Monday, June 21, 2004

Our bobble-head governator and the trickle-down pain

By now you’ve heard of the Ohio company that’s produced a bobble-head doll of Governator Schwarzenegger to add to its line of other such dolls that include George W. Bush, Moses, and Jesus. You would think that Ahnuld would be pleased to be in such company. But, no, he is very protective of his screen image and objects to its “unauthorized use.” He may be governor, he proclaims, and as such a public figure whose image is in the public domain, but he is, he adds, first and foremost, an actor…a real baaaad actor. Some would say a clown who’s made our state a worldwide laughing stock.

But how he became governor and what has happened since raises questions far too serious for laughter. Take his “election” last year, another signal that, if Republicans don’t like the results, they’ll just overturn them. Why should California be any different than Florida? Disappointed by the election of Gray Davis? No prob. Gather big bucks from the billionaire crowd, send out an army of professional signature-gatherers, put up a booble-head-in-a- humvee candidate, and – Poof! – recall the person we elected four months earlier. The grounds for recall? Buyer’s remorse? Terminal dullness? Whatever! The world laughed – “They must let 14-year-olds vote out there!” And, we ooohed and aaahed.

Still ooohing and aaahing? Enjoy those daily headlines in the Times-Herald about cuts in services, under-funded schools and the like? The governator’s “plan?” Take it out of the hides of the most vulnerable, including, he tried, our dogs and cats. Slough it off to future generations. Our kids can pay off that $15 billion bond. Act responsibly? Raise taxes? No way!

It’s all part of the Republicans’ new plan of trickle down pain. Dubyah comes to Washington, heir to a healthy Clinton surplus. Three years later, we have the largest deficit in history and are pouring money down a rat hole called Iraq at a rate of about $10 billion a month...not to mention the lives of young Americans at a rate of 60 a month. So what to do? Cut the money going to states for a host of necessary programs ranging from education – Remember “No Child Left Behind?” – to public safety. Homeland Security? The states can pay.

But the trickle down doesn’t stop in Sacramento. We’re still dealing with a state budget disaster caused not only by federal cutbacks to the states, but by California’s special indignity - the deregulation foisted on us by the PG&E blue suits in The City and manipulation of the energy grid by Dubyah’s buddy Kenny Lay and their foul-mouthed grandma muggers. Ahnuld’s answer? Cut back funding to counties and cities. Let them deal with it. The Governator has bigger things to tend to…like his image. No need to deal with the legislature or “interest groups” representing the schools, the arts, public safety, or the homeless. “Over their heads,” he cries, ignoring the people’s representatives and going “directly to the people” with puerile sound-bite public appearances. Seems to be working. Last I looked, Ahnuld’s approval rating stood at 65 percent, the highest for any governor in 45 years. Must be those 14-year olds again.

Oh, it’s working all right…for Ahnuld, that is. Trouble is it’s not working for us. All the pain has finally trickled down to us. The buck stops here…in Vallejo. And it does so with a big thuuud! Layoffs throughout the city government, cutbacks in essential services, a bankrupt school district, no money for community-based activities or festivals, rate hikes, new “fees” everywhere. Pay-as-you-go 911 responses? Now there’s a new low!

But there is a real solution. We could start paying the taxes to pay for the services we demand and, yes, need. Problem is the obvious has been short-circuited by class warfare in Washington and generational warfare in Sacramento. You’ve probably pent your $600 federal refund to pay your state taxes? You can be sure, however, that the Kenny Boys of the world are still raking in their billions in refunds. If you object, you’re guilty of “class warfare” and, worse yet, envy, the truly unforgivable sin in the Republican catechism. Meanwhile, back in California, older, childless voters – like me – continue to block needed tax reform for education, welfare and those generally less fortunate than us. Ever since Prop 13, California schools have gone to hell in a hand basket. That has to end! A new system for financing schools has to be found. And the super majorities required for tax increases have to be eradicated. We all have to carry our fair share and demonstrate a concern for the most needy in our midst. Failure to do so would be a real sin. It’s called greed .


June 21, 2004