Quantcast

Archive for the ‘taxes’ Category



Convention Wrap: CA GOP Seems Headed for the Cliff

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Like a herd of wooly mammoths at the end of the Pleistocene epoch, the California Republican Party is on the verge of extinction.

It may still recover. The CRP has come back from near death before. And redistricting, alongside the top-two primary system may yet revive it. But judging from the infighting, narrow thinking and rigid ideological positioning on display at the party’s organizing convention last weekend in Sacramento, the signs are not good.

As former GOP Assembly leader Bob Naylor put it succinctly Sunday morning, “It’s on life support.”

The party did pull back on some issues that would have help drive it off a cliff. And there’s a new chairman — Tom Del Baccaro, a bright, attractive fresh voice who hopes to connect with a broader range of voters than the 20% to which the GOP usually speaks.

“We have a message problem, folks,” Del Beccaro told delegates. “Quite frankly, we have trapped ourselves into talking to the converted instead of inspiring a new generation of voters.”

Which, of course is true, but not to the point. The GOP’s fundamental problem is that the content of their message on too many key issues is simply unacceptable to the vast swath of moderate California voters.

Moreover, the mass message his party seemed to endorse at the weekend organizing convention essentially was: “Love Us or Leave Us.”

“We’re just a party of narrow ‘no,’” said conservative radio talk show host (and fellow Buckeye) Eric Hogue, who, along with the rest of the news media was only allowed to attend the noon keynote speech after reporters angrily protested. “The California Republican Party is on its way to becoming the third party in California, behind Decline to State,” said Hogue, whose rants from the right sometimes would make Attila blush.

“They’re very set in their ways,” said a 29-year-old Latino delegate from the Inland Empire who was afraid to let his name be used. “They say, ‘That’s the way it’s always been,’ whether it’s on immigration or the environment or marriage,” said the U.C. Davis graduate whose grandfather came to California as a bracero.

In short, the CRP shows no signs of intending to adopt the pragmatic  and doable five-point plan Calbuzz laid out back in November for the Revival of the California Republican Party.

The troglodyte wing of the party – the California Republican Assembly – withdrew its resolution to censure, denounce, expel and castrate any legislator who votes to put Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax extensions on the ballot. But as CRA president Celeste Greig herself noted – the point was made: this is a pup tent party.

And despite much drama and name-calling, the party adopted a rule for endorsements that essentially respects the top-two primary system until 2014, when they intend to run a vote-by-mail primary for Republicans. Of course, that was after state Sen. Sam Blakeslee (the only one of the five GOP senators who are negotiating with Brown to attend the convention) was verbally bitch-slapped at a Rules Committee meeting (of course he did accuse the other side on the endorsement issue of “thuggery”).

There was a lot of lip service from party leaders to “reaching out” to Latino voters, but not even a suggestion of moving toward creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants – the sine qua non for Mexican-Americans in California. The prevailing attitude at the convention seemed to be the Republicans lost every major statewide race and have been reduced to a strident minority because Republican candidates were too weak on conservative principles and besides,  people are lazy and stupid.

This was nicely summed up by Karen Klinger, a delegate from Sacramento, who declaimed, “We need Republicans with balls . . . People don’t know who their party is any more.” Voters don’t align with the GOP these days because “people automatically want to be subsidized . . . (but) Republicans stand for hard work.”

CRP members cheered John Bolton, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, who said he is “considering” running for president and who, after calling President Obama’s foreign policy “pathetic,” said he’d have unilaterally attacked Libya.

They also were smitten with Fox News fake pollster Frank Luntz, who advised a party that is reviled by Latinos to reward immigrants who came here legally and punish those who came her illegally. Don’t ever vote for tax increases — ever — Luntz advised (contrary to those pinko former governors like Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson.)

And they delighted in the message from Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour who demanded someone should explain to him “How do businesses thrive and hire when government is sucking up all the money?” (Pithy note on Gov. Barbour from GOP wiseman Allan Hoffenblum: “How likely is it that the governor of Mississippi is going to defeat the first black president of the United States?”)

Over and over, the Republicans talked about the “opportunities” they face but nowhere was there an attempt to address some of the, um, facts, provided to Calbuzz  by troublemaker Bob Mulholland, the former political director of the California Democratic Party:

— There are 7,569,581 registered Democrats (44%) and 5,307,411 registered Republicans, (31%). This is the lowest GOP percentage in the history of California.

— Democrats hold 123 of the 187 partisan seats in California (66%).

— Democrats won all nine statewide races last November and now hold all 10 state offices (including both U.S. Senate seats). Since 1988, Democrats have won all five presidential races and all eight U.S. Senate races.

— President Obama won California by 24 points (61% to 37%) or by 3,262,692 votes.

— Democrats hold 34 of 53 House seats; 52 of 80 Assembly seats and 25 of 40 State Senate seats.

To this, we might note, there are also 3,507,119 DTS voters (Decline To State a party) (20%) – double the percentage from 1994. Polling and voting data find that these voters — by and large — think and act more like Democrats than Republicans on electoral issues most of the time.

It’s not as if ideas aren’t available to the GOP to maintain its principles but make itself less odious to Latinos and moderates. Consultant Patrick Dorinson, the former communications director for the party who calls himself the “cowboy libertarian,” for example, said “what scares these folks is that if all those immigrants become citizens, they’re going to vote (for Democrats).”

So, he suggested, the party could adopt a stand supporting the notion that any illegal immigrant who wants to vote as a citizen would have to go back to Mexico and come back legally, but those who just want to stay and work could become permanent legal residents, without the right to vote.

Delegate Michelle Connor of Solano, 33, had another idea: “If you go into the armed forces and you’re willing to die for your country, you should be able to become a citizen. Or if you graduate from college and pass your citizenship test.”

Right now, we suspect, the first response a lot of party Republicans would have to such ideas would be: “What would John and Ken say?”

Quiet conversations with several Republicans confirmed what GOP finance chairman Jeff Miller was saying: that donors “think the party is on the brink of irrelevance . . . They think the party focuses most of its time speaking to 30% of the state rather than the majority of the state . . . (donors are watching to see if) we’re going to continue to focus on eating our own, as opposed to focusing on electing more Republicans.”

Or as Dorinson put it: “Only a buzzard feeds on its friends.”

Convention Notes

An accounting from our advancer:

1. As noted above, the cave people did not exactly win since they withdrew their resolution to rub out anyone who helps put a tax extension measure on the ballot. But if getting publicity for their tiny strike team of reactionaries was the goal, they triumphed handily.

2. The GOP 5 couldn’t be tarred and feathered because only one showed up and while he didn’t get the medieval treatment, he was accused of  “selling us out on taxes” and made to understand that should he ever wander out of his district, the right wing will jump his ass.

3. Sutter Brown and Grover the Norquist did not make appearances but there was plenty of doggy doo and more than a few delegates stepped in it.

4. The Stalinistas failed to pass their plan to give a cadre of party purists the authority to anoint candidates in the top-two primary system.  U.S. Rep Kevin McCarthy and others put the squeeze on to keep the party — as he said at Saturday night’s dinner — from bringing back the back room.

5. Comrade Jon “Josef” Fleischman, who was working the hallways, salons and bars like a cheap hooker, never bought one lousy drink for any reporter that we’re aware of, despite the fact that the news media have literally made his name a household word.

Other notes: Chairman Del Baccaro, who is young and good looking, was literally mobbed by GOP women Saturday night at his reception where he signed baseballs. Why did he sign baseballs when he never played hardball? “It’s the team thing,” he told Calbuzz, which got its own autographed ball.

Certain numbnuts in the party tried twice — at the Rules Committee meeting on Friday and the Saturday luncheon with Fox Poll Clown Frank Luntz — to keep reporters out. That is so stupid. First, too many of us would just sit there and demand to be arrested and why do you want to make it look like you’re doing secret business?

Somebody at the L.A. Times needs to lighten up a bit and let poor Seema Mehta and Maeve Reston skip boring, unremarkable speeches and meetings when Calbuzz party time is happening. Same for B people re. Torey “Don’t Call Me Tulip” Van Oot. We spent time on the road with some of their bosses and they never missed trial fun for crapchurn.

He will be missed: Sadly, Doug McNea, 64, of San Jose, collapsed while dancing and died at Kevin McCarthy’s party Saturday night. Our condolences to friends and family of the longtime leader of the  Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association.

Calbuzz at Two: Wild Parties, Lady Gaga & a Field Poll

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

From Sydney Harbor to the Taj Mahal and Tiananmen Square, from  Big Ben to the Eiffel Tower and the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, raucous crowds numbered in the tens of millions gathered Wednesday amid pomp, pageantry and majestic bombardments of M80s and Megabangers to wildly cheer and celebrate the Second Anniversary of Calbuzz.

“Ich kann es nicht glauben,” murmured staff psychiatrist Dr. P.J. Hackenflack, weeping openly as he listened to reports of the global revelry on a transistor radio in his mom’s basement. “When we started this brave journey, there was no one who believed Calbuzz would still be around two years later, least of all me.”

There were no injuries.

As Tom Meyer released a limited edition cartoon commemorating the founders of Calbuzz celebrating the great day, the site’s Department of Archival Inquiry and Dewey Decimal System Research reported that the must-read web site has soared to Number 1,074,351 among the list of all the blogs in the world (you could look it up).

More: Amid reams of deep-think policy reporting on such fascinating subjects as the Sinclair Paint decision, the Parsky Tax Reform Commission and the Tranquillon Ridge offshore oil drilling project, Dr. H is pleased to  report that our all-time, nothing- else is-even-close,  first place most hits ever, popular post was the one and only piece that carried a headline that included Lady Gaga (you could look it up).

God, we love us some internets.

.

.Note to Neanderthals: the most important finding in the Field/UC Berkeley poll out today is that six in 10 voters – including more than half of Republicans — support Gov. Jerry Brown’s call for a special election on tax and fee extensions to close about half the state’s $26 billion deficit.

And providing evidence for why the anti-tax jihadists are so adamant about NOT allowing Brown’s plan to reach the ballot, 58% of voters – 69% of Democrats and 66% of independents but just 35% of Republicans – say they’d vote to approve those extensions.

These are some of the findings from a survey in English and Spanish by the Field Poll and UC Berkeley of 898 registered voters Feb. 28-March 14.

Only a handful of voters – 11% — prefer to deal with the state’s deficit mostly through raising taxes and just 32% prefer using mostly spending cuts. Rather, the favored approach – by 52% — is a mix of budget cuts and increased tax revenues.

Moreover, as Mark DiCamillo of the Field Poll put it: “By a 55% to 43% margin, Californians say they are not willing to pay higher taxes for the purpose of helping the state balance its budget. However, by a 61% to 37% margin, voters agree with the statement, ‘I would be willing to extend temporary tax increases enacted several years ago to help the state balance its budget.”

Grover Norquist, Jon Fleischman, Jon Coupal, John and Ken take note: California voters would rather extend some minor tax and fee hikes and cut spending by about $12 billion than slice, dice and decimate schools or health care for the poor, elderly and disabled. You may have no heart but the voters of California do.

Of 14 areas suggested for budget cutbacks, only two – courts and prisons – receive majority support. And voters are vehemently opposed to cutbacks in some areas that would almost surely have to be slashed if tax extensions are not placed on the ballot and approved, including public schools, law enforcement and police, health programs for  low-income and disabled Californians, higher education, child care and mental health programs.

By far, the most contentious issue in Sacramento right now is whether the Legislature should place a special election on the June ballot. This requires a 2/3 vote which means Brown and the Democrats need two Republicans each from the Assembly and Senate to agree to the special election.

The most conservative voices in the GOP are threatening legislators with expulsion from the Republican Party and fevered opposition if they even vote to place Brown’s plan on the ballot. Yet the Field Poll/UC Berkeley study finds that registered Republicans – a more diverse group than the anti-tax crusaders – would prefer that approach as seen in the chart above.

As your Calbuzzers told you back in January, the whole battle is about whether Brown’s proposal is seen as extending or increasing taxes.

[Calbuzz gets the Field Poll from sources because one of the survey’s big subscribers has complained that we should not be allowed to pay for a subscription on our own (which we actually offered to do). Since we don’t have the proper link at post time, here’s a link to the Field Poll’s list of surveys which ought to have this one up by the time you read about it here. Here’s the link to the survey]

One-way street: As Jerry Brown’s talks with the GOP 5 teeter, it’s tough to disagree with the sentiments of the Republicans’ top negotiator, Senator Bob Huff, as reported by Steve Harmon:

But Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, the lead GOP budget negotiator who has been aiding the GOP 5, said Republican backlash isn’t a concern. Republican activists would credit them, Huff said, if they forced Democrats to place pension and regulatory reforms, as well as a spending cap, on the ballot.

“They are asking us to cast a vote that separates us from our base,” he said. “So, Republicans would like to see Democrats going to the ballot with something that separates them from their base.”

Faced with the torches and pitchforks of state GOP wingnuts and crazies, the Republican lawmakers who have been hunkered down with Brown are putting it all on the line: at some point, he needs to man up and give something in return.

Budget talks add: Nice work by the Sacbee’s Torey (Don’t call me Tulip) Van Oot in churning out a set of mini-profiles of the GOP 5, about the only thing we’ve seen that tells people who these guys actually are.

Must-see TV:

-UCLA scholar demonstrates why there are so many dumb blonde jokes.

-What Sarkozy’s marital woes and Yeltsin’s tennis shorts have in common.

-How does he get these women to do such things?

-Second greatest buzzer beater of all time.

-Greatest buzzer beater ever.

Happy Anniversary all!

How Papal Predeccesors Can Help Pope Jerry I

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Jerry Brown’s recent reliance on religious rhetoric in trying to win Republican support for his tax plan may reflect a belief that his only hope for political salvation lies in the power of prayer.

Or maybe it just means he’s suffering delusions of grandeur.

Some media heretics claim that Brown’s drawing of a comparison between the few Republicans willing to negotiate with him and the Jewish elder Nicodemus means the governor is casting himself in the role of Jesus.

But the Calbuzz College of Cardinals and Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers, which has analyzed Brown’s canonical pronouncements more fully than any other news organization, just issued a new encyclical, decreeing that the Jesuit-trained governor’s spouting of sacerdotal language suggests instead that he considers himself the Pope, a point he seemed to make in a recent appearance before legislators:

While expressing disappointment at Republicans who have signed anti-tax pledges, he quipped that as a young seminary student he made vows of poverty, chastity and obedience that were later withdrawn.

“It took the Pope to do that, but I want you to know we can set up a process where we can dispense people from pledges,” he said to laughter.

“Any Republican that wants a dispensation, they should come down to my office.”

With compromise-minded GOP senators declaring this week that they are at “impasse” with Brown, we recommend he look closely at the political records of five of the 266 popes in Roman Catholic Church history for some key dos and don’ts about what he should do next:

St. Peter (32-67 AD) – The first pope, and the rock upon which his church was built, Peter found perhaps his greatest success during the years he traveled on populist missionary tours throughout the Mideast and Asia Minor – Antioch, Caesarea,  Galatia, Joppe, Lydda, Pontus, et al. – before ending up in Rome.

It’s a good model for Brown, particularly if Republicans remain stubborn, and he should hit the road – Anaheim, Chowchilla, Grass Valley, Jackson, Larkspur, Pomona, etc. – on behalf of his budget plan, before heading back to Sacramento.

A word of caution: Historians tell us Peter met his earthly fate by being crucified upside down by whack job Emperor Nero; Brown is well advised to avoid  being in the same room as Grover Norquist.

Pope Leo I (440-461) – Leo the Great is known for sustaining and expanding the unity of his church at a time when that wasn’t an easy thing to do; among other accomplishments, he persuaded Attila the Hun to leave Italy, and convinced the Vandals to take it easy on the citizens of Rome.

Like Leo, Brown is faced with restoring stable governance to a state in chaos. His equivalent challenge: chilling out the marauding anti-government Visigoths of the GOP.

Pope-elect Stephen (March 23-26, 752) – A Roman priest, Stephen was elected to succeed Pope Zachary but died just three days later, before he was ordained, of what historians say was apoplexy.

It’s understandable that Brown might go all apoplectic over the budget battle, so he needs to just…breathe…and take an ecumenical dose of Zen  meditation the better to stay on the political pathway to a second term. Plus some friendly Ignatian advice: “Age quod agis” – “Do what you are doing.”

Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) – Not-so-Innocent was the first pope to levy an income tax, requiring all clergy to fork over one-fortieth of their pay to help support the Crusades. At first, he promised to return one-fourth of the dough if they paid up willingly and honestly; when some complained that the money was being misused, he cracked down and threatened to excommunicate anyone who tried to short the tax man.

The clear lesson for Brown: he needs to make his case for tax extensions both convincing and clear, and if he manages to get his measure on the ballot, he damn well better explain to voters exactly where their money is going.

Pope Pius IX (1846-78) – The cardinals who voted him in were divided into two factions – conservatives who wished to continue absolutism in church governance, and liberals, who backed moderate reforms; when the deal went down, he won by three (decline-to-state) votes.

Pius started his record-long reign as a strong liberal, but became ever more conservative in later years, as he demonstrated shrewd and savvy political skill on behalf of his church while navigating decades of European revolutionary upheaval and ushering in the dogma of “papal infallibility.”

Like Pius, Brown now trends more conservative than in his liberal salad days. Also like him, the governor needs to win support from independents in order to succeed. In the end, however, it would be a helluva’ lot easier for Brown if he just declared himself infallible and passed whatever budget he damn well pleases.

On a more secular note: With the Gang of Five GOP senators who’ve been meeting with Brown having declared an impasse, while unions representing teachers, firefighters, cops and others urge the Legislature to protect pensions, it’s a 50-50 proposition at best that Brown’s hopes for a June vote on $12 billion in tax and fee extensions will come to pass.

Given that the governor has repeatedly stated he will not go for a majority-vote move to get a measure on the ballot (because it’s likely not legal, not to mention politically suicidal) there are basically three theories about what will happen next in Sacramento :

1. Intransigent Republicans will continue to refuse to offer reasonable options for negotiation on a budget agreement because by saying “no” they get what they want: $26 billion in spending cuts.

This is the “Don’t Throw Me in the Briar Patch” approach that Brown unintentionally invited by saying a) he won’t raise taxes without a vote of the people and b) if he can’t get a vote, the only alternative is an all-cuts budget.

2. Many Republicans (the Gang of Five and others) know that $26 billion in spending cuts would devastate local schools, higher education, public safety, state parks and social services (for which they may be blamed), so they’ll hold out until the last minute, expecting Brown to negotiate with himself by offering ever deeper cuts, pension reforms and spending limitations which they just might go along with after the California Republican Party state convention March 18-20.

3. Declaring talks at an impasse – and Brown’s suggestion that things look bad – are just negotiating tactics and in the next few weeks both sides will bend enough to reach an agreement that the Democrats and their labor, environmental and social allies can accept in place of $12 billion more in cutbacks and that a handful of Republicans — bolstered by chambers of commerce and other business groups — can accept as conservative accomplishments to ward off the right-wing, anti-tax political  jihad.

What will happen? Who will prevail? Will Sutter Brown roll over and present his belly to be stroked? Will Pope Jerry?

Calbuzz sez: a combo of 2) and 3).

The Death and Possible Re-Birth of Negotiation

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Whether or not the dozen California Republican legislators (more than enough for a minyan!) who have refused to join the politically suicidal Taxpayers Caucus are all modern day Pharisees, Gov. Jerry Brown was not far off the mark comparing them to Nicodemus ben Gurion, the prominent Jewish elder who is said to have met with Jesus under cover of night to avoid the risk of ostracism.*

“I’m not going to blow their cover,” Brown said of the individuals he’s been meeting with – those who have declined to drink the Kool Aid being dispensed by the Grover Norquist-inspired Ostrich Phalanx and henchmen, like our pal Jon Fleischman.

The small band of savvy Republicans appear to get that a) they are in a position to extract at least some of their cherished goals in exchange for merely voting to put Brown’s tax extensions on the June ballot and b) their old world is rapidly changing, because of the new rules of redistricting and the top-two primary system, so they can’t afford to stand in the doorway and block up the hall.

As Rob Stutzman, the Republican strategist who advised Meg Whitman’s campaign for governor, put it: “They have more leverage than they’ve had at any time arguably over the last decade.” But then guys like Stutzman and Jim Brulte, the former legislative leader, are old-school pols who believe, like Ronald Reagan did, that you negotiate to reach agreement and that agreement – i.e. governance — is a good thing.

At a time when “compromise” has been stricken from the actions and vocabulary of Tea Partiers in Washington and the intransigent governor of Wisconsin (except as a pejorative to attack those who disagree with their rigid stances), the efforts to strike a deal by a handful of GOP legislators in Sacramento is a smart and responsible move, both as policy and as politics.

By bucking the unrelenting pressure of no-compromise apparatchiks and no-tax ideologues in their party’s extremist wing, these Republicans – like Sam Blakeslee, Anthony Cannella, Bill Tom Berryhill, and Bob Huff, to name a few — have set the stage for a political counter-narrative to the bitter union-busting drama being played out in Madison, and the looming threat of a federal government shut-down by Congress under Weeper of the House John Boehner.

If the GOP’s Responsible Caucus can wring enough legislative concessions from Brown to justify the intraparty flak they’ll take for helping him pass the key element of his plan – a statewide vote on extending $12 billion in temporary higher taxes and fees – they also will have a dealt a major blow to the politics of deadlock that have dominated California for a generation.

Urging them on – with visions of business-friendly reforms dancing in their heads – are groups like the Bay Area Council, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and even the California Chamber.

It should be noted, by the way, that Brown’s problem is not just with Republicans. Forces on the Democratic left are extremely upset about the massive spending cuts Brown has already extracted and, if the Republicans seeking a deal overplay their hand and some interest group – the California Teachers Association, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, Service Employees International Union, or any other – decides to oppose whatever deal Brown negotiates, the whole thing could explode.

A way out — our sources are betting — is at best a 50-50 proposition.

As Steve Glazer, Brown’s senior adviser told Calbuzz over the weekend: “We’re sitting on bar stools in a foot of gasoline and everybody’s got a match.”

The ossification of Sacramento was created by a battery of political circumstances, including some so-called “reforms,” that together had the unintended consequence of bogging down the Capitol in the gridlock of polarization and partisanship. The key ingredients in hardening the political cement are 1) diminished party registration 2) non-competitive elections and 3) term limits.

Add to these closed primaries, campaign contribution limits that don’t apply to interest groups and a cable-driven coarsening of political dialogue and you have a recipe for impasse. That’s how we arrived at a situation where negotiation is seen as collaboration and compromise is regarded as capitulation.

Ironically, the sudden willingness of at least a few members of the minority to consider compromise, negotiation and deal-making to be useful and acceptable tools, in place of the just-say-no obstructionism that has long marked the GOP position, may itself have been triggered by two new reforms: a new, non-partisan citizens commission that is redistricting the state and a new “top-two” primary system are both designed to encourage more moderate politics; they may be working even before they’ve fully taken effect.

“With open primaries in redistricted seats in a presidential election all the old rules are out the door,” said Brulte.

Diminished party registration, wherein moderates and those with loose party affiliations have registered in ever greater numbers as Decline to State (independent of a party), has meant that those who still vote in their party primaries are the most ideological, the most partisan and the most intractable voters in any particular political jurisdiction.

In October 1994, Democrats had 49% of registration, Republicans 37% and DTS 10%. In October 2010, Democrats were 44%, Republicans 31% and DTS 20%. Who left the Democratic and Republican parties (or chose not to join them)? Moderates who didn’t want to be part of the left and right wings of the electorate.

So those who won their party primaries – and thus those eventually elected to the Assembly and state Senate – reflected (and shaped) the ideological cast of their districts.  Legislators who refuse to negotiate toward an agreement are, in many cases, perfectly reflecting the narrow electorate – in existing districts — who sent them to Sacramento. It’s the hard core who’s voting.

Non-competitive seats, partially a function of gerrymandering and partly a function of living patterns of the California population, have ensured the election, re-election, and re-re-election of the same voices and interests year in and year out.

One liberal may replace another; one conservative may follow a predecessor, but the ideological shape and tone and color remains the same. The general election means little in most cases because all the action is during the primary. If an incumbent – or a candidate who appears to be an incumbent because he or she served in a different office – is in the race, you can all but forget about it.

Few seats are actually competitive and where they are, it’s almost always just in the race to see who gets to represent the party in November.

Term limits have a compounded negative effect. On the one hand, they drive those just elected to spend ever greater amounts of time planning for their re-election and advancement to another seat in a different house. On the other hand, they leave Sacramento with a neophyte corps of legislators who have no institutional knowledge, no long-term commitment, no real power base in their own communities and less knowledge than the permanent legislative staff and the army of lobbyists who are always on the case.

Moreover, leadership is a joke: it’s almost impossible to enforce caucus discipline, it’s increasingly difficult to speak with one voice for either party, “leaders” are in place long enough to get a cup of coffee and replaced before they’ve found the secret drawer in the big desk or learned the name of the janitor who empties their trash can.

Coupled with campaign contribution limitations that don’t apply to interest groups, term limits mean that instead of the special interests needing the lawmaker, it’s the other way around – legislators need the special interests more than the pleaders need them.

And Now for Something
Completely Different

The handful of GOP legislators who are quietly (secretly) negotiating with Gov. Brown just may get this: by the end of August, the non-partisan redistricting of California legislative boundaries should be completed and the next round of elections will not involve party primaries but a top-two system of electing candidates.

We may even see big labor begin to play a role in what used to be Republican districts. Sources tell Calbuzz there’s talk in the labor community about spending in districts where particular legislators have made it a point to work against their interests.

Candidates who are identified as obstructionist or worse, responsible for massive teacher layoffs, shorter school years, public safety cutbacks, closed state parks, etc., are going to have one hell of a time picking up enough moderate and independent votes to keep their offices. They will NOT be running in tailored districts and they won’t have a free shot at a party position.

You gotta wonder how smart it is to rely on right-wing operators, who ask, like FlashReport’s Fleischman, if “The CalChamber is Ready to Betray Taxpayers Again?” As a Republican, just exactly what is your base if you can’t include the Chamber of Commerce?

No wonder Flash and his cronies on the right are hoping at the GOP convention to change the Republican Party’s rules to give central committees the power to dub candidates official GOP standard bearers. That may their only weapon and frankly, we’re not sure, even if they can adopt this Soviet Rule, that it would do the trick for their people.

As Steve Harmon of the Contra Costa Times so ably noted, the notion that Republicans who voted for tax hikes under Gov. Arnold Schwarzmuscle were driven from office is mostly bunk. “Of the six Republicans who voted for taxes (in 2009), only one later went on to defeat in a Republican primary. Two captured GOP nominations in statewide contests, another was elected to a county post and two others dropped out of politics.”

And that was before redistricting and the top-two primary system. And before Brown, who was allowed to dispense his vows of poverty and chastity in order to leave the seminary, offered dispensation to any Republicans who signed the GOP anti-tax pledge.

* It was to Nicodemus, as reported in the Gospel of John (3:16), that Jesus, after saying that man must be reborn in faith, offered this central concept: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

The GOP, Issa and Gadhafi’s Zenga Zenga Remix

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

The minoritarian tyrants holding hostage a deal on California’s budget seem keenly intent on squandering their best chance in a generation of exercising some actual power over state fiscal policy.

At a time when Gov. Jerry Brown is aggressively courting GOP support for his budget plan, most of the Capitol’s Republicans have decided that it’s a better play to hold their breath ‘til they turn blue than it is to extract substantive policy concessions from Brown, in exchange for a couple of votes on a process issue.

The GOP’s cuckoo caucus keeps pushing away the governor, proclaiming to the heavens their absolute, no joke, thoroughly unlimited and utterly unconditional opposition to new taxes.

Yeah, well, except…nobody’s asking them to support more taxes.

All Brown wants is backing for a procedural move to put before voters the question of whether or not to extend some temporary tax and fee hikes approved in 2009. For that, the trading window is open for the very kinds of conservative policy changes – Fix pensions! Cap spending! Ease regulations! All the surf and turf you can eat for $9.99! – that Party of Lincoln types have been wetting the bed over for years.

Once again, slowly: no one is asking any Republican to be for higher taxes.

Nothing (nada, nichts, rien) whatsoever stands in the way of GOP warriors barnstorming the state from San Ysidro to Yreka, Coachella to Pt. Concepcion, preaching hellfire and brimstone about the unspeakable, godforsaken horrors that surely will rain down on California if the Vehicle License Fee does not revert from 1.15 to 0.65 percent come July 1.

What we keep failing to understand is, given their oft-expressed certainty that they speak for “the people of California” on tax matters, why are Republicans so fearful of making their case to voters?

As a political matter, the head-in-the-sand crowd has not exactly attracted a tidal wave of support for their stance, as the clock keeps ticking towards the March 10 deadline for a deal. There’s grumbling among  responsible business types about the kiddy korps tactics of the GOP leadership, much eye-rolling by some senior party strategists and even a stray warning flag hoisted by our favorite, reliably righty pundit.

Chronicle carrot top conservative columnist Debra J. Saunders, who’s the closest thing to a right-winger permitted to cross the San Francisco city and county line, on Tuesday issued a caveat-conditioned call for her brethren and sistren to put the sucker on the ballot:

The truly conservative move is to negotiate concessions — preferably pension reform or a spending cap — because it’s time to settle the tax-versus-cuts argument once and for all…

Brown has told Californians that if they want this level of government, then they have to pay for it: “I think we have to meet the moment of truth now.”

Truth is: (a) He needs to give Republicans something in exchange for having their heads put on sticks. (b) Voters aren’t likely to vote for his tax package without real reforms. And without real reform, failure is more than an option.

But, hey, if the Reps won’t even listen to their own, we say the hell with sweet reason: As a gang of unscrupulous political polemicists, we’re thinking we’ll  drop all this rational argument stuff in favor of propounding some seriously jaundiced and dogmatic rhetorical parallels between a) the inexorable budget absolutists in Sacramento and b) the despotic kleptocrats  being serially deposed across the Arab world.

On second thought, nah. As Richard Nixon famously said,  it would be wrong, that’s for sure.

We’ll let Meyer do it instead.

.

Score one for Paul Revere: Much chuckling and good cheer among the hard-bitten political types  over at Third Lantern, the Democratic hack community’s guerrilla oppo research unit assembled to throw brickbats at California Representative Darrell Issa, the Grand Inquisitor of Congress.

The Ice Man just suffered a major embarrassment when he was forced to can his supposedly brilliant 27-year old press secretary for inexplicably piping e-mails from other reporters to our old friend Mark Leibovich, who’s on leave from the New York Times while researching a book on the incestuous culture of Washington.

If you’re not sure why it was a bad idea for the now-departed, Icarus-wannabe Kurt Bardella to do such a thing, just imagine the ump tipping off hitters on the dog-ass Dodgers about what pitch Timmy Lincecum was going to throw next. If that doesn’t work for you, check out everything you’d ever want to know about the story over at Politico, which started flogging this yarn about seven seconds after they apparently learned that at least one of the reporters with compromised email worked for them.

Let’s be clear about one thing, however: Leibo did absolutely nothing wrong in this matter. He’s a principled and top-rank journalist whose job entails gathering as much useful information as possible from his sources. If one of them turns out to be a major knucklehead, that would not be his problem. (Oh, and BTW, turns out Politico itself filed a Freedom of Information request in 2009 seeking correspondence between government officials in numerous federal agencies and a huge number of other news organizations. How do you spell “hypocrisy?”)

That said, here are a few, extremely sympathetic words for Bardella and Issa from Dan Newman of the aforementioned Third Lantern hit team:

“The fish rots from the head, and clearly Darrell Issa has put together a team that shares his ethically challenged approach to business and politics. BTW – did the Congressman put a box with a gun on Kurt’s desk?” Newman emailed us, with a link to a 1998 L.A. Times story:

One of Issa’s first tasks as the new boss was to remove an executive named Jack Frantz.

According to Frantz, Issa came into his office, placed a small box on the desk and opened it. Inside, he said, was a gun.

“He just showed it to me and said ‘You know what this is?’ ” Frantz said.

Issa invited Frantz to hold the gun at one point and told him he had learned about guns and explosives during his military days, Frantz said. Because he was about to be fired, Frantz said he saw it as “pure intimidation.”

The bookkeeper, Brasdovich, also recalled Issa having a gun at the company that day. “It was pretty terrifying,” she said.

Issa confirmed that he wanted to remove Frantz–who years later was convicted in a telemarketing scheme–because he failed to collect outstanding bills.

But, as for having a gun, Issa said, “Shots were never fired. If I asked Jack to leave, then I think I had every right to ask Jack to leave. . . . I don’t recall [having a gun]. I really don’t. I don’t think I ever pulled a gun on anyone in my life.”

Shots were never fired! God, we love this business.

ICYMI: We have doughboy bodies, too, so how come we can’t get hot Hollywood babes like Jimmy Kimmel?

ICYMI 2: The Gadhafi (spell it however you want)i zenga zenga hip hop remix is sweeping the world. Here’s another Zenga mix (thanks to Tony Seton).