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Arnold’s Alliterative Aspirational Adieu Address

Jan7

stateofstate2The best commentary on Governor Schwarzmuscle’s State of the State Address came in the form of Capitol Alert’s word cloud.

Thanks to them, we know that Arnold used at least 31 words beginning with “P,” more than any other letter. For those who missed the SOS – and why wouldn’t you? – here’s the Calbuzz  15-word recap:

Pigs & pony
Persevere & prosper.
Painful priorities,
Prudent policies,
Privatized prisons,
Pension problem.
Patriotism!

The pig & pony show: Except for his opening, an endless and near-incomprehensible tortured metaphor comparing the Legislature to his household pets, the governor’s final SOS was pretty much the same as every other such address ever delivered (OCD memo:  pig and pony intro accounted for 269 of speech’s 2,947 words, or 9.1 percent). Aspirational in tone and theme, it included three mandatory elements: elevated rhetoric about the California Dream, a big heap of self-congratulation and a laundry list of legislative proposals.

The devil, to coin a phrase, is in the details, of course, so the real opening bell of this election-year session won’t come until Friday, when Arnold’s Department of Finance minions release their $20 billion deficit budget, and he runs like hell out of town.

“Every year, in spite of whatever challenges are before us,” he said in the meantime, “I stand up here and tell you how much I believe in California’s future.”

Exactly. In fact, he could have given the same speech back in 2004. Oh wait, he did.

Schwarzenegger 2010Let’s do lunch: The gov made sure to give lawmakers a little love, applauding their approval of education reform (of the small caliber variety), and of water legislation that calls for $11 billion in new bond spending (boosting the state’s annual interest payment obligation, the fastest growing item in the budget). Having invited them all to lunch at the Sutter Club, he tried not to spoil their appetites by dwelling on the unpleasant fact that they’ll once again be taking the deficit out of the hides of California’s least fortunate citizens.

“Which child do we cut? The poor one? The sick one? The uneducated one? The one with special needs?”

How about all of the above, governor?

Now there’s a thought: As for what he wants to accomplish this year, The Terminator’s best ideas were to “protect education,” whatever that means, and to put a higher priority on the UC/CSU/Community College systems than on prisons:

Thirty years ago 10 percent of the general fund went to higher education and 3 percent went to prisons. Today almost 11 percent goes to prisons and 7.5 percent goes to higher education. Spending 45 percent more on prisons than universities is no way to proceed into the future. What does it say about a state that focuses more on prison uniforms than caps and gowns? It simply is not healthy.

No duh.

Two problems with Arnold’s big, blinding insight: 1) His notion for a constitutional amendment to require this policy keeps California locked in the same old ballot box budgeting box that helped get the state in the mess it’s in; 2) why didn’t he think of this earlier?

Most of his other big ideas were based variously on lies, damn lies and statistics:

“The worst is over for the California economy.” Really?

Even if you accept the argument that the recession is technically over, the lack of real economic growth in the form of new jobs, or a decline in the state’s 12.3 percent rate of unemployment, makes the case an empty, statistical claim, as everything from retail sales to real estate is forecast to sag at least until the fourth quarter in California.

“We cannot have a robust recovery while banks are not lending,” said Bill Watkins, our favorite, hard-headed economist. “So, fixing our banks should be our first priority. Unless we do that, we’re just going to muddle along.”

The feds will pay for it. Really?

Schwarzenegger is right to bitch that the state doesn’t get our fair share of federal tax money:

When President Clinton was in office, California got back 94 cents on the dollar from the federal government. Today we get only 78 cents back…This should be more fair and equitable.

Then again, if life was fair, Calbuzz would have big biceps and six-pack abs, too.

Even if the Obama Administration decides to back a too-big-to-fail  sweetheart deal for California, the odds of Congress falling in line in an election year, particularly given growing public concern about the deficit, plus the Anybody But California attitude on Capitol Hill, are slim. Arnold surely didn’t help his case with the White House by launching a surprise attack Wednesday on Democratic health care plans as “a trough of bribes, deals and loopholes.”

The Parsky plan will save us all. Really?conan

The one true outrage in Schwarzenegger’s speech was his demand that the Legislature pass the Parsky Commission proposal for tax reform — some nasty, secretive hide-the-pig-and-pony flapdoodle to which Calbuzz devoted a fair amount of attention.

I sent you the Tax Reform Commission’s plan in late September, but it seems to have disappeared somewhere under this dome. Where is it? Maybe the pig and the pony have taken it.

Or maybe it’s a dog-ass, half-baked, secretly-concocted, serve-the-rich scheme that’s been rightly denounced from every point on the political spectrum, Conan.

Views from the grandstand: Having utterly failed to end deficits or ease gridlock, the two big promises that swept him into office, Arnold is fast running out of time to try to repair his battered image, and it’s not going to help that every candidate for governor will rightfully campaign this year by pointing to him as a fine example of what not to do.

As political scientist Sherry Bebitch Jeffe put it, in a masterpiece of tongue-biting, understated, academic self-restraint:

The best word is ‘disappointing,’ and that’s being very kind. As governor, he’s accomplished little of what he said he wanted to do.

Not so diplomatic was California League of Conservation Voters CEO Warner Chabot., whose comments suggest that environmental issues, including Arnold’s own AB32 plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, could prove signficant in the 2010 campaign.

The governor has proposed an outrageous plan to gut California’s landmark environmental protection law with the false hope of job creation. Under his plan, dozens of communities throughout California will lose their constitutional right to question the health and environmental impact of major development projects in their backyard. The notion that we can stimulate our economy by making it easier to pollute the air that we breathe and the water that we drink is just plain false.

Senior Senator Dianne Feinstein joined in, bitch-slapping Schwarzenegger for blaming the feds for California’s problems:

It sounds like the Governor is looking for someone else to blame for California’s budget. California’s budget crisis was created in Sacramento, not Washington. These problems are not going away until there is wholesale reform of the state’s budget process.

Even the enigmatic, not-yet-announced Democratic candidate for governor,  Attorney General Jerry Brown, took a sideways whack at Arnold’s idea to save money by privatizing prisons.

I view with suspicion efforts to take a traditional public sector responsibility, whether it’s in schools or in prisons or maybe even in community health, and turn it over to a profit-making appropriation, particularly when it involves the coercive power of the state.

As a political matter, Schwarzmuscle on Wednesday was speaking, in his Landon Parvin-penned, final State of the State address, to an audience outside the Capitol, not in it.

But with three of four Californians turning thumbs down on his performance, it’s pretty clear they’ve already stopped listening.


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There is one comment for this post

  1. avatar SezMe says:

    He didn’t “blow up the boxes” (on the state’s organizational chart) and he didn’t “cut up the credit cards”. But, hey, let’s not focus on the negative. He pissed off conservatives and confirmed the worst fears of liberals. But those pale in comparison to the ultimate: he made Grey Davis look good. Whoda thunk it?

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