Cal Budget 2011, pt 2: the GOP’s anti-Democracy Caucus, vs. the Few Republican Grownups.


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The Anti-Democracy Caucus

In our previous installment we looked at the options that will hopefully be put before us this June: an unthinkable all-cuts budget ($25 billion) vs. a compromise budget of $12.5 billion in cuts along with an extension of current tax rates for five more years.  But if it’s up to most Sacramento Republicans, we won’t even be able to choose. In a valiant, strenuous effort to protect us from ourselves, 30 Republicans have formed an Anti-Democracy Caucus (which they call the “Taxpayers Caucus” as though all the rest of us didn’t pay taxes.)

[Cartoonist Tom Meyer perceives a point of similarity between
Sacramento Republicans' "Taxpayer Caucus" and Kadhaffi.]

It’s not surprising to see the Assembly half of the caucus being led by freshman Irvine wingnut Don “Spanky” Wagner (who beat OJ friends Melissa Fox and Debbie Tharp in November.)  And, looking through the roster for other members of our Orange County delegation, we are further unsurprised to see Wagner joined by extremists Allan Mansoor, Diane Harkey, and Senator Mimi Walters.

But I’m disappointed to see my Assemblymen Jim Silva (Huntington Beach), Assemblyman Jeff Miller (Corona, Tustin) and Senator Mark Wyland (Carlsbad, San Juan Capistrano) included, all of whom I had thought of as sensible, moderate people.  Apparently they’re still letting the hardcore anti-government lobby pull their strings, as though Jon Fleischman had any real power, as though Grover Norquist was a Californian, as though more than a few hundred thousand dunderheads took John and Ken seriously, as though we were not now in the era of the Open Primary so they don’t have to kiss wingnut ass any more to stay in office.

We’ll look at all those factors below, and we’ll write and call Silva, Miller and Wyland to remind them of the facts.  You can always drop out of a stoopid caucus.  (And humorous ex-seminarian Jerry Brown has joked of giving out papal “dispensations” to release them from their vows and pledges.)

The Republican Grownups

Hope lies with eight reasonable Republicans – including OC Senators Tom Harman (Huntington Beach) and Bob Huff (Diamond Bar, Brea, Yorba Linda) who see no value in joining caucuses and making pledges to “just say NO.” And a “Gang of Five” of them – including Harman – are doing the unthinkable:  meeting and negotiating with Governor Brown to see what kind of business-friendly concessions they can get in return for their votes.

For their troubles, as they surely expected going forward, they’re being raked over the coals in the far-right blogosphere,  their heads impaled on cartoon stakes in goofy John & Ken World, and their offices swamped with hostile threatening calls from the paste-eating fans of the shock-jock duo.  Such is life in the public service.

[John and Ken fantasize driving a bus over the heads of eight Republican Grownups,
including OC's Senators Harman and Huff.  Watch your scalps, boys!]

This treatment is pretty short-sighted on the part of Republican activists and poobahs.  On one hand, just because this tax extension may get on the ballot is no guarantee the public will pass it.  And on the other hand, the concessions that this Gang of Five are trying to wring from Brown and the Dems are quite substantial, long-time Republican wishes;  even if they manage to extract half of them, Republicans should still owe them a debt of gratitude, not fantasy impalement.

One Republican strategist raved to the Oakland Tribune:

“This is the greatest moment of leverage they’ve had for decades.  It’s a great opportunity to get robust, long-term fiscal and regulatory reforms that they could only otherwise achieve as a majority. The question is if there are enough members who can be what I call a coalition of the responsible who will explore what they can get in exchange for merely putting tax extensions on the ballot.”

What they’re talking about specifically falls into the categories of spending caps, pension reform, regulatory reform, civil service changes and tax reforms “designed to lower rates.”   The Democrats and Jerry might agree to some of that, and some of it not; but since all the Republicans would be giving up is the ability of THE PEOPLE TO VOTE on whether or not to continue their taxes (and if they so choose they can get right on the trail convincing people NOT to vote that way) they’ll still be getting a real good deal, and will deserve KUDOS from fuckwits like John and Ken.

Assemblyman Paul Cook  – portrait of a Republican Grownup.

Yesterday’s SacBee featured a profile of one of these eight Republican Grownups (he’s not part of the negotiating Gang Of Five, but he is holding out to see what they manage to achieve before making a decision.)  Meet Paul Cook.  No, NOT the Sex Pistols drummer, you joker!  The Yucca Valley, San Bernardino County assemblyman and thrice-decorated Marine colonel who has defied pressure from fellow Republicans and 24/7 harassment from John & Ken fans to hold out from any caucuses and pledges until he knows all the facts.  Somehow threats don’t seem to work on Mr. Cook; when he’s told to take a position “or else,” he snaps back, “Bring on the ‘else.’ ”

Columnist Dan Morain revels in contrasting the swaggering, tough-talking leaders of the Anti-Democracy Caucus, the kind of guys who have never risked their lives for their country but have spent their adult lives living on taxpayer largesse (Strickland, Wagner) with this Vietnam vet who won two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star saving his wounded comrades.  A bust not of Reagan but of Lincoln on his desk, he muses, “the Republicans used to be a party of reform, not reaction.  We’ve got to do more than say NO.”

Governor Brown makes some grim predictions…

Yesterday the Governor, who’s been in this business a while, sat down with Sacramento journalist George Skelton and prophesied exactly what would happen if the tax extensions are not allowed to go to the ballot:

  1. He, Brown, would be forced to put forth the draconian all-cuts budget.
  2. The Democrats would reject such a cruel budget.
  3. The Democrats would come back with their own budget which would be full of “gimmicks” [Jerry's word]
  4. He, Brown, would veto that budget.
  5. The state would be left without a budget indefinitely.
  6. Forces on left and right throughout the state would commence a huge initiative war against each other, what Brown referencing Hobbes calls “a war of all against all…”

which Cal Buzz summarizes:

Forces on the left will set out to soak the rich, slap taxes on oil drilling and services, split the property tax roll and give communities power to raise taxes with a majority vote. Forces on the right will seek to cap state spending, unravel collective bargaining rights of public employees, slash pensions, eliminate union shops and decimate social services and environmental regulations.

This is our last, best moment for fiscal and political sanity in the state.

In our next installment…

… We will have fun looking at the Paper Tigers that somehow keep most Sacramento Republicans either up at night or waking to a wet bed:

  • Grover Norquist, the porcine and insufferable meatball head of Americans For Tax Reform, who jets around from his DC home telling ever-more-resentful states how they should run things if they want to remain in his good graces.
  • Jon Fleischman, the hapless and obsequious hack who runs the Flash Report, whom Grover bizarrely chose to be his California ENFORCER, and who was just recently voted out of his vice-chair position in the OC GOP.
  • Radio goofballs John and Ken, whose influence, such as it may have been in the past, is severely diminished by last year’s Prop 14 (open primaries favoring moderate Republicans!)

AND then we will demolish all their arguments – both their arguments against democracy, and their arguments against the tax extension. (Let’s not get the two issues confused!)  Now VOTE, if you haven’t already:

First question:

Should California voters be allowed to decide whether or not to extend current taxes five years to avoid an ALL-CUTS budget?

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Second question:

Would YOU vote to extend the current (2009) taxes & revenue another five years to avoid an all-cuts budget?

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About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist in Orange County. Performs regularly with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem, and at regular concerts at the Huntington Beach Central Library.