Follow The Money — It’s All About The Self-Interest

Much is finally being written about the money behind the candidates as well as the initiatives these days. Finally I say because money buys word-smithing and that buys people’s hearts and minds. Not that the ideas propelling the candidates and ballot measures couldn’t do that on their merits, but it’s the money that motivates these self-serving people/corporations. Money pays for the glib sound-bites that become the message and the PR firms that then shape the opinions and alas, the votes of an often unsuspecting electorate.
With all the money being poured into our elections this year, and the misdirection of the voters, it is not hard to understand that the Republicans are poised to recoup most, if not all of their lost gains from the 2008 election that catapulted Barack Obama and the Democrats into power. What IS hard to understand, is how the American people are looking to these very same people, with the very same ideas that put our communities, our state, our nation and even the world on the brink of economic disaster.
I was confounded again today, listening to Mitt Romney, of all people, disparaging the Democrats view of economics; if Romney and his buddies had had their way, the world would have collapsed into depression after the Bush policies of less oversight, greater private enterprise without accountability and all the other disastrous approaches to prosperity and opportunity that accompanied the Gingrich, Bush and Cheney years. One disaster after another:

  • Iraq
  • Wall Street
  • Housing collapse
  • High unemployment
  • Out-sourcing jobs to China and Asia
  • Huge deficits
  • Afghanistan
  • Guantanemo and the loss of civil liberties.

The list truly goes on and on, yet with the incredible chutzpah of arrogant, wealthy, deceitful, expediency-driven people like Mitt and the Koch brothers, we’re seeing the resurrection of the failed policies that President Obama so aptly expressed as the “guys who drove the car into the ditch”. As he pointed out, now they’re asking for the keys back. What the President was slow in realizing (or maybe does now), is that there may be enough Americans willing to do just that!
Back to the Koch Boys ……. these multi-gazillionaires born into extraordinary privilege, with no moral compass, have dumped millions into California for purposes of realizing their libertarian, polluting, anti-worker dispositions to assure that their climate threatening, dirty air creating industries continue to pollute our air and risk the future of our health and our planet. They’ve found a willing ally, it seems, in Carly Fiorina—who probably wishes she could be them—if only she knew how. (See Fiorina’s billionaire backers in today’s LA Times.)
While a recent study named Koch Industries one of the top 10 air polluters in the United States, and they have been cited by organizations that monitor employment practices as “m>one of the most ruthless exporters of American manufacturing jobs to foreign countries”, Carly earned the distinction of being one of the country’s top twenty WORST CEO’s of all time. So they do have a lot in common–and are in sync on both opposing our critically important model air-quality legislation which also creates hundreds of thousands of green jobs for Californians (many of which have already begun) and in off-shoring American jobs.
It is important in politics to go beyond the rhetoric to who is funding what and why. Once the fluff and hype is dissected, the real story of a ballot measure or candidate’s expected behavior can be identified. With all the polling, focus-groups and testing of “messages”, the public tends to be inundated with language designed to bamboozle, not educate. This makes following the money trail all the more important.
In the case of the Koch Brothers, their millions have been funding the “tea party” and major Republican candidates nationwide. They’ve also put millions into Yes on Prop 23, along with two Texas oil companies that believe they should be able to force us to breathe dirty air.
While truth has never been of concern to the Libertarian, filthy air producing Koch boys (I will not make any comment about any possible racism or bigotry they may have inherited from their father who was one of the original members of the John Birch Society), they have gotten solidly behind Carly and Prop 23. Those facts, alone, should be enough to make sure we say NO to both Fiorina and Prop. 23. While they may have tons of money, once you follow it, you see that it leads straight into a self-serving stew of pollution and greed.
We can do better— a lot better!

In Honor And Memory Of 9/11

The power of fear and hate-mongering is as prevalent today as it has been since the McCarthy Era of the 1950’s. Sadly, it has impacted the ability of our first African-American to meet the promises and expectations of a nation that voted overwhelmingly to support him. But with the power of right-wing media, the so-called “Tea Party” and the hate-baiting Republican leadership of today, it has challenged us as a nation to look and think beyond the “reptilian mind” and remember what this country has and must continue to stand for. As we have just commemorated the 9th anniversary of the horror of September 11th, we must stay focused on what this nation means to us and what it must represent for our children and our children’s children as we remember that 9 years ago it seemed that the world stood still—at least for the people of New York City and all Americans and good people of the world
9/11 was one of those days in history that is seared into the minds of those of us alive to experience it. The horror, the devastation, the shear power of two huge edifices crumbling under the weight of unimaginable heat created by the intentional act of flying two large airplanes into buildings filled with people and activity.
For many of us, we have had other moments where the world seemed to stop. For our most senior population they remember “A day that will live in Infamy,” December 7th, 1941 with the bombing of Pearl Harbor that marked our reluctant nation’s entry into World War Two; the moment we learned of the assassination of the young president, John F. Kennedy, some 47 years ago this November 22nd; the explosion of the Shuttle Challenger as the country watched on live television. Perhaps there are others, but these were the collective experience and horror of a nation, one people united by death and carnage that we knew would change the course of our lives and our nation’s history.
It is how we responded to those tragedies that have been the hallmark of who we are as a nation. The call to arms to join the rest of the world to beat back tyranny, fascism, genocide and mass murder of millions that marked the Nazis of the 1930s and 1940’s; the implementation of a fallen president’s dream of racial equality that occurred in his honor with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, shepherded by his successor, Lyndon Johnson; the effort to rebuild and continue our space shuttle program in memory of those who lost their lives on the Challenger……all efforts going forward to exemplify the best of what our nation has to offer and the character of our country.
So here we are, nine years after 9/11, when a group of Saudi Arabian -based terrorists, under the guise of religious war or “jihad” hijacked a religion and an airplane to try to take down our nation. They failed, or at least they failed then.
We see their hatred for our nation as inexplicable, wrong, intolerant and fanatically based. We believed that Osama Bin-Laden wanted to destroy our country but we would not be bowed.
The question is, though, did this terrible act of terrorism and mass murder undermine the fabric of this nation? Has Bin Laden won in his battle to undermine the very essence of our society—where freedom and opportunity prevail over dogma and repression of the rights of people who do not share a fanatical view of the world?
There are probably many who would argue that Bin Laden did, in fact, change the face of this nation—we are more fearful, we spend billions on “homeland security.” We have been willing to give up many of our freedoms in exchange for safer travel, but until recently we were unwilling to succumb to the same intolerance and hatred that fueled the acts of insanity on 9/11.
So what has happened 9 years later is that we now find ourselves with extremists here in our own country, our own clergy, our own political leaders, talking with the same intolerance, bigotry and ignorance that were and are the hallmarks of the terrorist fanatics who tried to bring our nation to its knees on 9/11. They failed. New York City continues to be an incredible melting pot of people from all walks of life, all cultures and all parts of the world who live in relative harmony together in a few square miles of teeming humanity.
In the 9 years following this unspeakable act, we have elected our first non-white President; our first Woman Speaker of the House of Representatives. We continue to celebrate religious holidays from all religions of the world without violence.
But if we allow the intolerance of small-minded and small-thinking so-called religious leaders of our own, fear-mongers like Newt Gingrich and others to feed the fears and prejudices of Americans to deny the placement of a mosque blocks from the Twin Towers, to burn other people’s Bibles because they are not our words or beliefs; to attack others because they don’t look like us, or think like us, then we will have lost and Osama Bin Laden and his band of lunatics will have accomplished years later what they could not accomplish by blowing up buildings—-the demise of the American spirit, its sense of justice, tolerance and freedom that are the qualities that threaten the fanatics and ideologues of the world. We will have become them.
We cannot let that happen. Instead, we must renew our commitment to justice, tolerance, religious freedom and a sense of community. We must remember that what has made our nation great, what our brave fighting men and women have given their lives for is our freedom, our liberty, our right to worship as we see fit and the notion that we are all equals entitled to dignity and respect. That is what has made our country great and we must remember that even at difficult moments like these. This should be the legacy of 9/11.

Arnold and the Tea-bagger Movement

I always enjoy observing and participating in discussions with my friend and former colleague, the wonderful Sheila Kuehl. She is brilliant, observant, funny, wise and has outstanding politics. She has written an excellent piece that appeared in Monday’s LA Times and points the finger of blame for the state’s current mess directly and unequivocally at Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. While I don’t disagree with her analysis that he has been a disaster for the state, the key factor that distinguishes the current situation from those of chief executives in the past, aside from Schwarzenegger’s incompetence is the extreme partisanship and rancor that have taken hold in Sacramento and in Washington, D.C. We’re seeing the right-wing extremists emerging into the debate at all levels with all their absurdities, dishonesty and plain ignorance, starting with Sarah Palin’s entry into the national political arena with her inexplicable nomination as the Republican Party’s Vice-Presidential nominee.
While Sheila’s examples are accurate and legitimate, this is a starkly different Sacramento than that of the past. The level of acrimony, irrationality and intractability this bitter, fear-mongering anti-government movement has generated simply cannot be overstated. Sheila contends that other governors have been able to deal with the problems of governing in spite of the structural deficiencies in our system of governance— like the minority rule provisions of budget and taxation which require a 2/3 super-majority; the creation of artificial and truncated legislative terms; the initiative process that allows anyone from anywhere to put a measure on the California ballot as long as they have the money; the infusion of enormous amount of corporate money—. the combination of all these factors has created the toxic stew that has slammed the doors on governing. But the spirit of compromise is now virtually non-existent.
Sheila is right-on that this Governor thought he could use his movie-star persona and public-relations ploys to “reform” the state. What he didn’t understand, and still doesn’t, is that politics is a unique process which requires respect, give-and-take and understanding of the goals and purposes for which it was created. While reform is a good thing when done right, “blowing up the boxes” when you have no idea which ones to blow up and how to replace them with something that functions in the best interests of the people is another thing.
That being said, the “tea-bagger” mentality has overtaken the Republican Party, and it started when Senator Kuehl and I served together in the Legislature. A seminal moment occurred in 2002 when then Senate Minority Leader Jim Brulte announced to the Republican Caucus that any member who voted for the budget would be challenged in his next primary and “taken out” in the next election. While this intimidated most of the Republican members, the fact is that the few, brave and reasonable legislators who understood the importance of passing the budget and acknowledged that many compromises had been made to their ideology were all defeated in their primaries or literally harassed not to run for re-election. In my opinion, this was the beginning of the end of constructive politics as we know it in California. The message to the Republicans was clear and simple: You compromise, you’re out.
As long as we require this ridiculous super-majority to pass a budget in the legislature, thus allowing the minority to overrule the majority will of the people, the tactics of the right-wing will prevail. For proof, just look at the havoc created in Washington by the Senate Republicans who are employing the 60- vote filibuster rules to destroy efforts made by the majority to implement change in our country that the overwhelming number of Americans supported in 2008.
Schwarzenegger has been a disaster, and a Governor Whitman will clearly be the same. She has got no experience with government, hasn’t even bothered to vote for over twenty years and thinks the world will capitulate to her because of her money and her bullying tactics. She’s wrong, but until we fix the mess in Sacramento, it won’t really matter much.

Earth to California Voters: We have created a train wreck!

The latest poll shows that Arnold Schwarzenegger now holds the embarassing distinction of having the same 22% favorability rate as Gray Davis had when Davis became the first Governor in modern-day California to be recalled by an angry electorate.
 
Of course the public is angry again and for good reason: we’re at a 12.3% unemployment rate; we have one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country; the Republicans in the legislature continue to demand that we cut the taxes of fat-cat corporations and the well-heeled oil industry and yet demand more from hard-working Californians, while providing us with less.
 
We’re looking at a billionaire who thinks she’s Queen and thinks she’s equipped to “govern” the state. This is the same person who failed to vote for two decades and has, during this campaign, done more flip-flops than Arnold can do push-ups.
 
We’ve got a $19.3 Billion deficit that can’t be filled by getting rid of “fraud, waste and abuse” because  there isn’t enough “fraud waste and abuse” to fill a thimble of the state’s deficit. E-Meg wants us to think that, because she presided over a very successful business we should elect her to run the state of California. But increasing profits isn’t what a state government is supposed to do.  The goal of business is profit. We all know that—and if not, just check out Goldman-Sachs which says by making all this money, it’s doing “the lords work.” The role of government is to provide for its people. If we can tighten our belts and give more services for the dollar, that’s great, but the way to judge the success of government is by how well we educate our children, how well we protect our communities and how well we plan and build for the future.
 
There is no question that Queen Meg is not equipped or prepared to govern our state. That being said, the problem goes well beyond who we decide to have at the controls of the train. The problem is rather the train itself and the tracks upon which it rides
 
George Skelton observes in the L.A. Times that the problems we are facing don’t totally fall at the feet of the governor—although there is plenty of blame to go around on that score. The problem is an obvious one: California’s system of governance is a mess. It doesn’t work because it is a hodgepodge of stops and starts that don’t mesh, don’t allow majority rule and don’t really require that anyone take responsibility for what they’re doing in Sacramento. Applying the train analogy, we’ve got old and different kinds of rails to ride upon that don’t go in a straight line, aren’t even the same and dead-end all along the route.
 
I’m no fan of Queen Meg, Meg Whitless, or whatever other cute and probably accurate nicknames are out there which describe her cluelessness and imperial notion of governance. She is clearly unqualified to try to govern the largest state in the nation. But even if she were qualified, had voted over the last 20plus years (which horrorfyingly she has not), the state is simply ungovernable in its present configuration. Period.
 
Those who have studied or have any experience with state government know that it has been immobilized by several initiatives. Each of them may have had, in their day, a well-intended purpose, but put together they create an alphabet soup of dysfunction. They bump into each other, force the train to stop and turn circles when the train should be moving forward.
 
What is interesting is that no one knows this better than Jerry Brown. Perhaps that is why he’s speaking more in global concepts than popular but empty promises of cleaning up government or as our now very unpopular governor was accustomed to saying before he became such, “I’m going to blow up the boxes.”  Hmmmmm.
 
Let’s be clear on what the problems are and not what the right-wing spin machines have so effectively, albeit dishonestly claimed to be the reasons for our state’s deteriorating quality-of-life:
 
1- We have a revenue problem. It was created by so-called “free market” policies promoted by the Republicans and epitomized by the Bush Administration’s deregulation of just about everything—from the banks and financial institutions (the Goldman-Sachs syndrome) to the de facto deregulation of the oil industry (thanks to MMS’s cozy relationship with the oilies) to giving additional tax-breaks here in California to big monopolies that promised and delivered absolutely nothing in exchange. We have reduced taxes on the wealthiest among us and refused to create a more level-playing field for our young people who ask only the same opportunities that the prior generations had to work hard and live the California Dream.
 
2- We’re both the most and least democratic state in the country. We require a 2/3 vote of the legislature to pass a budget and a 2/3 vote to increase taxes. No other state does this; no other state is chronically late in getting their fiscal house in order every year. At the same time, we have given the people greater access to direct democracy than most other states through the creation of the initiative and referendum process. (See number 4 below)
 
3- Term-limits means we expect the least-experienced people to run the most diverse and complex state in the country. We are running the 8th largest economy in the world with inexperienced, short-term leaders. Term limits has been a disaster for good government. Ask Dems and Reps alike (at least those Reps who care about government and making sure it works, whether they think it should come in Extra Large or Small). We foolishly think that we’re punishing the politicians by limiting the length of time they can serve. In fact, what we’re doing is short-changing ourselves.
 
4- Money, not the people, are controlling public policy. The unique system of direct democracy has given way to big businesses buying their way onto the ballot. Just ask why was there a constitutional amendment on the ballot which would have given PG&E greater monopolistic control than it already has in its service areas (which represent the majority of the state)?

Who are these people who are now challenging the bipartisan global warming measure that will open up California as the leader—in jobs and technology for creation of an alternative energy industry to lead the country and world away from dirty, dangerous fossil fuels? They are four major TEXAS-BASED OIL companies. It is clear that when Hiram Johnson proposed the initiative as a way to insure that the people would be able to trump the power of the railroads (that were controlling the legislature in the early 1900’s), the last thing he dreamed would be that those same greed-driven, monopolistic entities would be taking control of the state yet again,buying their way onto the ballot and then spending millions to mislead the public as to their intentions.
 
Of course, adding to the corporate take-over of democracy, both in California and the nation is the outrageous U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United. In one fell swoop, this biased, “free-market” cabal has all but assured right-wing monopolies will control the future of elections and electoral politics for years to come.
 
All that being said, there is one thing that is clear: If we want to get California back on track, we certainly don’t want the party of NO to be in charge. We’ve seen what they’ve done nationally—and what kind of pollution, dysfunction and economic destruction they bring when we give them the power to do so. Look no farther than the Gulf of Mexico and Wall Street for starters. The right-wing that has taken over a once moderate, but business-leaning party, hates government (unless they’re running it) and doesn’t care if they take the state or country down with them as long as they regain control. That’s not democracy and that’s not what we, the people, are entitled to receive. 
 
We need to fix the system and thus the train tracks before we expect to turn this train around. Unless and until we do that, we’re going to see our beloved California continue its journey into the abyss and wonder why it happened.
 
This crisis is well-beyond any individual candidate and any single election. We’ve got to wake up to the mess that has befallen the rules of government in California. We, the people, want and deserve good schools, good roads, clean air and water, safe streets and economic opportunity. Until we straighten out how we run this state, we’re not going to get what we need for a brighter tomorrow. Time is running out.
 

No Rest for the Weary Electorate

While California takes the summer off, the wealthy use their extraordinary wealth to undermine the state’s future.
While grills all over California are still smoldering under the weight of July 4th hot dogs, burgers and maybe a veggie-burger or two, those with unlimited resources (and who most likely grilled steaks instead), continue their barrage on the senses of Golden State residents.
With all that money, there’s no need to respect the notion that these are the “dog days” of summer, when those lucky enough to have jobs try to sneak in a restful vacation or two with their families and friends and those who are out-of-work try to find some, or if not at least find solace in the fact that summer tends to be slow in the work-place anyway. But for E-Meg and the big oil companies, this is no time to let the rest of us relax.
With four major Texas-based oil companies putting in the few millions necessary to qualify Prop. 23 on the ballot, we can expect a summer filled with more lies and misinformation about what AB 32, the law that will move us to develop an alternative energy economy, is going to do to the state. To the oilies, it represents a commitment to move from their dirty, fossil-based fuel driven economy to something more sustainable and protective of the environment (you can include the ocean in that, as we continue to watch in horror as the Gulf of Mexico absorbs millions of gallons of the dirty, toxic and deathly gunk every day).
Of course, what’s not to like in that idea? Well, the claim (made without any justification or factual data to support it—but what else is new?) is that it will raise the price of oil and be a drag on our state’s already suffering economy. You know, another “job-killer” bill.
For thinking people, this reasoning is pure nonsense. Fortunately, according to a new poll that came out today, most Californians reject this nonsense and realize forcing us to move to renewable energy resources could and would put California right in the middle of a changing, vibrant and profitable new energy economy. For more information on the report, check out Cal Buzz here.
And then there’s E-Meg, the multi-billionaire who wants to buy the Governorship on her way to trying to buy the Presidency of the United States. Now, while I’m all for women aspiring and reaching the highest office in the land, (and I am, indeed), E-Meg has no experience and up until fairly recently no interest in government or its workings. But that’s the least of it. For those of us who have been in both public service and private enterprise, there is one thing that is clear. One is analog and the other digital. You can’t run business like and government and you can’t run government like a business. Why? Because the purpose of business is profit. The purpose of government is to provide for the public good.
We saw that up close and personal with Ahnold. He came in as an “outsider” with a great story of financial success (even as a mediocre actor, but that’s for another day). No one can argue that Meg has had enormous success as well (even though much of it is integrally linked to her relationship with Goldman Sachs). And no one can argue that she’s put together an extraordinary political campaign machine–probably the best that $90 million (and counting every minute) can buy. She’s got the sound-bites down, controls her press conferences with impressive precision and has well-choreographed ads up on all the right stations and programs, etc. She has attacked her opponent with great gusto and creativity—-unfazed by the fact that most of her criticisms are totally distorted, if not downright lies. We know, however, that she will stop at nothing to make her case—just look at the way she ran to the far-right to beat Steve Poizner in the primary.
It will be interesting to see her race back to the “middle”, which she is already trying to do with the Latino community. She’s spent a small fortune so far buying time on Spanish-speaking media trying to convince this population that she’s supportive, even though the hated former-governor Pete Wilson (Mr. Prop.118) was (and still is?) her campaign chairman.
Her politics aside, the problem is: With all her money and clever advertising and posturing, she doesn’t have a clue how to GOVERN. We do know she knows how to bully—as illustrated by a small incident that only cost her a couple hundred-thousand dollars. Just chump change for her. Just wait til she’s in Sacramento if she wins. What’s she going to do–challenge the legislature to a shoving match? Challenge the cities and counties and public safety groups and public interest groups to a duel?
Governing calls for compromise, for respect for the other branches of government. It calls for thoughtful discussion. This is not a monarchy where the richest get to tell everyone else what to do-and how to think. No sound-bite in the world is going to suddenly move everything in your direction in a democracy. Willing it to be doesn’t make it happen. Governing is an intricate, subtle, and wisdom driven calling. If you don’t have the skills and experience, you’re going to flop. And the last thing this state needs at this point is another inexperienced, arrogant, unprepared rich person who has no idea what they’re doing. Just look at the present governor if you have any doubts.

Help Speak Out California Build The Megaphone

Dear Friends;

 

If you love and believe in California as I do, and I know you do (!), then help us here at Speak Out California as we work to restore our state’s luster and justify its reputation as “the state that invents the future.”

 

We experienced it first in Sacramento and now in Washington, D.C.: majority rule has been replaced by minority control. With a 2/3 requirement in California to pass a state budget and 60 votes to pass legislation in the US Senate, the will of the people has given way to the will of a few. And these few are more often the extremists or those controlled by big corporate interests that don’t care about anything but their profits.

 

Why are we-the progressive majority of Californians-losing out to the radical fringe of right-wing extremists who are dictating the dismantling of our state’s infrastructure, education system, environmental and consumer protections and safety net for the less-fortunate among us?

 

The reasons are clear: The right-wing noise machine is drowning out the more reasonable, compassionate voices who seek meaningful change and a return to the values of hope, opportunity and fairness that made this state -and nation-great.

 

We need to get our megaphone turned on! Our voice that calls for real investment in our education system, protection of our natural resources, environment, healthcare for all Californians and protection against the corporate special interests whose uncontrolled greed and power has set our families, state and nation on the precipice of financial disaster.

 

We here at Speak Out California believe it is time to make our voice heard and to be able to rise above the hysterical din of hateful, selfish rhetoric and focus on what we want our future to look like. We have been a voice for change, explaining progressive values, telling Californians how a progressive approach will benefit them.  We are on the Internet, on the radio, in op-eds, and speaking to groups.  We want to maintain and expand our effort.   WILL YOU HELP?

 

With your contribution of $ 5, $10, $25 or even $100 per month, or a one-time contribution, we can continue to discuss the issues and frame the message from a progressive perspective and increase the size of our own megaphone.

 

The year ahead is full of big challenges and opportunities. There are over 80 ballot measures already in circulation for the 2010 elections.  Included among them are more challenges to a woman’s reproductive decision-making including one to define fertilized eggs as “persons”, one creating a special constitutional rule for speech based on “biblical authority” and one to eliminate all funding for public schools.  These are just a few of many dangerous and extremist initiatives circulating.

 

Speak Out California has big plans to combat those efforts. We’re planning to produce our highly acclaimed Progressive’s “One-Stop” Voter Guide. During prior elections, our highly respected guide was clicked over 1.7 million times by people like you and me looking for an honest, straight-forward and accurate progressive perspective on just what each of these ballot measures would do. No hype, no paid advertising, no propaganda, just a clear analysis so we, the people, can decide where we want the future to head and what we want our beloved California to be.

 

Can you help us?

 

Please click here and make your pledge now or send your check to Speak Out California, and send to PO Box 92010Santa Barbara, California 93190.

 

We need your help so we can help you see progressive democracy in action! Let’s reclaim our state and regain the megaphone to do it.  That’s why we’re here. That’s why we’re Speak Out California at www.speakoutca.org.

 

Please sign up and ask your friends to do so as well.

Thank you,

Signature
Hannah-Beth Jackson

How to stop the bleeding– Bring back majority rule

With the University of California in free-fall and students responding with a passion not seen in years, the question cannot be ignored any further: What is it going to take to generate more revenue for the State of California so we can educate our best and our brightest young people to take the economic and political reigns of this state in the years and decades to come?

To add to the crisis, the LAO’s office this week announced the likelihood that California will see a $20 Billion shortfall in the year ahead. No longer can the right-wing fringe use its cute but dishonest phrase that we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. (Of course, the truth has never gotten in the way of a good RNC-created soundbite, but that’s another story). Even these obstructionists can no longer say, at least with a straight face, that state government is filled with waste, fraud and abuse. While that has been their mantra for years, they’ve never been able to locate it. Their one “victory” has been to destroy the Integrated Waste Management Board—a Board that actually succeeded in its mandate to reduce waste–but its been an easy target. So now that it has been successfully destroyed, where are the billions of spending excesses that will balance the budget without the need to increase the state’s revenues to pay its bills? Bottom line: There ain’t, but it makes a great sound-bite, doesn’t it?

What is real is that our state’s revenues have fallen from a high of $105 Billion in 2006 to about $80 Billion this year. The current projections predict our state coffers continuing to slide for the next several years, thanks to the failed economic policies of the past decade under the failed leadership of George W. Bush that have left the country and California is particular, reeling from lost jobs and foreclosed homes.

How are we going to fill that gap—and still provide the services that the public wants—the education system that our state needs to remain competitive nationally and internationally? How are we going to pay for the prisons and public safety personnel we demand?How are we going to weed out the greedy CEO’s and corporate polluters who don’t hesitate to decimate our communities or destroy our resources for their own profit?

The right-wing fringe has been working to bleed the state dry, thus privatizing everything from our universities to our prisons (already partially accomplished), to our freeways and water systems. Why does this matter? Because their only interest is profit, not people.

We must figure out ways to meet the severe economic challenges created by an almost decade-long national policy of indifference and uncontrolled corporate greed and corruption in the private-sector. We must also work to stimulate job growth by educating a creative and competent work-force through our once outstanding University and Community College systems.

But whatever we do here in California, we can’t return our state to its former prominence until we rid ourselves of the undemocratic and burdensome super-majority rule. We are a democracy where our government is supposed to be based on the principle of majority rule. Today a small minority is able to defeat the will of the majority which calls for the wealthiest corporations and individuals to pay their fair share. Instead, they continue to call for–and receive tax breaks for the biggest and richest corporations. By further draining our state’s coffers, our students are forced to pay those taxes by increasing their fees to attend college, by closing the doors to higher education and the hope and opportunity for the future of our people and our state.

So-let’s return California to majority rule, close tax loopholes of billions of dollars given to the largest and richest corporations, require oil companies to pay an oil extraction tax like they  pay in every other oil drilling state in the country—that’s Alaska, Texas, Louisiana and Florida—not exactly big tax-oriented states— and use that money to fund our education system.

Stopping the bleeding won’t be easy in an economy decimated by under-regulated banks, Wall Street and other financial companies that took the opportunity to destroy the American economy during the Bush administration’s watch. The answer is simple: bring back majority rule and California will put its house back in financial order without further destroying the institutions and programs that made us the envy of the world.

Until we do that, the bleeding will continue. Without majority rule, Big Oil, multi-national corporations and the uber-wealthy won’t be required to pay their fair share. The simple fact is that we can’t afford to carry these special interest groups any more. We need to invest in our children, not big corporations, if our state is to survive and flourish. Let’s stop the bleeding now—and hope it isn’t too late.

$11B In More Bonds–Is There A Better Way To Solve Our Water Wars?

Here at Speak Out California, we’re trying to bring some clarity and varying perspectives to the water wars that have been the hallmark of California politics since statehood. With the fight for precious water resources dividing the state along geographic as well as ideological lines, it is important that we bring you all sides of the debate….just in case anyone wants to really try to solve the problem for the betterment of the state.  While accusations are flying fast and furiously from north to south and east to west (and all places in-between)we hope the truth will emerge from healthy dialogue such as we hope to bring you here at Speak Out California.

The following post is the second in a series from Carolee Krieger whose organization, C-WIN, has been a leading resource in fighting to make sure we have enough water to keep our state going. Here are her comments. We welcome yours as well–especially from opposing points of view.  — HBJ

California and Its
Water Crisis

Carolee_Krieger.jpg

California is not running out of water; our water is just being badly mismanaged for the profit and greed a few people.  There are a few facts that we all need to be
aware of when thinking about this complex question:

FACTS

  • ·        
    80% of the developed surface water in California
    is used by agriculture; 40% of that water is used to grow cotton, alfalfa and
    irrigated pasture.
  • ·        
    Only 11% of all the developed surface water is
    used by all the people, lawns, swimming pools and showers.
  • ·        
    The cost to agriculture for much of its water is
    subsidized by the taxpayers.
  • ·        
    Many of the crops grown, like cotton, are
    subsidized by the taxpayers.  In some
    years, the farmers are paid not to grow it.
  • ·        
    1.3 million acres out of a total of 9 million
    acres of farm land in California is poisoned with salt, selenium, arsenic, and
    other toxic metals.  Taking this
    land  out of production would free up
    almost 4 million acre feet of wet water.
  • ·        
    The California State Water Resources Control
    Board, the agency with the fiduciary responsibility to grant and revoke all
    water rights permits in California, including the State Water Project and the
    federal Central Valley Project, has publically stated in their July 2008
    Strategic WorkPlan, that they have issued 8 1/2 times more water rights permits
    that actual water exists in the Delta watershed.  So every drop of water has been promised 8
    1/2 times over.
  • SOLUTIONS

    The solutions are simple to understand and make a lot of
    common sense.  But because of greed and
    entrenched power, these solutions are very difficult to achieve politically.

  • ·        
    Retirement from agricultural production of all
    1.3 million acres of poisoned farmlands in the federal Central Valley Project
    and the State Water Project.  Redirect
    some of the current subsidies to encourage production of something California
    really needs; clean solar energy.  All of
    these lands are in semi desert; this could be a win/win solution.
  • ·        
    Remove the “paper water”, the water
    that isn’t real, from all State Water Project and Central Valley Project
    contracts and abide by long established law protecting the area or origin and
    senior water rights holders.  The State
    Water Resources Control Board could and should do this.
  • ·        
    Enforce the Clean Water Acts and other water
    laws.  A good place to start would be to
    give the State Water Resources Control Board protection from political
    influence and adequate funding to do its job.
  • ·        
    Uphold the Public Trust Doctrine.  Our public resources, especially water, must
    be managed for the good of all; the people and the environment.
  • We must stop allowing subsidized crops to be grown with subsidized
    water on poisoned lands.

    We must stop allowing the system to be gamed by people and big corporations for personal profit.  Once such abuser gained over $200 million by selling “paper water” that
    he had “banked” in an underground aquifer to the federal Environmental
    Water Account.  This speculator got his $200
    million; the fish, however, never got their water; it was only “paper
    water”.

    Carolee Krieger, President, founded C-Win
    in 2001. She helped lead the campaign to prevent delivery of State
    Water Project water to Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. On
    behalf of the Citizens Planning Association (CPA), Carolee also led the
    fight against the Monterey Amendments to the State Water Project
    contracts. These amendments attempted to deregulate the State Water
    Project, give away public assets to private special interests for
    profit and make “paper water”, water that doesn’t exist, legal.  C-WIN
    has led the fight to stop speculative development in Southern
    California based on “paper water.”  C-WIN is currently focusing its
    efforts on the fight to save the San Francisco Bay Delta and keep the
    salmon from going extinct.  She brings to C-WIN her passion for
    protecting public trust resources and stopping wasteful use of water in
    California..

    Throwing Women Under the Bus: Health Care Reform? -NOT!

     
    This past week, America’s women were, yet
    again, thrown under the bus. Make no mistake about it; this health care bill
    eradicates years of effort, blood and lives lost by brave physicians and
    health care providers, to take this nation back to the dark ages of back alleys,
    dead mothers and orphaned children. At the very last hour, the House leadership acquiesced in a
    provision to the great Health Care Reform bill that takes away access to abortion
    coverage for millions of women, despite the fact that the majority of health
    insurance policies currently provide that coverage.
     
    The spin machines are hailing this as a great
    victory for Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats but in reality it is a black day for America’s
    hard-fought battle for reproductive freedom.
     
    While politics is a nasty game on a good day,
    there are certain principles that those who believe in equality cannot
    sacrifice. Reproductive choice is one of them. Those who oppose the use of
    public funds to pay for abortion services had already won a victory in June when
    pro-choice Representative Lois Capps agreed to introduce, as a stop-gap measure the Hyde amendment which has, for years, prohibited federal funds from being
    used to pay for abortion services.
    Representative Capps believed that this would be the line in the sand against further erosion of abortion rights in America.
     
    The Stupak amendment (and I will refrain from the
    obvious here) goes much further than this: It denies poor and middle-class women
    access to abortion services when they purchase their own insurance with their
    own money yet qualify for a partial subsidy.
    Stupak also denies abortion services to women who seek (now
    mandatory) coverage through the “public option” (such as it is).
     
    While the pundits and democratic leadership
    celebrate their great victory, we must rally every woman and man in this state
    and nation who believe that our daughters, sisters and mothers deserve the
    ultimate freedom of deciding whether, when and with whom to have children. We
    have fought too long and too hard to exercise our constitutionally protected right to
    reproductive choice to lose it now to the hands of political expediency and
    lunatic fringe politics.

    The fight moves to the Senate where Senate leader
    Harry Reid and other anti-choice men hold the key to the future of every woman
    of child-bearing years. Without the option of insurance coverage for abortions,
    women will effectively be denied their fundamental right to control their own
    destinies. Of course, what good is a right without the ability to exercise
    it?


    Will we be back to the butchers and back alleys
    because women can’t afford to pay for the right to exercise their fundamental
    freedoms and even if they can, those freedoms have been denied to them? Well,
    that’s what the “Stupak” amendment does.

    The bottom line here is that we
    cannot allow this to stand. President Obama has committed to removing this
    blatant violation of womens fundamental rights from the final bill that he
    plans to sign. It is incumbent upon every person who believes in freedom of
    choice, womens equal rights and the Constitution of this country to step up and
    do something.

     
    What to do? Write a letter to the President of
    the United States and demand that he fight for us; send a letter to your
    Senators and demand that they do the same.
     
    What is it we want, we demand?
     
    WE DEMAND THAT THE SENATE PASS A BILL FREE OF THESE
    UNPRECEDENTED RESTRICTIONS ON ABORTION AND THAT THE FINAL BILL PROTECT A WOMAN”S
    RIGHT TO SAFELY ACCESS THIS LEGAL MEDICAL PROCEDURE.
     
    What else can we do?
     
    Write a check to an organization that will bring
    the battle to the hallowed and hollow walls of Congress, should this measure
    remain in the Senate version. There is a way to beat this, and we must all stand
    together to do so.
     
    We’ll be doing an action-alert on this shortly. In
    the meantime, contact your Senators and Congressmembers and tell them your vote
    for them is dependent upon their protecting reproductive freedom. Too many lives
    depend upon it.
    We can no longer acquiesce and be silent.

    COTCE Parsky Commission: Even More Tax Breaks for the Wealthy

    Just when you think you’ve seen it all, the Governor and his cronies pull another one on the people of California. While the economy created by the Bush “free-marketeers” has sent the country on an economic free-fall; while California sees its unemployment rate hit over 11% and while the number of Californians that have seen their incomes fall below the federal poverty level has increased to over 20% of the population, a report approved by a Governor’s commission is recommending that we give a $14 Billion tax break to the wealthiest Californians.

    The COTCE Commission (about which we’ve been blogging for the past few weeks) came up with its report Monday, September 14th. With unmitigated gall and indifference to the plight of California’s hard working yet struggling middle-class and minimum-wage earners, multi-millionaire and Chair, Gerald Parsky has pushed through a set of proposals that will result in a boondoggle for the rich and an increase in burden to the rest of us. Added to this insulting charade, Parsky has snuck into the series of recommendations, a last minute play by Commissioner and right-wing think tanker, Michael Boskin, a proposal that calls for opening up the coast for new oil leases. And by the way, Mr. Boskin serves on the Board of Exxon/Mobil, something he has failed to disclose while making this last-minute end-run around the Commissions own rules. (Of course, with Parsky in cahoots, the rules have only applied to the progressive proposals which Parsky and buddies have buried).

    For more on this disgraceful waste of taxpayer money, see CalBuzz series on this Commission including the article by Jean Ross’ in Monday’s Cal Buzz.

    It’s time to fight back. These “recommendations”  were supposed to be in the form of a consensus report. However, Parsky and company dropped that idea like a lead balloon when they realized that the progressives weren’t about to agree to yet another giveaway to the rich while California’s education, infra-structure, health care, public safety and human safety-nets have been torn to shreds by more and more tax breaks to the rich and loopholes to multi-national corporations. So when all bets were off, Parsky decided to go for the gold (although he himself is reputed to be worth hundreds of millions himself) and produce a lop-sided set of proposals that would only keep a corpse from laughing at their outlandishness. 

     This report shouldn’t see the light-of-day and should be relegated to the trash heap where it belongs. But the Governor is going to try to may hay with it so it’s up to us, the people of California, upon whom the burden of giving away yet more to those who have the most already, must rise up. Taxes are supposed to be about fairness and investment in the programs and services that benefit the community.

     Contact the Governor, Senate President Pro tem Darrell Steinberg and Speaker Karen Bass and tell them:

    NO MORE GIVEAWAYS TO THOSE WHO HAVE THE MOST AT THE EXPENSE OF THE REST OF US. NO TO THE COTCE COMMISSION REPORT THAT CONTINUES TO PUSH ITS RIGHT-WING AGENDA BY GIVING TAX BREAKS TO THOSE WHO HAVE THE MOST  AND PUTTING THE BURDEN ON THOSE WHO HAVE THE LEAST.

     What we need is a tax system that is fair, places the most responsibility on those who have the most so that all Californians have the opportunity to get the best education possible; be safe in their homes, schools and on the streets; are able to access quality, affordable healthcare and live a life of dignity and respect, regardless of their financial circumstances.

    Urge the Legislature to take up a tax reform package that incorporates the ideas and principles recommended to the COTCE Commission (which were thrown aside by Parsky and his wealthy cronies) but which would make the system fairer, promote jobs, protect the environment and reflect a  21st Century economy.

    For information on contacting state elected officials click here.

    Let’s take back our state and create a future that is fair to ALL Californians, not just the wealthy.