Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Fanatical, Irrational Minority

That's what the ever lovin' nobelprizewinningeconomist Paul Krugman is calling the California Republicans, who are filibustering the state budget bill and sending the state into crisis. The state of California is broke. It can't pay people. It can't give out tax refunds. It can't even borrow money, since its credit has gotten so bad.

But it can't raise taxes, either, or really do much of anything, because of State Republicans.

The roots of California’s inability to address its budget woes are statutory and political. The state, unlike most others, requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Legislature to pass budgets and tax increases. And its process for creating voter initiatives hamstrings the budget process by directing money for some programs while depriving others of cash.

In a Legislature dominated by Democrats, some of whom lean far to the left, leaders have been unable to gather enough support from Republican lawmakers, who tend on average to be more conservative than the majority of California’s Republican voters and have unequivocally opposed all tax increases.

And then there is Governor Schwarzenegger, whose budget woes far outweigh those of his predecessor, Gray Davis, whom he drummed from office in a 2003 recall that stemmed from the state’s fiscal problems at the time. The governor has failed to muster votes among lawmakers in his own party, whom he often opposes on ideological grounds, resulting in more scorn from Democrats.

Furthermore, Republican leaders in the Senate and the Assembly who have agreed to get on board with a plan have been unable to persuade a few key lawmakers to join them. The package needs at least three Republican votes in each house, to join with the 51 Democrats in the Assembly and the 24 Democrats in the Senate.

For months Republicans have vowed not to raise taxes, which in California means no increase in either the sales, gas or personal income tax.

“It is a dramatic time,” said Darrell Steinberg, the State Senate’s president pro tempore. “The solvency of the state is on the line. It is really quite a system where the fate of the state rests upon the shoulders of a couple of members of a minority party. The system frankly needs to be changed.”

In the meantime, drivers are met with “closed” signs at Department of Motor Vehicles offices two days a month, environmental programs are left unattended, piles of dirt mark where highway lanes are to be built to ease the state’s infamous traffic congestion, school systems mull layoffs and counties prepare to sue the state for nonpayment of bills.
Yep. They can't do anything, because of the combination of those damned ballot initiatives and that 2/3rds threshold. A single Republican broccoli farmer's intransigence over taxes is holding up the work of the entire state. People are losing their jobs because of this. The state might shut down because of this. THAT is the face of the modern Republican party. They'll let the rest of us all burn to save a few bucks on the firemen.

Meanwhile, the usual idiots in Washington still fetishize bipartisanship- despite people far smarter and more knowledgeable than them explaining that it's bunkum.

But even if it weren't, even if the historical trends weren't clear, the fact is inescapable that this bunch aren't worth working with.

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