California Dreaming: Let’s hope it’s not contagious

Friday, July 31st, 2009

The Wall Street Journal ran this headline yesterday:  “Gov. Schwarzenegger’s Approval Rating Hits Record Low.” Californians, it turns out,  aren’t happy with his role in a budget crisis that brought the state to the brink of bankruptcy and will now produce record cuts to an an already-pared back education system and benefits to the poor, the elderly and the sick.

Seems to me state residents are looking at the wrong culprit.  Instead of blaming Schwarzenegger, they should be looking in the mirror.

Over and over again, Californians – living in the “I  can have it all” state – voted for restrictive and binding tax reductions, starting with Proposition 13 , a 1978 voter initiative that was propelled by legitimate fears that property taxes would drive people out of their homes.

That proposition amended the state’s constitution to limit property taxes and started a course of tax cutting that pushed the state inexorably in the direction of Mississippi when it comes to the services that add up to quality of life.

Over and over again Californians voted for politicians who said California could retain a vaunted education system and amenities that were  the envy of the nation and cut taxes at the same time – a bit of snake oil that produced the inevitable results in this year’s budget crisis.

Schwarzenegger may not be a rocket scientist, but he’s playing the hand dealt to him by a California electorate that believed for decades in the something for nothing theory of government – and are now surprised that they’re left with nothing.

This, of course, has national resonance as Congress and the Obama administration wrestle with reforming an out-of-control health care system.

Unhappiness with the current system runs deep, but paying for real change is something else again.  Resistance to taxation to pay for the services we see as our birthright is one reason the Democrats’ health care is foundering.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.