Saturday, May 15, 2010


The Governator has submitted his "draconian" budget proposal. For once, spending cuts are directed at California's bloated welfare state. CA has approximately one-tenth of the US population, but fully one-third of the nation's welfare recipients live here.I've long called for CA to simply stop paying for everyone else's poverty program (that would Mexico's and the other western states), while also cutting out anything that duplicates something being funded by the feds, and this seems to be a step in that direction. Of course, the MSM reaction is all too predictable: Budget Proposal Deals Blow to California's Poor

State programs that help California's neediest residents would be significantly cut or outright eliminated under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's updated spending plan announced Friday.

Schwarzenegger proposed ending the entire state welfare program along with most state-subsidized child care, cutting mental health services by 60 percent and considerably slashing in-home care services for elderly, sick and disabled people. Those cuts, along with others, would save the state an estimated $12 billion in the year starting July 1.

"California no longer has low-hanging fruits, we don't have any medium-hanging fruits and we also don't have any high-hanging fruits," Schwarzenegger said. "We have to take the ladder from the tree and shake the whole tree."

First of all, if you come to California specifically to obtain the state's generous welfare benefits, and the numbers indicate that a lot of people do, I don't think you should be considered part of "California's poor." You are poor people from another state/country who came here for a better dependency culture. Second, America has developed an odd system where "poor" people own cars and major appliances, have been able to buy homes with subsidized mortgages, and suffer not from hunger pangs but from obesity. Of course, the joke is that these cruel cuts will reduce California's spending levels to those last seen in (dramatic pause) 2008! Oh the humanity!

The Governator's budget doesn't even go anywhere near as far as it could go, as some deficit hawks have noted: Schwarzenegger's Budget Addresses Few Structural Issues
For starters, Schwarzenegger's proposal would not balance the budget. He fell $3+ billion short by borrowing money from the future while calling the result "balanced". He arguably fell another $3 billion short, by counting on handouts from Obama.

Unfortunately, I see no specific pension reform mandates (Schwarzenegger is leaving that up to the legislature). The proposed payroll reductions of 5% primarily comes from not filling vacancies. Ho-hum where is the pain there?

Democrats are upset Schwarzenegger will not raise taxes, and sensible Republicans are unhappy Schwarzenegger did not stick it to the unions as did Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey.

In regards to the prison system, I see no radical changes, only wimpy proposals to move inmates from one jail to another.
(Sssshhh. We're getting ready to do all that after Governor Whitman is sworn in).

The budget actually increases funding to the state's colleges and universities. It also improves funding to the state's many parks. I don't like the idea of paying for the livelihoods of the tenured radicals at UC any more than you do, but I think we can all agree that universities and parks are a public good that the government should be paying for. So, OK, the mean GOP is cutting "welfare." That's what we do, babe. But, the proposed budget also increases funding to the state's community colleges, which are still some of the best educational deals out there (is it still $13/credit hour for SF's City College?), and a surer way out of poverty than subsidizing someone's drug habit.

California, like much of the rest of the developed world, has been experiencing a crisis of Big Government, not just in over-spending, but also in the economic distortions created by an overweening state that insists on doing everything for everybody. A lazy sort of left-liberalism has been the state's default political setting for decades. We are now living with the accumulated results of that orientation. Progressives in Sacramento and in the media may decry "draconian cuts," but the fact is we have never tried to solve California's problems with the sort of cuts and reforms that would make a real difference. The Governator's new budget won't win any popularity contests, but it is certainly a hesitant step in the right direction.

UPDATE: here are some charts courtesy of Chuck DeVore, which graphically represent the outsized extent of California's welfare case load (h/t Book Worm).

1 comment:

  1. "(Sssshhh. We're getting ready to do all that after Governor Whitman is sworn in). "

    The Fat Lady has not yet sung. The thing that Whitman and Fiorina and the others who come out of Industry don't realize is that government is not industry.

    Whitman and Fiorina, when they were running Fortune 500 companies, could close underperforming divisions, fire underperforming workers, and even change company strategy to match changing situations.

    Governors have to work with the Assembly - now largely Democratic and unlikely to change. The Governor can't do what's necessary - for starters, get rid of those miserable boards and commissions (starting with the Coastal Commission) whose main purpose seems to be to regulate the last remaining unregulated areas of our life.

    I think that's what broke Schwartzenegger when he came in. The Democrats are rooted firmly in place (I almost wrote "rotted" - maybe not so wrong after all), and until they get replaced, it will be business as usual in California.

    And they won't get replaced any time soon: registered Democrat voters outnumber both Republicans and Independents.

    Our only hope is for the voters to wake up and smell the corruption.

    My suggestion for the conservative campaign: