Why Arnold’s “Legacy” Claim is a Fraud


arnoldcigarThe day before the Legislature passed the third patchwork version of California’s budget in 10 months, Gov. Schwarzenegger took to “Flashreport,” the state’s leading conservative web site, to claim “a huge win.”

“(T)he biggest winner to emerge from our negotiations is California,” the governor bragged, “our state’s legacy, its priorities, and its budget stability.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong!!

Schwarzenegger’s triumphalist braying was little more than a one-step-ahead-of-the-posse exercise in spin control, a pathetically transparent bid to establish a positive narrative for the budget disaster over which he’s presided, in hopes that voters and his suck-up pals in the national media will buy his story without bothering to check it out.

(NOTE TO NATIONAL POLITICAL WRITERS: Schwarzenegger did NOT solve or stabilize California’s budget. Despite his assertion to the contrary, his budget – passed in February and now revised twice – actually RAISED TAXES by $12.5 BILLION. With the latest revision, he threw off enough ballast to keep his hot air balloon afloat but in no particular direction.)

As Fred Keeley, the elected treasurer of Santa Cruz County, put it:

“The governor set the standard when he said, at the start of the process, that this needs to be a complete solution. And then he violated his own standard by signing a budget which doesn’t solve the problem this year or next year and in fact, according to the Legislative Analyst and the Department of Finance, is going to create a multi-billion-dollar deficit next year.”

Keeley knows wherearnoldbuckof he speaks. He served on the Assembly Budget Committee for six years, was asked by former Gov. Gray Davis to be Finance Director and is a Senate appointee to the Governor’s 21st Century Commission on the Economy.

In truth, Arnold’s entire tenure has been one continuous failure of leadership. This is just the latest chapter.

From his first days in office (when he sowed the seeds of today’s never-ending fiscal crisis by his irresponsible cut in the vehicle license fee) to his ill-considered $15 billion borrowing bond (which helped make interest payments the fastest growing item in the budget) and his current shameful spending plan (which gives the University of California a major push into mediocrity while continuing the slow death of K-12 education and punishing the aged, blind and disabled), he has been little more than a narcissistic, tone-deaf poseur, surrounded by sycophants and devoid of principle or conviction.

At a time when the state’s economy is hemorrhaging, its schools failing and roads crumbling, Schwarzenegger has been utterly ineffective in explaining to Californians the reasons behind the problems we face, and even less so in proposing innovative solutions to any of them. His little touchdown dance about the current budget belies the painful truth that this is nothing but a stop-gap maneuver designed to escape the embarrassment of issuing IOUs and con the credit markets into a few months of cash to ease the state’s borrowing jones.

Schwarzenegger’s soaring claims about the wonders worked by his budget fail on three grounds:

1. It’s a short term fix. Amid all the high-fives and chest bumps in the governor’s circle, it’s important to recall that the latest budget plan comes just five months after the last one, which came only five months before the previous. In other words, California has had three budgets in less than a year and, given current revenue trends, it’s all but certain that Arnold and the gang will be back in the fall for yet another round of all-nighters. Filled with gimmicks, borrowing and Grand Theft from schools and local government, the “huge win” for California being trumpeted by Schwarzenegger is nothing but more of the same old same old.

2. It does nothing to address the state’s dysfunction. As Calbuzz has reported the ongoing budget mess is a symptom of a far more fundamental disorder – a state of permanent ideological gridlock shaped by term limits, gerrymandering and three decades worth of wrong-headed initiatives. The latest “drama” over the budget is just another re-run of Groundhog Day, and it will keep re-playing and replaying until the pols in the Capitol acknowledge and accept the need for fundamental reforms, and find the cojones and the political skill to sell them to their constituents across the state.

3. It will probably make things worse. While it is true that the state for years has had a structural deficit, caused by the governor and the Legislature’s effort to defy the laws of arithmetic, it is also true that the huge magnitude of the current deficit is overwhelmingly caused by the current recession, which slashed state revenues by nearly one-third in one year, reducing tax collections to the level of a decade ago. The bursting of the real estate bubble, and the structural decline of the economy that has followed it has put the entire state economy into treacherous territory that may yet turn into a full-blown depression.

Under these conditions, there’s a strong argument to be made that wholesale cuts that the budget delivers will make the recession more punishing: as layoffs of public employee push the unemployment rate higher, furloughed state workers spend less, as all the programs set up to help with those who fall on hard economic times are cut back at the very moment they’re needed most.

As Calbuzz reported about the latest forecast by California economist Bill Watkins: “California’s budget issues are likely to be made worse by continuing economic decline. Perversely, the budget then negatively feeds back into the economy. The problem is not likely to see relief, at least in terms of increased revenues, before late 2011.”

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There are 7 comments for this post

  1. avatar pdperry says:

    I am certainly no longer a supporter of our esteemed Guvornator, but to trot-out Fred Keeley as your paragon of fiscal virtue is quite the stretch.
    His years in the Assembly did much to contribute to the fiscal mess we are in now.
    He is of the same mold as any of the left-wing libs that currently populate the Legislature (just as the other side is primarily populated by right-wing conservatives).
    His mantra? Give the unions what they want and we’ll find taxpayers to squeeze to fund it.
    This budget stinks. No doubt about that. But howsabout finding someone with slightly better fiscal-restraint credentials than the former Speaker pro Tem?

    • avatar Ave7 says:

      pdperry, that’s such an important point! Thank you for ignoring the thesis of this article and going so far out your way to trash a guy who is mentioned once, and whose quote you agree with. Helps me to understand how Arnold got reelected.

  2. avatar Ave7 says:

    Schwarzenegger is the perfect Governor for our times. Feeding off the public’s ignorance, impulsiveness, selfishness, and simplicity, he Terminates his predecessor on a recall campaign platform of hyperbolic rhetoric, empty symbolism, and populist stupidity. Then he outdoes Davis in every way he once criticized Davis — enlarging government, sinking us in debt, endless budget gimmicks, raising taxes, cronyism, obsessive fund raising, and complete alienation from the legislature.

    But with a wave of his hand and a puff of cigar smoke, millions of Californians will still trip over themselves to make excuses in his defense because they liked his movies. Where are all the recall lunatics now? Surely you macho, am radio studs haven’t gone all soft on us, have you?

    Arnold deserves to be recalled more than any politician in history. His record is an endless string of contradictions, distortions, and outright lies, all aimed at a single objective: to be popular with whomever he is talking to at that moment. The man is a weather vane, not a Governor, sticking his wet finger in the air every morning to see which way his gelatinous spine will curve.

    California, sometimes you get what you deserve.

  3. avatar Jim Alford says:

    Once again Calbuzz hits the nail on the head. Good job. Arnold’s a phony. The recall didn’t change a thing. His staff ought to know better.

  4. avatar stevefromsacto says:

    Buried amid the rubble of the governor’s budget agreement is one of the nastiest pieces of public policy in our state’s history.

    Hundreds of thousands of elderly, blind and disabled Californians and those who care for them will hereafter be treated as common criminals. All of them will have to be fingerprinted, except, thankfully for amputees (I’m surprised Arnold didn’t call for retinal scans for these unfortunates). All care givers will have to get criminal background checks and, unlike state workers and others with far higher incomes, they will have to pay for the background checks themselves.

    The reason: The governor’s specious claim that there is “massive” fraud in the IHSS homecare program. During the budget debate, Arnold claimed that some 25 percent of all IHSS claims are fraudulent.

    But the figure seems to have been pulled out of thin air. “I’ve never had anyone tell me where that number comes from,” Virginia Bella, the IHSS specialist in the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, told the Sacramento Bee. In fact, repeated investigations, including one conducted by Schwarzenegger’s own “Quality Assurance” survey in 2007, have found the incidence of IHSS fraud in the program to be minimal – 1 percent at most.

    Nevertheless, the governor, along with partisan ideologues and ambitious district attorneys have succeeded in branding some of California’s most vulnerable citizens and those who care for them as fraud criminals. And gullible Democrats seeking illusionary budget savings, fell for it hook, line and sinker.

    How low California has sunk!

  5. avatar Michael Jaffe says:

    Referendum 1: require a balanced budget with contingency
    Referendum 2: Re-install s part time legislature
    Referendum 3: No more gerrymandering
    Referendum 4: Eliminate income tax, live on sales and real estate taxes

  6. avatar Westwood Oaks says:

    Let’s all move forward. The best solution that I am aware of is a California constitutional convention. This is the best way we can fix the systemic problems for the next century of California governance.

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