Progressive Failure Is On Full Display in California

California’s modern-day progressive Democrats keep crowing about
the huge success they’ve had in taming the state’s budget deficit
thanks to Prop. 30’s tax increases and other “reforms,” and now are
championing the Jerry Brown model as a blueprint for the nation. Be
very afraid.It’s bad enough that other states have to deal with our
residents, who are fleeing our success-punishing tax and regulatory
regimen, but now, apparently, they are going to have to deal with
our bad ideas, promoted through smug lectures from California’s
liberal politicians.Not surprisingly, the national media have been quick to tout
California’s Democratic-led “renaissance.” For instance, The
New Republic this week published a feature, “Back from the
Brink,” about California progressives having “achieved the
impossible” of a balanced budget.“Progressive Democratic activists identified the straitjacket of
rules that had the state tied up in knots, and devised a systematic
plan to change them,” the magazine’s David Dayen argued. “Through
massive organizing, they transformed the electorate and sidelined
Republican obstructionists. Now, with surplus money on hand,
they’re getting ready to fight a new battle over the next few
years: whether to focus on budget balancing and debt reduction, or
to continue to boldly invest in California’s future.”I chuckled at the “debt reduction” reference. Have you ever
known progressive Democrats to keep a lid on spending or to care
about paring back the size of pension debt? They will indeed
“invest” in California—and you know what investing means. They will
throw money at programs and at government employees without
improving accountability or insisting on reform.Yes, the article is right that California’s Democratic leaders
did systematically dismantle many of the taxpayer protections that
stood in the way of their tax-raising plans, thanks to Brown’s
political skills and endless union cash. But that’s a political
victory, not a fiscal blueprint.Brown and his allies killed the two-thirds budget-vote
requirement, turning minority Republicans into an irrelevancy.
Because of previous supermajority rules, the GOP could tie up
budgets, but the result was forcing Democrats to look at the kind
of budget cuts and fiscal restraints they abhor. No more. Now, the
GOP isn’t even included in the budget process. Now that this
“success” has yielded Democratic legislative supermajorities, they
can raise taxes whenever they choose. Maybe a moderate Democratic
caucus will emerge, but even so-called moderates have always joined
the majority when it comes to tax-raising.The Democrats likewise moved statewide initiative votes to
general elections, thus ensuring greater Democratic turnout to
support the two big tax increases on the ballot. There was also
redistricting and a Louisiana-style jungle primary that—with the
support of some good-government Republicans—seems to have further
eroded what little power the minority party already had.The New Republic points to Democratic success at
changing voting laws, allowing people to register online. That,
along with the vast networking of grassroots and union organizing
efforts, resulted in a massive wave of Democratic voters that gave
Democrats new congressional seats and supermajority control of both
houses of the state Legislature. Lucky us.Yes, Democrats mustered the powerful interest groups that
support them and then rigged the rules to gain more power in a
state where the GOP already is on life support. Democratic
activists can try to replicate this elsewhere, but I wouldn’t
recommend that other states replicate the budget plan.The Democratic budget blueprint remains the same: keep raising
taxes. Dayen argued that Democrats still need to take on Prop. 13
(1978‘s historic property-tax limitation) and eliminate it for
commercial property owners. He also called for raising other
corporate taxes and imposing a severance tax on oil. Never mind
that these tax hikes could crush the real-estate and
oil-exploration rebounds that are crucial to the optimistic
economic projections that will keep the budget coffers filled.Old-style progressives gave us the referendum and initiative so
the People could keep in check powerful interests. Modern-day
progressives are chipping away at that process so no one can
challenge the current robber barons, the public-sector unions.Supposedly, it’s a great victory now that the reform-fighting
teachers, prison guards, and other unions can protect their
unsustainable pensions and fight reforms that could possibly
improve the shoddy public services the left claims to care about.
This new blueprint has ignored the “wall of debt” the state
government and municipalities are galloping toward.Despite the governor’s nod to holding the line on spending, this
new political dynamic is dependent on the things progressives are
incapable of doing: controlling their appetite for increasing the
size of government, limiting the demands of labor unions, and
halting their desire to tax businesses into oblivion (or Nevada).
Just think about the governor’s favored high-speed-rail plan.Instead of pulling us back from the ledge, the last election may
have sent us charging over it. I do agree with Brown and The
New Republic that other states ought to pay attention to
what’s happening here. But they shouldn’t emulate it. They need to
gear up and fight it.

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Progressive Failure Is On Full Display in California


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