Archive for the ‘taxes’ Category



Press Clips: Fox (Mis)Fires, Oligarchs on the March

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Joel Fox is a temperate and thoughtful guy whose online opinings usually skip the fact-free cant and bombast that mark so many offerings from elsewhere in California’s conservative blogosphere.

So imagine our surprise when Fox fired his latest broadside at Calbuzz over at Fox and Hounds, a truly woeful – or was it willful? – misreading of our recent dispatch chronicling the state and nation’s steady march from democracy to oligarchy.

Filled with straw men, fatuousness and borderline hysteria, our friend Joel’s ravings served up a pungent hash of off-point platitudes, boiler plate bromides and red herring reasoning that did everything but attack our ancestors — while managing to utterly avoid addressing the central argument of our thesis.

Other than that, it was a helluva’ piece.

Dr. Corey meet Dr. Fox: We’ll spare you most of the gruesome details, except to note that, among other things, Fox fabricated his own premise for our argument (“Calbuzz…claim(ed) the way to save California is to tax the rich and tax businesses”); misrepresented the thrust of Jerry Brown’s 1992 presidential campaign (it wasn’t the flat tax, as Fox claims, which was only one issue that Brown employed to make the broader point that the political system is rigged to redistribute wealth upward – but what do we know, we only covered it); and leaned on sweeping, unproven assertions in lieu of evidence to make pre-cooked points (Tiger Woods and the tennis-playing Williams sisters prefer Florida to California because of tax laws, he says, and they “are just the tip of the iceberg” – Ah, the old ipso facto iceberg sum proof – Irwin Corey would be proud).

We could go on, but shooting at life boats ain’t our style. Except sometimes.

We’re political writers, not advocates like Fox, so we bring this whole thing up because we’re still scratching our heads about why he mysteriously neglected in his bashing to even mention, let alone critique, the analysis that we actually proffered.

Namely:

1-There has been a massive shift in wealth in the U.S. over recent decades, to the overwhelming benefit of the richest one percent of the population and the detriment of almost everyone else.

2-This shift has occurred – and been enabled by – 30 years of policies based precisely on the tax-cut, low-regulation ideology that Fox and his cohort just love, and which they continue to champion, despite the fact its real-life impact has been to trigger the greatest recession since the 1930s.

3-Awareness of the accumulating evidence of how and why wealth is becoming more and more concentrated in the hands of a tiny, oligarchic class is growing; as it moves into the mainstream, this awareness over time will change the terms and framework of political debate dramatically:

Paradoxically, the recent idiocy of Capitol Republicans, who blocked a popular vote on whether to extend a few modest taxes and fees that would  affect almost all Californians, has now made the GOP’s natural base among the very wealthiest taxpayers a far more narrow, rich and inviting target for pols and interest groups who are looking for Plan B to balance the budget while heading off even more cuts to education and other services; Plan B’s  Exhibit A is last week’s announcement by the California Federation of Teachers that they will push for a 1% income tax hike on the state’ richest 1%, a proposal that a new Ben Tulchin poll shows is backed by nearly three in four voters.

Such a proposal would find fertile political ground, in part because the dramatic national trend of growing wealth inequality is, if anything, more pronounced in California.

Which, of course, would hardly be a boon for bumper sticker, anti-government orthodoxy or the cozy “taxpayer advocate” political network that’s so well served the interests of Fox et al. since Howard Jarvis was still stumbling around in a boozy haze.

Hey, maybe that’s why he didn’t mention what we said.

Recommended reading:

– Here’s a nifty infographic primer on what’s actually happening to real people in the U.S. economy.

–Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now a professor at Cal, writes about the implications of the oligarch economy in a clear, accessible, frequent and timely way, as in this recent essay on the subject.

–Also this and this or this. Or this or this and this.

Rip Van Calbuzz: Not sure how this one got by us at the time, but the eagle-eared Steve Harmon had an intriguing scooplet on Sacramento’s budget mess that mysteriously seems not to have been picked up.

Mike Genest, the finance director under ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, had a revealing comment in a wide-ranging budget discussion on Capital Public Radio today.

Genest, now a political consultant advising Republican senators who are in talks with Gov. Jerry Brown, was asked if Brown’s tax extension should be placed on the ballot. He said:

“As a Republican, I kinda hate to say it but our tax burden is less now because of recession. The amount of the economy going to state government is lower than it has been for several years. Except for right at the bottom of the recession, you go back 30 years to find tax revenues at this low a level. So, there is a case to be made that we might need to keep those taxes at a higher level for a while.”

He went on to say, however, that Republicans “shouldn’t lose the opportunity while contemplating doing this. We ought to take that opportunity to get serious reforms.”

Politics is all about exploiting opportunities, but the brazenness of the ask couldn’t have been clearer. A Republican who is advising GOP senators in talks with Brown, acknowledges that the tax burden is low and the current rates should be continued — but that they might as well extract as much as possible since they have the leverage of a two-thirds vote that’s required to put a tax issue on the ballot (with the goal, of course, of, as Genest said, “helping the economy grow”).

Guess that’s why Genest hasn’t moved to Florida with Tiger, Serena and Venus.

Where’s the Inquistor when you need him: Genest isn’t the only Republican talking out of school: we can only imagine what torments right-wing talk show host Eric Hogue will endure on the rack for uttering this heresy, suggesting that the children of illegal immigrants are actually, um, people.

For Republicans to spend time in crafting legislation that refuses qualified, achieving high school graduates is highly corrosive. Granted, Americans are rightfully frustrated with the lack of attention from the federal government toward illegal immigration and its impending fiscal costs placed upon taxpayer supported state and federal budgets – not to mention the effects (good and bad) illegal immigration has upon our private sector economy. But we must learn to restrain ourselves from legislation and ballot initiatives that do nothing but evolve into political wedge issues and cultural ‘cat nip.’ Funneling any initial state reforms through the children of illegal immigrants (to get back at the parent’s illegal behavior) is mean-spirited, politically corrosive and wrongheaded.

Fleischman! Fox! Hogue and Genest to the dungeon at once!

Jerry Brown vs. Charlie Sheen; Higher Ed Hypocrisy

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

As Jerry Brown prepares to hit the road to campaign for his tax plan, our Department of Political Tour Logistics and Grateful Dead Wannabes has drafted a strategy memo with seven key words of advice for the governor:

Try not to act like Charlie Sheen.

As Tom Meyer illustrates today, there are eerie similarities between the  governor’s upcoming tax extension road show and the whack-job actor’s current “Violent Torpedo of Truth” tour.

Both men are scions of a famous father who paved the way for his son’s success in the same profession; both now face an epic crisis that may define his career; both are seeking to escape his predicament by trying to get his hands on other people’s money – Brown in order to finance public schools and health care while cleaning up the state’s fiscal mess, Sheen to make up what he lost by being fired from his highly-rated TV show for the purpose of maintaining his party hearty jones for coke and hookers.

As Brown heads off to far-flung locales in a bid to bring pressure on Republican lawmakers, however, he’s well advised to avoid the blunders Sheen committed in venturing onto unfamiliar turf, far from Mulholland Drive orgies and sensory delights, for his disastrous opening night appearance in Detroit:

1-Don’t refer to women as goddesses. When Sheen hit the stage, he swiftly introduced his self-styled “goddesses,” the porn star and the alleged actress with whom he lives, who promptly locked lips, to wild applause.

Although Anne Gust Brown, Brown’s wife and most trusted adviser, would probably appreciate deification, the other most important woman in his life, Department of Finance director Ana Matosantos, would surely find it unprofessional, if not a matter for the EEOC. More broadly, Brown needs help from every women voter, the most likely group to back his pitch for public schools, and acting like a drooling degenerate creepo sleaze would run the risk of losing their support.

2-Don’t threaten to pummel Bob Dutton. Sheen keeps boasting about his “fire breathing fists,” and how he plans to use them on his former producer and his ex-co-star, as well as Dr. Drew of “Celebrity Rehab,” who said the actor should be on psychiatric medication (“I think me and [Dr. Drew] should jump in the ring and he should see how unstable these fists of flaming fury are,” responded Sheen).

As much as ex-boxer Brown might justifiably harbor similar feelings for Dutton, the whining menopausal GOP senate leader,  he’s probably better off maintaining a veneer of bipartisanship, at least in Dutton’s Rancho Cucamonga  district.

3-Don’t say “I’ve already got your  fucking money, dude.” Sheen used those very words to bait a booing audience member in Detroit, as others loudly demanded refunds. On his tour, Brown no doubt will face folks who are understandably suspicious of politicians treating the public treasury as a  personal bank account, so the governor needs to avoid sounding entitled, while selling his tax plan as an extension of his skinflint cheapskate brand.

In the end, the biggest difference between Governor Krusty and Crazy Charlie is this: Brown (who has never claimed to have tiger blood in his veins) lives in a world based on facts, and will appeal to voters on the basis of rational argument, while Sheen (a self-described warlock) lives in a la-la-land world of fantasy, much like, oh say, most legislative Republicans.

In the California GOP’s world, truth is whatever they say it is. The laws of arithmetic don’t apply, the poor and destitute are invisible, workers don’t have rights, education can be fixed in a jiffy with vouchers and home schools, and corporate loopholes and business-biased tax policies are crucial characteristics of “free markets.”

Selling tax extensions in Inland California is not an easy task for Brown – employing facts, figures and hard evidence to win over citizens whose elected representatives and anti-tax “advocates” have for decades  cynically fed them a steady diet of failed ideology, flat earth sloganeering and Fox News bloviation.

Be careful out there, governor.

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I’m studying for a Ph.D in Poltroonery: Calbuzz yields to no one in our support for California’s system of higher education: we have not only studied but also worked in the system ourselves, we have kids and friends on campuses throughout the state and we staunchly believe that high-quality public universities, colleges and community colleges are crucial to the civic and economic health and future of the state.

So it pained us to see that 250 administrators from public universities and colleges descended on Sacramento Tuesday to argue that they should under no circumstances be asked to absorb any more than the $1.4 billion in cuts they’ve been given because of California’s budget deficit.

“We have done our part,” CSU Chancellor Charles Reed told a crowd outside the Capitol at the start of a day of lobbying. “But you know what? That’s enough.”

Oh really? And if there are no tax extensions or other new revenue sources approved, who should suffer further cutbacks: widows and children, the elderly, blind and disabled? Please, oh self-interested scholars, spare us your self-pity.

Where were Charlie Reed, UC President Mark Yudof and community college Chancellor Jack Scott when the crucial need was rounding up two Republicans in the Assembly and two in the Senate to put tax extensions on the ballot to head off doubling the universities’ $1.4 billion haircut?

Where were the organized legions of trustees, boards of directors, alumni associations*, lobbyists and cronies putting the screws to GOP legislators? They didn’t have the guts to come out, push and pressure for tax extensions and now they want to be protected? What unmitigated gall.

Had the higher education lobby worked and argued fiercely and publicly for extending taxes and fees, they’d be in a far stronger position to fight against further cuts and scenarios of turning away 400,000 community college students, more from CSUs and UCs, not to mention raising tuition and slashing whole programs, institutes, courses and offerings.

Instead, the fainthearted “leaders” of the higher education community let Brown and the legislative Democrats do all the heavy lifting on the overall budget strategy while they singularly argued for more revenue only for California’s once-great system of higher ed. And now, caught once again in the divide-and-conquer budget trap, they call for special treatment.

All of which brings to mind the words of our most venerable mentor, sage and metaphysical consultant, the great Calbuzzer, Confucius:

To know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice.

*UPDATE: Thanks to Adrian Diaz for informing us (after our post) that the Cal Alumni Association DID press its members to push for tax extensions with this letter:

Dear Cal Alumni and Friends,

On February 18, the Cal Alumni Association (CAA) Board of Directors, in an unprecedented action, voted to support placing Governor Jerry Brown’s current proposal for maintaining existing taxes on the June 2011 ballot.

Why did the CAA Board take this action? Without the maintenance of existing taxes, the excellence and access of UC Berkeley will be jeopardized by further drastic budget cuts.

In 2009-2010, all departments at UC Berkeley, including academic departments, took a permanent budget cut averaging 19 percent. Last year, approximately 600 staff positions were eliminated. Another 280 are slated for elimination this year. State funding for UC Berkeley is now less than federal funding, less than student fees, and less than private donations.

What can you do? Before Californians can vote on the maintenance of existing taxes, the measure first has to get on the June ballot. The State Legislature must decide by March 10, 2011 to get the measure on the ballot.

Please send an email telling your legislator to put a revenue measure on the ballot, so California voters can decide whether to maintain existing taxes that will help save UC Berkeley.

Governor Brown’s budget already includes a $500 million cut to the UC budget. Without the tax extensions, the Legislative Analyst Office predicts that the UC budget could be cut by an additional $500 million. Of this $1 billion reduction, $160 million could be cut from the UC Berkeleycampus alone.

Californians face a difficult choice — do we balance the state budget by cutting expenditures alone or do we minimizing the damage to one of our greatest educational institutions by balancing the budget with a combination of expense reduction and revenue generation?

While we recognize that no one likes to pay taxes, we are also assured that the Governor’s current proposal does not include any new taxes, only an extension of the existing taxes. Please send an email telling your legislator to put a revenue measure on the ballot, so California voters can decide.

Join the Cal Alumni Association in our efforts to ensure the excellence of our alma mater for today’s Cal students and future generations of Golden Bears.

Fiat Lux,

Alan C. Mendelson ’69
President, CAA Board of Directors

Why Tax-On-Millionaires Measure Is a Slam Dunk

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Vanity Fair, the monthly organ of opulence that chronicles,  celebrates and caters to the self-indulgence of the uber rich, seems a strange place to encounter a learned and astute analysis of wealth inequality in America.

VF’s current issue, however, features just such an insightful piece, by Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who not only  presents the latest evidence that the world’s oldest democracy is morphing rapidly into the biggest oligarchy on the planet, but also dissects the unhappy social implications of this economic and political transformation.

It’s no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent.

One response might be to celebrate the ingenuity and drive that brought good fortune to these people, and to contend that a rising tide lifts all boats. That response would be misguided. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone.

All the growth in recent decades—and more—has gone to those at the top. In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran. While many of the old centers of inequality in Latin America, such as Brazil, have been striving in recent years, rather successfully, to improve the plight of the poor and reduce gaps in income, America has allowed inequality to grow.

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The case in California: Since our last discourse on the subject, the massive gap between the wealthiest 1% and everyone else in the population has gained more traction as a political issue in California.

Paradoxically, the recent idiocy of Capitol Republicans, who blocked a popular vote on whether to extend a few modest taxes and fees that would  affect almost all Californians, has now made the GOP’s natural base among the very wealthiest taxpayers a far more narrow, rich and inviting target for pols and interest groups who are looking for Plan B to balance the budget while heading off even more cuts to education and other services; Plan B’s  Exhibit A is last week’s announcement by the California Federation of Teachers that they will push for a 1% income tax hike on the state’ richest 1%, a proposal that a new Ben Tulchin poll shows is backed by nearly three in four voters.

Such a proposal would find fertile political ground, in part because the dramatic national trend of growing wealth inequality is, if anything, more pronounced in California.

The Legislative Analysts’ most recent substantive report on the matter, published in 2000, found that in the previous 15 years, the adjusted gross income of the wealthiest 1% of Californians tripled, from 7% to 20%; while the overall wealth of the top one-fifth of taxpayers increased during the period, from 18 to 33%, it declined for the other 80% of taxpayers, at a time when governments were routinely cutting income and capital gains taxes for the wealthy and for corporations.

Talk about the government picking winners and losers.

Self vs. selfish interest: Beyond the moral queasiness such statistics brings on for social justice types, there are many practical reasons, based upon rudimentary self-interest, why this state of affairs represents a clear and present danger to the country and the state.

For starters, the tax-cut, no-regulation policies that have accelerated income disparity in recent decades also triggered the financial meltdown that set off the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Also, the steady, decades-long decline of inflation-adjusted incomes for the middle class shrinks the pool of confident consumers, keeping dollars out of the economy and making recovery more halting and problematic. More broadly, the wealth gap does violence to what Stiglitz recalls Alexis de Tocqueville labeled America’s “self-interest properly understood.”

The last two words were the key. Everyone possesses self-interest in a narrow sense: I want what’s good for me right now! Self-interest “properly understood” is different. It means appreciating that paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest—in other words, the common welfare—is in fact a precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being. Tocqueville was not suggesting that there was anything noble or idealistic about this outlook—in fact, he was suggesting the opposite. It was a mark of American pragmatism. Those canny Americans understood a basic fact: looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul—it’s good for business.

For much of its recent history, the U.S. has been a place where the government literally provided the concrete underpinning for economic expansion and growth. Now that the no-taxes-ever-again crowd is gaining ascendance and – amazingly – recycling failed economic policies that crashed and burned the economy, the public-private partnership model that underwrote widespread business success for decades has fallen apart:

A modern economy requires “collective action”—it needs government to invest in infrastructure, education, and technology. The United States and the world have benefited greatly from government-sponsored research that led to the Internet, to advances in public health, and so on. But America has long suffered from an under-investment in infrastructure (look at the condition of our highways and bridges, our railroads and airports), in basic research, and in education at all levels. Further cutbacks in these areas lie ahead.

None of this should come as a surprise—it is simply what happens when a society’s wealth distribution becomes lopsided. The more divided a society becomes in terms of wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy become to spend money on common needs. The rich don’t need to rely on government for parks or education or medical care or personal security—they can buy all these things for themselves.

In the process, they become more distant from ordinary people, losing whatever empathy they may once have had. They also worry about strong government—one that could use its powers to adjust the balance, take some of their wealth, and invest it for the common good. The top 1 percent may complain about the kind of government we have in America, but in truth they like it just fine: too gridlocked to re-distribute, too divided to do anything but lower taxes.

Why it matters: In California, the impact of these “lopsided” policy changes are seen most visibly in public education or, more accurately, in the decline of public education. With the state financing 40% of the cost of public schools, which have seen the real dollar amounts of that support decrease for several years, policy shops from PPIC to UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education and Access and the Center for Economic Research and Forecasting at California Lutheran University have described and analyzed the destructive impacts that reductions in education and training programs have on the California economy.

At present, California completely fails its lower class population.  It begins with an educational system that many don’t complete, while many of those who do are often unprepared to participate in a 21st century economy.  It ends with a lack of opportunity and upward mobility.

California’s K-12 program is a failure.  Dropout rates are extraordinary, and those who finish are often unprepared for employment or college.  The failure continues when the few who do manage to prepare for college find that the price has gone up and is now unaffordable for many.  Just as bad, classes are often not offered at times that are convenient for working students.

The arguments against: To be sure, there are policy arguments to be made against increasing the taxes on the rich, as the CFT proposes, starting with the fact that it may create an incentive for them to pick up and leave (although another PPIC study has presented data showing this is not the huge problem the Coupal/Fox axis would have us believe ).

Politically, however, that’s beside the point: if Republicans and conservatives hew unwaveringly to their unserious, I’ve-got-mine refusal to help govern the state, both the pressure on, and the demonization of, their core constituency will only increase.

Of all the costs imposed on our society by the top 1 percent, perhaps the greatest is this: the erosion of our sense of identity, in which fair play, equality of opportunity, and a sense of community are so important. America has long prided itself on being a fair society, where everyone has an equal chance of getting ahead, but the statistics suggest otherwise: the chances of a poor citizen, or even a middle-class citizen, making it to the top in America are smaller than in many countries of Europe. The cards are stacked against them.

It is this sense of an unjust system without opportunity that has given rise to the conflagrations in the Middle East: rising food prices and growing and persistent youth unemployment simply served as kindling. With youth unemployment in America at around 20 percent (and in some locations, and among some socio-demographic groups, at twice that); with one out of six Americans desiring a full-time job not able to get one; with one out of seven Americans on food stamps (and about the same number suffering from “food insecurity”)—given all this, there is ample evidence that something has blocked the vaunted “trickling down” from the top 1 percent to everyone else.

All of this is having the predictable effect of creating alienation—voter turnout among those in their 20s in the last election stood at 21 percent, comparable to the unemployment rate.

The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.

Jerry Brown, meet Bob LaFollette: Having been bitch-slapped on budget negotiations by legislative Republicans, Jerry Brown has belatedly taken our earlier advice and is going on the road to campaign on behalf of his balanced plan to ease the deficit. Given the above, don’t be surprised to see him strike a populist tone, ala his “We the People” winter soldier 1992 campaign for president.

It’s worth recalling that shortly after the 1900 election, in which Robert La Follette was elected governor of Wisconsin, our hero Lincoln Steffens, the native San Franciscan who had become America’s greatest muckraking journalist, visited the “little giant” to write about what he expected to be a corrupt, demagogic, socialist, dictatorial boss, as he had been portrayed by the Establishment Republicans of the day.

After spending some time in Milwaukee and Madison, however, Steffens came to a very different conclusion:

La Follette from the beginning has asked, not the bosses, but the people for what he wanted, and after 1894 he simply broadened his field and redoubled his efforts. He circularized the state, he made speeches every chance he got, and if the test of demagogy is the tone and style of a man’s speeches, La Follette is the opposite of a demagogue.

Capable of fierce invective, his oratory is impersonal; passionate and emotional himself, his speeches are temperate. Some of them are so loaded with facts and such closely knit arguments that they demand careful reading, and their effect is traced to his delivery, which is forceful, emphatic, and fascinating.

As a political matter, it’s time for Jerry Brown to reach for his inner La Follette and start sounding some good, old fashioned, Wisconsin style populism. Instead of going after the railroads, as La Follete did, however, Brown should aim at the ultra-wealthy, the oil companies and other greedy corporate interests who have a) allowed the California Republican Party to gridlock the budget process and b) fought to keep special corporate loopholes, including outrageously low property tax rates from Prop. 13.

Sic temper tyrannis.

Press Clips: Krusty’s Koans Stir Up Stormy Weather

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Jerry Brown shifted into full Zen mode this week, offering increasingly cryptic commentary amid a political atmosphere that grows ever more cloudy and gray.

As nicely illustrated by Calbuzz meteorological doodler Tom Meyer today, the cold front arising from  long-stalled talks over the Capitol’s budget mess has built up a mass of cumulonimbus thunderheads that threaten at any moment to erupt into a tempestuous political storm.

Press corps forecasters were hampered in their task of wringing clarity out of a muddy situation by contending reports offered by the Field and PPIC* polls, the Doppler radar twins of California political augury. (We refer you to a) our post-graduate dissertation on the high priest polling methodologies that generally account for some of the differences between the Two Marks and b) the secular humanist explanation offered Thursday by Joe Garafoli:  “Confused? Get in line”).

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Far more than clashing public opinion surveys, however, it was a series of odd and oblique  public utterances by Gandalf himself that blew a thick layer of mystifying mist over the political high pressure area (think we’ve tortured the weather metaphor enough yet? -ed.). Brown suddenly transformed his earlier Catholic rhetoric about the budget fight into a flurry of widely-reported Buddha-like pronouncements, which offered precious little enlightenment about what was going on with the budget in the here and now, let alone what would  happen in the next moment.

In a brave effort to end the epidemic of head scratching that followed Governor Gautama’s pronouncements, Calbuzz conducted its own unscientific polling, the better to capture a snapshot in time of what ordinary Californians think about whatever the hell it is Krusty’s been talking about the last couple days. Among the key results:

1-“Whichever way I look, I see bears in the forest.”

Four of 10 of those surveyed (40%) believe that Brown actually meant to say that he sees “bears shit in the woods” wherever he looks, while nearly one-third (32%) agree with the NRA argument that his statement proves there are way too many bears, and one-in-five (20%) back the Sierra Club position that he should not be walking in the woods without filing an EIR.

2-“We’ll know the deadline when we’ve passed it.”

Voters polled were evenly divided about the meaning of this gubernatorial  comment. One-third (33%) believe he saw a “teaching moment” opportunity to educate the public about the illusory nature of time; one-third (33%) felt  he was referencing the ultimately subjective nature of reality, and one-third (33%) said it was likely the first time Brown had ever used the word “deadline” and clearly had no idea what it meant.

3- “I can confirm I am not unconsidering anything that I ought to consider.”

A large plurality of Californians (49%) told our researchers that Brown has quickly tired of serving as governor and is auditioning to be the press spokesman for Meg Whitman’s next campaign. Nearly as many (48%) said that the governor was spiritually channeling Donald (“there are things that we know, there are known unknowns”) Rumsfeld, while a tiny minority (3%) felt he was just being plain inconsiderate.

4 “There is not as yet a clear delineation as to what will seal the deal. We’re still waiting for what I’d call a term sheet. What’s the bedrock of what Republicans need to put this before the people?”

Brown’s uncharacteristic use of business world phrases like “term sheet” and “seal the deal” convinced six in ten (60%) registered non-voters that he had stayed up too late trying to plow through one of wife Anne Gust’s old Management by Objective handbooks, while three in ten (30%) unregistered voters felt “very strongly” that he’d been spending way too much time with the “The Dictionary of Cliches”; the remainder (10%) of non-registered non-voters said the governor was quoting Dr. Irwin Corey.

5-”There’s a sense on the part of some that they’re going to come up with something good…There are positive vibes.”

A slight majority (51%) among those surveyed believe that Brown believes it is still 1976 and was feeling “groovy” when he made his remark to reporters, while the rest were divided evenly between those (44.5%) who said he’d been told there was going to be a Beach Boys concert in Capitol Park and those (44.5%)  who’d heard that Jacques Barzaghi will soon be joining the administration.

The Calbuzz survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 179%.

PS: The famous bear reference we think Jerry may have been trying to evoke was from the anti-Soviet 1984 Hal Riney ad for Ronald Reagan that began, “There is a bear in the woods.”

* What PPIC poll actually shows:

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There was a lot of breathless reporting about the PPIC finding that shows support for Brown’s proposal to hold a special election on tax extensions dipping to a mere 51% among likely voters, from 66% in January.

But if anyone explained what was behind the shift, we missed it.

Here’s what happened: there was a relentless, two-month partisan campaign against Brown’s idea and it worked; the move against the idea was double among Republicans what it was among voters overall.

With anti-tax jihadist Grover of Norquist, radio clowns John and Ken, Howard Jarvis Wannabe Jon Coupal and GOP gunslinger Jon Fleischman screaming their lungs out against the idea of putting a tax-extension measure on the ballot, lo and behold, Republican voters (and some independents who lean Republican) responded to the call.

While the net drop in support for placing a tax measure on the ballot was -7% among Democrats and -23% among independents (as self-identified by PPIC), the net drop in support was a massive -41% among Republican likely voters.

Among Democrats and independents, a little number crunching reveals,  57% of likely voters – about six in 10 – still support the notion of putting a tax measure on the ballot. It’s mainly Republicans who have been brow-beaten away from the idea.

Governor Brown has proposed a special election this June for voters
to vote on a tax- and-fee package to prevent additional state budget cuts.
In general, do you think the special election is a good idea or bad idea? (PPIC)
January March
Good Bad Good Bad
Likely Voters 66 31 51 40 -24
Democrats 75 23 68 23 -7
Independents 65 32 50 40 -23
Republicans 53 43 30 61 -41

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Press Clip Three Dot Lounge:

Sportswriter starts prostitution ring – publishers see new revenue stream to save ailing newspapers.

Just asking: Is a story about incendiary racist hate speech by a half-wit city council member really the best place to employ on-the-one-hand-on-the-other false equivalence journalism?

Jay Rosen reports that many cringeworthy MSM types still haven’t gotten the memo that Y2K has come and gone.

Stewart offers full coverage of the real inside stories unfolding in Japan and Libya.

ICYMI: To the moon, Alice.

Jerry’s Options Dwindle; Calbuzz Breakthrough Plan

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

At this stage of his life, Jerry Brown is at the end of his rope.

Biologically, the matter’s pretty much out of his hands. Politically, however, Governor Gandalf is still fighting the good existential fight, laboring day and night in an effort to craft a solution to the state’s budget woes.

As a political  matter, his biggest problem that needs fixing is this: most of the Republicans in the Legislature can just sit back and laugh at his exertions, getting exactly what they want by doing exactly nothing.

Not surprisingly, Brown is frustrated, exasperated and more than a little pissed off at the GOP members who are, variously,  inexperienced,  scared of losing their jobs and/or ignorant.

“If you’re not going to vote to extend taxes, if you’re not going to vote to cut, if you’re not going to vote to eliminate redevelopment, so what the hell are you going to do?” Brown said Monday night. “By the way, if you’re not going to do anything why do you take a paycheck?”

The boundaries of his dilemma are clear: He promised that he won’t raise taxes without a vote of the people; he doesn’t want a Democrats-only majority vote to put a tax extension measure on the ballot; he’s so far failed to peel off two votes from Republicans in the Assembly and two in the Senate to get a two-thirds vote for a ballot measure. And an all-cuts budget to eliminate the state’s $26.6 billion deficit is so draconian, it’s not clear Republicans would vote for it, not to mention Democrats.

So when he now vows, as he did Monday night, that a tax vote will happen “one way or another” — “no matter what anybody says across the street” — it’s clear he’s banking on some mechanism to get a measure on the ballot. But how, and on which ballot, are both unclear.

Brown’s approval rating of 48-21% (including 67-10% among Democrats, 45-23% among independents and 25-35% among Republicans) is far better than the Legislature’s at 16-70%, according to the Field Poll. But so what?

He can slap up a crappy You Tube behind-the-desk speech and argue “This is a matter of we, the people, taking charge and voting on the most fundamental matters that affect all of our lives.” He can go before Labor’s 2011 Joint Legislative Conference and cry “I say let California vote!” But he still seems stuck with just five options:

1. Get a 2/3 Vote: Threaten, bribe or cajole two members each of the Assembly and the Senate to agree to place on the June ballot a five-year extension of income and sales taxes and vehicle license fees passed in 2009. This was always Brown’s Plan A. But anti-tax forces have vowed to place on a stick the head of any Republican legislator who goes along with this idea, even if they get a spending cap, pension reform and regulatory relief for business in the bargain. “The moment of truth is rapidly approaching,” for this option, Brown said the other night.

2. Use the Majority Vote: Democrats in the Legislature have enough votes to place the extensions on the June ballot on their own by arguing that they’re part of the existing budget that’s in place until June 30. For starters, this might or might not be legally valid; worse, as a partisan measure, it might cause business interests who have expressed support to turn against it, to avoid being in league with the Democrats who will have conceded “only” budget cuts but no action on pensions or regulations.

3. Scramble for a June initiative: Some consultants have said it might still be possible to gather enough signatures for a June measure to extend the taxes, but writing a measure, getting approval, analysis, title and summary, circulating and collecting signatures would have to occur in record time. Most people think it can’t be done.

4. Adopt an All-Cuts Budget: Brown might still just throw up his hands and lay out another $14 billion in cuts. See above for why this option sucks.

5. Gather signatures for November: This could be a last-ditch attempt to keep his promise for a vote and avert massive cuts. The problem is that once they get past June, those extensions from the 2009 will have expired and continuing them, even temporarily, can more easily be characterized as tax increases. Polling has found about 55% support for extensions, 52% for temporary taxes and less than 40% support for tax increases.

Not a good choice in the bunch.

Voila! The Calbuzz Outside-the Box-Thinking Plan for Fiscal Integrity, Nuclear Safety and Peace in Our Time.

Here’s how it would work: Set things up so that the Democrats  approve, with a majority vote, a conditional all-cuts budget that presumes no tax extensions. (We wonder if Republicans would vote for it.) Then gather signatures to place that on the November ballot, with a provision that if the measure fails the cuts will not occur because the 2009 taxes and fees will be re-instated for five years. As a practical matter, cuts can be delayed to occur after November. And costs can be shifted to local government for local responsibilities whether the measure wins or loses.

Then let Grover Norquist, Jon Fleischman, radio heads John and Ken and the rest of their not-our-problem cadre be forced to argue for the budget ballot measure while Democrats and labor argue against it.

In other words, make the “yes” position a vote for cutting programs for widows, orphans, fish and fawn and the “no” position a vote for freedom, justice and common decency on our streets and in our homes. Recall: in the history of ballot propositions in California, “no” beats “yes” 67% of the time.

Such a move would fulfill Brown’s promise for a vote on taxes while ripping the mask from the Republicans’ phony we’re-just-protecting-the-taxpayers stance and forcing them to take public responsibility for the real-life consequences of what their position truly means: a massive reduction in popular public services, starting with K-12 schools and higher ed.

Right now the right-wing has the best of all possible worlds: they cry crocodile tears about government spending without having to lift a finger to take ownership of the painful steps necessary to reduce it enough to balance the budget exclusively with cuts.

Using political jujitsu, however, the Calbuzz Plan flips the framework on the whole debate, and denies irresponsible Republicans their current luxury of indulging in total unaccountability.

Is it legal? We have no idea, but we’ve paid enough attorney fees to know that it wouldn’t be hard to round up a whole stadium full of lawyers willing to argue that it is. If nothing else, that at least will boost employment.