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Monday, June 12, 2006

Moving Backward vs. Kicking It Down The Road

I don't know why the new Schwarzenegger commercials piss me off so much. But they do. I guess we have Steve Westly to thank for giving Ah-nuld his first campaign meme. "$10 Billion In New Taxes." Never mind that every time Schwarzenegger has "balanced" a budget, he's either used accounting chicanery or borrowed money to do it. Never mind that he cared about the fiscal stability of California enough to impose a $90 Million special election on the state to attempt an end run around the legislature. We could have used that $90 Million in so many ways for so many other worthy things. But it was squandered.

In a lot of respects Schwarzenegger's stewardship of the public purse in California is a small-scale version of George W. Bush's stellar "borrow and binge" economics. Not only does Bush spend like a drunken sailor on a 3-day bender, he hands out tax cuts to his rich buddies like so much Halloween candy.

All throughout the Clinton Administration, there was a budget philosophy called "PayGo." It was short for "Pay as you go." To be fair, PayGo was established at the end of the Bush The Elder administration, but by a Democratic Congress. The concept was simple. If you want to put a new program into practice, find the funds for it. It was simple but effective. By the last three years of the Clinton Administration, the federal budget was running a surplus. Let me repeat that so it will sink in. We ran a surplus.

Then came Dubya, 9/11 (which maybe we could have avoided and maybe we couldn't have) and the completely unnecessary War in Iraq. (The war in Afghanistan was indeed necessary, however, thanks to Osama Bin'Laden's "special relationship" with the Taliban government of Afghanistan.)

Usually when we go to war, we ask folks to make certain sacrifices: cut down on consumption of necessary commodities, buy war bonds, have Meatless Tuesdays...if you weren't taught about what this was all about, watch a couple of wartime Warner Bros. cartoons and you'll get a dose of the humor going around with regard to what it was like on the Homefront during World War II. But the Dubya way you go to war asks for zero sacrifice, especially when it comes to what he calls "the haves and the have base."

During a time when the expense of the Iraqi and Afghani wars are costing us dearly, he gives welfare to his rich buddies in fat tax cuts, and welfare to Big Pharma with Medicare Part D (for disaster). And what is happening? The deficits are racking up. The New York City Debt Clock, which was decommissioned during the Clinton administration, will become obsolete in two years if the current deficits continue to accelerate as they have.

And what is the attitude in the Dubya administration with regard to all this?

"You know, Paul, Reagan proved deficits don't matter."
-- Vice President Dick "Darth" Cheney to former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill, 2002

Deficits don't matter to Dubya, to Cheney, and they don't matter to Gov. Schwarzenegger either. Deficits? What deficits? Let's kick 'em down the road a piece with more bonded indebtedness and more cooking the books.

Former State Controller Phil Angelides is basically blowing the whistle on Schwarzenegger's cowardly way of handling the public purse. Yeah, he might have to figure out a way to raise revenues to get the budget honestly into balance like it's supposed to be. However, Angelides failed in framing the debate correctly, and he needs to correct that ASAP.

Here's how you do it. Phil, you are welcome to use this. For free.

"Unlike the current Governor, who has used creative accounting and bonds to paper over the deficit, I want to get back to the Democratic idea of Pay-as-you-go spending. Rather than the Bush-esque coward's way out, where you borrow and spend with California's credit card, you find revenue to match spending like we have to when we balance a business' books or a household's budget. Bill Clinton did it: when he left office there was a budget surplus. Let's close the tax loopholes and make businesses pay their fair share of property tax. Let's stop the free rides for the richest Californians. It's time to face our economic situation instead of kicking it down the road for our children and grandchildren to deal with."

That's how you counter the "Moving Backward" ads. Time to tap your rich developer buddy to craft an ad to respond.