California Über Alles


KILL THE POOR: In his first 100 days, Brown, the so-called “lesser of two evils,” has been
far more successful at dismantling California’s meager social welfare state than every Republican
party politician who has occupied the Governor’s mansion since 1966.

In his pivotal work, The State and Revolution, V. I. Lenin epitomized the essence of capitalist democracy when, quoting Karl Marx, pointed out elections are mechanisms in which “the oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class shall represent and repress them.”

For proof of this undeniable truism, we need not look any further than last year’s gubernatorial election where then-California Attorney General Jerry Brown defeated billionaire former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, the latter who spent a record-breaking $178.5 million of her own fortune in a furtive attempt to buy the seat outright.

Despite the usual round of delusional claims made by Democratic party liberals the newly-crowned Governor would offer a bold and refreshing alternative to the cronyism and gimmickry of his action-figure hero predecessor, Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, political reality being as it is, of course, is much more sordid.

Almost from the moment Brown was sworn into that office, he has veered the ship of state government to the hard right, cutting and slashing the budget wherever he can, mostly eliminating $11.2 billion from programs and services that benefit millions of working and indigent Californians: everybody from single moms to senior citizens.

In his first 100 days, Brown, the so-called “lesser of two evils,” has been far more successful at dismantling California’s meager social welfare state than every Republican party politician who has occupied the Governor’s mansion since a mediocre B-grade movie actor by the name of Ronald Wilson Reagan was elected in 1966.

Even Schwarzenegger, who despite saber rattling about “blowing up the boxes of government,” was a wimp that begged Wall Street to loan California the money it needed to avoid making the same draconian cuts Brown did nonchalantly with the stroke of his pen and with little opposition from the Democratic-controlled legislature.

And as if to add insult to injury, Brown vows further carnage–-a total bloodbath, in fact-–if the electorate rejects, as they did under Schwarzenegger, another scheme to put initiatives on the ballot to maintain regressive taxes on working people whose incomes are being squeezed by unemployment, inflation, and high fuel prices.

Under the mantra of “shared sacrifice,” Brown criss-crosses the state with a dog-and-pony show orchestrated to persuade Californians that his austerity plan is good for them; and if they don’t want to be slowly taxed to death, then they surely can die much more quickly through a thousand budget cuts.

Not long ago, Allan Zaremberg, President of the California Chamber of Commerce, the 15,000-member business lobbying group representing some of the state’s most powerful corporate interests–-from Chevron to Walt Disney–-offered praise for Brown, noting his tax proposals won’t unduly affect “high wage earners.”

From the perspective of the handful of multi-millionaires and mega-billionaires who run California as their own private fiefdom, not to mention finance both the Democratic and Republican parties, “shared sacrifice” is a euphemism meaning only working people must “share” the pain; that they must “sacrifice” what little they have.

That Brown wants public employee unions to do the dirty work of selling his raw deal to voters is welcome news to Republicans who are already using it to fan the flames of intraclass strife by convincing private sector workers the reason their paychecks grow smaller is because the pensions of “greedy teachers” are bleeding them dry.

Democratic party politicians have long since learned that by pitting unionized workers in the public sector against non-unionized workers in the private sector–and then letting Republicans run with the ball for awhile–is a much better strategy of undermining collective bargaining instead of banning it outright.

In that way, they can extract deeper concessions from public employee unions in the long run–slashed wages, reduced benefits, and smaller pensions–with little resistance from the workers themselves, and yet still maintain their elaborate charade of being a “friend of labor,” a claim that historically has always rang hollow.

But it should be no surprise to anyone Brown cut a sweetheart deal with the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the 30,000-member prison guards union, because Democratic party politicians, much like their Republican bretheren, have always been avid cheerleaders for building a bigger, better police state.

It was, after all, the Democratic-controlled legislature in 2007 that approved of AB 900, a measure authored by Jose Solorio, a Democratic State Assemblyman from Santa Ana, to sell $7.7 billion in lease-revenue bonds to fund the addition of 53,000 new prison and jail beds to California’s overbloated prison-industrial complex.

And if history is any judge, Brown might leave office with a legacy of being known as the “great incarcerator,” because notwithstanding a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision ordering the release of 33,000 inmates, projects are underway to greatly expand California’s vast archipelago of jails, prisons, and detention centers.

Republicans have been fairly quick to assert Californians are “anti-tax” based on recent opinion polls indicating a large majority of them are opposed to Brown’s plan to close the remainder of the state’s budget deficit by asking voters to extend the triad of regressive income, car, and sales taxes for another five years.

But what they fail to acknowledge–-something Brown himself has also taken great pains to avoid discussing, incidentally-–is that the exact same polls they liberally quote from suggest a much higher percentage of people support an idea ideologically incompatible with their own myopic worldview: namely, making the rich pay more.

Given that income inequality in the United States is the worst it has been since the Bolsheviks overthrew the Czar, its understandable Californians, most of whom work from paycheck to paycheck, and many without a job, want the wealthy to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for education, health care, and other vital services.

Despite evidence of widespread public support for taxing the hell out of the well-to-do, Brown seems more content mingling with Silicon Valley businessmen than with the “rabble”–actions which make it perfectly clear the only kind of class warfare he favors is that being waged for the benefit of the few against the many.

The fact is, neither the Governor, his erstwhile allies in the Democratic-controlled legislature, nor the Republicans offer any real solutions to California’s fiscal problems beyond offering a hodge-podge of slightly different proposals all of which seek to balance the state budget on the backs of working people.

And any hints of instituting modest reforms to boost revenue, such as overhauling Proposition 13, are dismissed even though it has created an unequal system where many homeowners now pay a much greater percentage of their income on property taxes than do a few corporations that own huge chunks of commercial real estate.

It was Malcolm X, the African-American civil rights leader, who, while watching the 1964 tussle between Senator Barry Goldwater and President Lyndon Baines Johnson, mused that the Republicans and Democrats shared much in common with canines, noting “one is the wolf, the other is a fox. No matter what, they’ll both eat you.”

Perhaps the question now for millions of Californians, all of whom are in the crosshairs of one of the most reactionary state budgets in history–a budget that will eviscerate things that make this place at least a tolerable place to live–is just how much longer are they going to put up with being somebody else’s feast?

About Duane Roberts