanctuary” status for illegal immigrants and, more importantly, elevates the violation of legal immigration to a felony offense. Nice one. If the proposed legislation has any meaning, I look forward to Congressman Bilbray next sponsoring legislation to appropriate monies to increase the size of out Border Patrol, INS and Federal Prisons by the 500% to 1000% that would be necessary to enforce such a law. Maybe we can start building big, concentrated holding facilities for these new felons out in the desert somewhere? How delightfully police state-ish!

But, of course, Bilbray is not serious with this bill, which has about as much change of moving through Congress as a resolution to put George W. Bush’s face on Mount Rushmore. And that’s not just because Democrats would block it. Conservative (read John Birch vintage) Republicans running in ultra-conservative Congressional Districts (in California, pretty much any district east of I-5…) don’t want to see any meaningful resolution of the immigration issue, either. It is such a red-meat, code-word issue to motivate white conservatives to the polls that no thinking GOP-right stalwart would want to take it off the table.

Bilbray’s proposed bill is elections are a’comin’ demagoguery, pure and simple. Like the flag protections amendment (to wit, amend the Constitution that protects free speech to prohibit the burning of a symbol of American values like free speech as an expression of said free speech), the Congressional term limits amendment and, probably, the “hey, ain’t mothers swell!” amendment that will be offered up in Congress between now and November, 2008.

Gee, I wonder if Brian ever hangs out in his old hood, anymore? If he does, I’m sure the folks around the South Bay can barely recognize him.