Meh Culpa

Calfornia Proposition 1C snatches $5 billion from the mouths of babes and children

Here they go again.  Arnie and the Legislature are using 1C to borrow from our children and their children and their children’s children.  1C borrows $5 billion from future lottery profits,  while taking 20 to 30 years to pay off the debt,  yet the proposition is being sold as a way to balance the budget. Over the long term passing 1C means that it’s going to make future budget balancing acts even more difficult.

What gets me is that this measure isn’t just a one-time deal, though no one really mentions that point.  1C allows borrowing from the lottery at any time in the future, which means the “loans” to the General Fund may never end, and the children of California from 5 to 21  wouldn’t be getting the Lottery money due their educational institutions.  Oh yeah, as long as  the debt needs repaying, that’s what the Lottery will do instead of abiding by the will of the voters who passed the Lottery measure for K through JC Education back in the 1980’s.

The politicians in Sacramento, especially the *cough*Republican minority*cough,* are all about taking Educational funding away.  It’s always the first thing to go.  And now it’s going ‘way back in the future.

The legislative analyst takes pains in the subjunctive to say that the state might not borrow from the Lottery after all, in which case it might cover future payments the General Fund provides for Education.  Yeah, right.   (Sorry for being all cynical, but the subjunctive doesn’t cover the concrete, it is the stuff of daydreamy maybes.  Castles in the Air, so to speak.)

As if we need more, there’s another problem: The General Fund that’s borrowing from the Lottery to balance a massive deficit would have to make up for payments the Lottery would usually make.  Sound convoluted?  It is.

Plus, if the money isn’t there now,  I doubt the General Fund can make up the balance owed from 2009-10 next year.  Maybe there would be enough money in the General Fund for a payback in some decade or other, but probably not this one. Which means trying to find the money from another program certain politicians like to cut from the General Fund (See 1E and Inside Governor Hoover’s Budget Revise*).  Funny, you don’t see the Gov’nor taxing the people who can most afford it. A Randian** Republican to his core,  Ahhhnold insists on screwing over The Little Guy and The Little Kids and the Disadvantaged Through No Fault of Their Own.

How much sense does this measure make so far?

For creative accountants, it’s great because it  means balancing the budget on paper.  But  it may also make  us less competitive in the future by taking brain candy from the babies’ mouths.  Frankly speaking, the 8th largest economy*** in the world  needs its competitive features, but we’ve been slipping for over a decade.   Considered the high-tech state, California is about 46th in the country in terms of schools’ technology access and use and the state cannot afford to lose what little it has.    Personally, I think passing 1C will help guarantee more slippage.

I don’t think we  can we afford more of what 1A / 1B  promises our kids and possibly their kids and grandkids–less rather than more.

Can you tell I’m voting NO?


* Most spectacularly (for anyone who doesn’t want to read much more): “[I]nstead of temporarily cutting various services, the Governor’s revised budget would cut them permanently, particularly in programs like Medi-Cal, In-Home Supportive Services, SSI/SSP, regional centers, Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants. …The vast majority of those cuts would be implemented regardless of the outcome of the May 19 ballot measures.” He’s also raising fees for residents of veterans’ homes.  Despicable.

** See also “The Troubled Economics of Ayn Rand.”

*** In 2007.  Whaddaya wanna bet we’re about 10th or 11th this year?

May 16, 2009 Posted by | borrowing, California, conservative, Democrats, Depression, Economy, Education, far right, politics, poltical theories, Republicans, social theories | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

California Propositions 1A and 1B: Why I’m voting NO

A few weeks ago I went through the California OFFICIAL VOTER INFORMATION GUIDE and decided how I was going to vote, but I’m doing it again before I mail off my ballot and thought I’d take y’all for a ride with me–pun definitely not intended, although I can’t say the same for the Governator.

1A and 1B are yoked together.  If either one should go down, the remaining measure fails even if it passes by a huge margin. Nifty, huh?

It gets better.  Just wait.

Proposition 1A is a Constitutional amendment that changes the way the budget process works, but the taxes will not take effect until 2012, leaving the next governor to deal with Arnie’s mess. 1A sets aside 12.5%,  of the General Fund for a “rainy day” fund (Budget Stabilization Fund) that already exists.  1A increases the amount set aside by 7.5%.

The hook:

If 1A and 1B pass, then schools (K- junior college) will receive $9.3 billion.  Nonetheless, Arnie has proposed cutting  $3.6 billion to $4 billion for Education next year, which I believe is in addition to what was cut this year,  that would leave schools with a best-case scenario  increase of  $5.3 billion.

What funds Arnie gives with one hand, he takes away with another.

The Governor gets new powers. If 1A passes, the Gov could reduce up to 7% of spending and purchases of big ticket items.  Not only that, he could reduce cost-of-living increases in any program as well as some state workers’ paychecks.  It’s not clear to me whether the Gov can raid a program the voters already have left off-limits, but that’s a distinct possibility.  Think about this, too:  it could  be Education, or something else you cherish.  And the legislature couldn’t do a damned thing about it. That’s part of the package.

Hmmm, new powers…  Hey, didn’t the last president get those?

Tax Increases* keep on keeping on through 2012, except for the Vehicle License Fee–that Arnie promised to reduced to get into office–which continue through 2013.  If I’m not mistaken, Californians pay more in personal income taxes than any other state in the nation, while seven of our cities are listed in the top ten on the Cost of Living index for the first quarter of 2005.   Ranked sixth highest in the nation in 2008, we paid 10.3% in state income taxes while the rest of the country averaged 9.7%.

Nobody really knows how this measure will pan out. (Ahh, uncertainty.  As if we don’t have enough already.)  The Legislative Analyst makes a good faith effort to figure the whole thing out, but has admitted to not having a clue.

Future revenues predicted by revenues obtained by the state in the past decade (!!). This is priceless.  Right now, we have unemployment hitting the roof so no one can spend much money and revenues from property related taxes have dropped like rocks because of record mortgage defaults that are expected by leading economists to increase, yet they’re going to predict revenue based on what happened ten years ago?  In 2000-2001 the state had a surplus revenue of $4.2 billion. But this year’s revenues sucked big time.  How much sense does that make?

Check it out:
(From: Sacramento Real Estate Statistics)

Oy.

OK, so.  As I mentioned before, voting against 1A invalidates 1B by default.  Which is as good a reason to vote against 1B as any.  But the reality is even more irksome than I remembered.  K-12 and junior college funding–you know, that net increase after the cuts–won’t happen until 2011, leaving schools with those $3.6 to $4 billion cuts for two years.

WTF?

Have y’all seen the Pro 1A and 1B commercials? One of the actors, The Teacher of Some Year or Other, talks about the layoff of 50,000 teachers thus  far and then acts as if the passage of these measures will change everything. Maybe, just maybe, the poor sods will get their jobs back?  I’d like to know how that works, and whence the money will come, since we don’t know how the junior college money will (eventually) be allocated.  Proposition 1B just doesn’t say.   Moreover, the Governor and the Legislature get to decide how the money’s distributed between the two systems because Proposition 1B doesn’t talk about that either.

I’d like to know what about Proposition 98 minimum guarantees to Education funding the Governor and Legislature did not understand?  As a general rule, Education funding is the first thing to get screwed in our great state.  Nobody seems to know how all this will work out if 1A/1B passes.  It has been argued that the Siamese Twin Propositions put a cap on Education spending,  although Proposition 98 already does that in low revenue years.

“Voters need to know that we don’t have to lock flawed and dangerous formulas into the constitution in order to repay our schools. Proposition 1A will turn the Proposition 98 minimum funding guarantee for our schools into a cap instead of a floor, and Proposition 1B could mean that schools won’t even get all the money they are owed if more cuts happen in the coming year,” said Marty Hittelman, President of the California Federation of Teachers.

And what’s the business about schools being owed money? Oh, the legislature in its dubious wisdom “suspended” Proposition 98 starting in 2007.  Proposition 98 says that money taken away from Education must be repaid. The California Teachers’ Federation argues that if Arnie’s cuts go through and the Proposition 1A / 1B pass, the state will owe its Education fund $12 billion. Will the state repay the money?  I doubt it.  We have pretty bad credit right about now.  Lowest in the nation, and that’s a fact.

No one really knows how the Constitution will be interpreted in the face of 1B because no one is quite certain how Proposition 98 will effect maintenance payments, let alone which method to use.

Ha.

I say that if no one knows, it’s probably a bad idea to vote for the darn thing.

My fave part of all time: The Governator’s having so much fun with his budget cuts that he may be jeopardizing the stimulus money California desperately needs.

Niiiiiiiice job, dude.**


* I am of the opinion that once tax rates go up, they don’t like to go back down.  I know that notion violates the 3rd principle of Newtonian physics, but that’s what I think.

** I am so being facetious.

For more info, also see Calitics  “The Deficit Is Too Large For A Cuts-Only Solution”

May 15, 2009 Posted by | bailout(s), borrowing, Bush administration, California, Depression, Economy, Education, layoffs, stimulus package, unemployment | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Take that, Peggy Noonan!

Some things in life need to be mysterious.  Sometimes you need to just keep walking. –Peggy Noonan

Unlike Peggy Noonan and the stable of pundits who have decried the outing of the USA’s use of torture this weekend, I’m glad about the publication of those torture memos and I hope there’s more daylight where that came from.  We’ve paraded our alleged superiority and exceptionalism for way too long.  What has happened in other countries–such as, Nazi Germany or Rwanda or Turkey or Serbia–can happen here.  Every human being is capable of appalling behavior.  Not all of us follow through, but that’s not the point. None of us are exempt from the capacity to do evil and we shouldn’t forget it.  Rather, we must be en garde, and all those words imply, against our moral and ethical frailties.

Did you miss me?  Yeah, maybe not.  I’ve been busy finishing up my last course and frankly I’ve felt loathe to discuss the subject because I was so angry and disappointed at Obama for wanting to let bygones be bygones, and for opining that he’s against prosecuting CIA operatives who doled out torture.  I didn’t think I could pull off a less than rage fueled post without giving myself an aneurysm.  But maybe I can now.  For the record, I think any prosecution should be from the top down, but I don’t believe the CIA should get off the hook so easily.  We didn’t tell Lt. Calley that we totally empathized with him for “following orders” at My Lai by ordering the massacre of 500 Vietnamese villagers in 1968, and we shouldn’t do anything similar now.  Not even close.

But  I digress.

Today  I’m happy.  Breaking News a la Jennifer Loven at HuffPo: Obama has said he’s open to prosecuting Bush administration for torture.  The article says “officials responsible for devising torture” but I doubt that means we’ll let officials who approved waterboarding off the hook.  There’s always gong to be someone’s who’s going to say, “Oh, well. We didn’t know the CIA was waterboarding Abu Zubaydah 183 times  in a month. That’s not our fault now, is it?”  Uhhh, yeah it is.  The Bush administration opened the floodgates by approving despicable acts, so th Bushies are to blame if entire towns and cities are washed away.  (Sorry, I got carried away with the water metaphor.)

I hope Congress is nervous, too, especially those politicians who were on the Senate Intelligence Committee during the era of torture.  I have a feeling that one of my personal faves, Di Fi (a.k.a., Diane Feinstein, a Democrat from California*), knew all along about the torture being perpetrated in our names and I think she may have gone along.  I don’t have any evidence. What I do have is suspicion: Di Fi has long been big on harsh punishments. I think she was influenced by the assassination of Harvey Milk as well as the shooting at the law firm of of Pettit & Martin at 101 California St. while she was there. The business with anthrax in DC shortly after 9/11 probably didn’t help any either. Anyone would have a case of PTSD after the first two incidents, if not the third.  At the very least, she’s entitled to feel afraid.

But Di Fi opposed Leon Panetta for head of the CIA and promoted Stephen Kappes for the job. Panetta kept Kappes on as one of his deputies, probably at Feinstein’s behest. Unfortunately for Kappes and maybe for Feinstein, “[a]t the time of the worst torture sessions outlined in the ICRC report, Kappes served as a senior official in the Directorate of Operations — the operational part of the CIA that oversees paramilitary operations as well as the high-value detention program.”  It’s unlikely he was kept in the dark.  And for that matter, the same goes for Di Fi.  After all, the Bushies liked to co-opt members of Congress by letting them in on the administration’s dirty laundry.

That’s precisely why Jane Harman, another California Democrat, couldn’t be approved for CIA director.  I believe it wasn’t so much that she’s a rival of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, although their poor relations might have contributed to the loss of Harman’s desired appointment, but that Harman knew about the administrations surveillance program when it was illegal, and she said nothing. And she criticized the NYT for revealing the program. Harman was also the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee from until 2006 and she was briefed on the ” harsh interrogations of terrorist suspects by the CIA,” but again said nothing.

Di Fi may not be culpable of anything, but  30 members of Congress have been briefed about CIA operations since 2002. I’d like to know who those 30 members are.  And specifically, what did Di Fi know and when did she know it?


* I was a lifelong Democrat until I became an Independent a few years ago.  Di Fi’s actions were responsible for my leaving the party.

April 21, 2009 Posted by | Abu Ghraib, Bush administration, California, Congress, Democrats, Executive branch, Guantanamo, Intelligence Committee, National Security, Obama, Obama administration, politics, Senate, torture, war crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment