Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Brown's budget, California's choices

Jerry Brown has unveiled his proposed budget for a state in dire economic and social straits, and it isn't one that is likely to please voters. Colleges, universities, social welfare agencies and Medi-Cal will all face deep cuts.

But it's going to be difficult for labour, students and others to critique the Governor very effectively. Because the fact is, he is delivering exactly what he promised during the campaign, meaning that the outrage of too many progressives reflects either dis-ingenuity on their part or else a profound ignorance of who and what they were campaigning for in the run-up to the election in November of last year.

Brown promised a cuts-driven budget, and made no commitment to raising taxes. In fact, one of the precious few platforms of his campaign was that he wouldn't raise any taxes without the approval of voters. Brown supporters should have seen this coming. Progressives are now paying the price for having allowed the Democratic Party to avoid a competitive primary in which Brown's positions would have got more public airing early on and during which he might have come under pressure from progressives in the state party.

The Governor is nothing if not honest, and he will very likely be able to ignore the protests from the left by reminding people that they voted for exactly what he is delivering. His problem will be with the criminally inflexible Republicans in the state legislatures, nearly all of whom have signed an idiotic anti-tax oath.

The rearguard action against the destructive proposed cuts is one that should have been fought months ago, so that people understood the stakes during the general election. The elapse of many months and an election, Brown's apparent mandate, and Californians' historic aversion to taxing themselves to pay for the services they so badly want mean that there are few visible and viable alternatives to Brown's budget.

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