With the national economy set to go in the toilet (if Wall Street is a good indicator), the state of California once again faces a budget crisis in the billions of dollars. But this time we won’t be hearing the naysayers blame Governor Schwarzenegger, as they did Gray Davis, when the national economy hit the skids back then.
This time we do recognize that the problem doesn’t fall just at the feet of one person–it is the failed policies of an administration that insists on privatizing everything it can and letting the profiteers take as much as they can get their hands on until they’re caught.
In this case, though, the fault lies with a variety of folks—starting with the Friends of Dick Cheney, the oilees who continue to jack up the price of gas at the pump so their profits can remain in the stratosphere as working famillies have less and less disposable income as a result.
Or take the housing boom. If there was ever a house of cards, this was it: Encouraging people to borrow, borrow, borrow—either for their downpayments, mortgages, or second mortgages on property at interest rates that fluctuate. And how they’ve fluctuated. Now, people who bought homes they couldn’t afford, or who were propping up this fragile economy by borrowing against their homes, see it all coming home to roost–complete with foreclosure documents and pink slips.
And the prognosticators are warning that California is in for a big hit because of it all: the failing housing market, bad credit consequences, job instability and just a good old but hearty down-turn in the American market because of ridiculous economic policies advanced by the Bush Administration.
So here we are in California, now looking at a budget deficit of at least $10 billion in the coming year. The governor has already warned state agencies to start hunkering down for big cuts. He’s also directed each department to prepare a budget with at least a 10% cut in their respective departments.
Sadly, this bad news, while not unexpected by many who have seen the foolish spending of the Bush administration and its hands-off policies as business interests continue to push the envelope right off the cliff (to say nothing about the uncontrolled spending in Iraq and Afghanistan), it is cause for great concern right here in California where we are so vulnerable to the national economic conditions.
California is so dependent on the personal income tax that we have to continually root for the ecomony to stay on top and never faulter. When it does slip and collapse, individual income goes down and with it the hopes and dreams of advancing good public policy and necessary reforms.
We’ve already borrowed billions, even during the good times, so what are we going to do to keep the state afloat, (to say nothing of moving it forward) during the latest economic plunge? We aren’t allowed to even mention the “T” word as it evokes a knee-jerk rage from a small but violently vocal group of folks who want services, but don’t want to have to pay for them. We can’t even take a look at how to better fund this state’s important safety and social programs, infra-structure and schools or open a debate on how we’re going to fund a real health care system that provides services for all Californians.
What a big surprise this governor is going to face when he thinks he’ll get major health care reform with a $10 billion short-fall, to say nothing of the problems he’ll be facing in next year’s budget with the only way to handle the state’s fiscal mess by cutting programs, if he follows his “no new taxes” pledge.
Should make for some interesting theatre. But we should not be fooled. If we want California to set the pace and tone for the 21st century, we’ve got to do alot better than talk about it. We’ll need to fund the programs we want and we’ll need to figure out a less volatile way to generate the income this state needs. We just can’t continue borrowing with bonds that have become so popular. After all, we’ve seen what is happening to individuals who have borrowed above their means–they’re having to pay the piper now.
How are we going to govern this state in the coming years and how are we going to pay for the services and programs like fire protection, road improvments, public safety, healthcare, improving our public education system, etc. that the public wants? The answer certainly doesn’t lie in privatizing everything. All you have to do is look at Blackwater to know that without transparency and accountability lots of mischief can take place, and does.
These are the real problems and questions that we must address. Is there anyone out there willing to provide real answers necessary to stop the bleeding and create the California we envision? We can’t continue borrowing our way out of these billion dollar deficits and we can’t keep talking about reform unless we’re willing to pay for it.
Looks like it’s turning into “put up or shut up” time. Wonder who will step up to the plate now that the Bush administration has damaged not only our reputation in the world, but our business and economic well-being too.
Who will be coming to the rescue? Any takers???