Schwarzenegger, Obama, and Cah-lee-foe-nee-ah
Via Krugman comes this sad tale of the state of California economics. It's bad, and some of us have been talking about how Schwarzenegger's charismatic way of selling shit to willing consumers was dangerous to the future of the state.
In my former life, I blogged a lot about Schwarzenegger and California. (Nah, I'm not gonna go into the details with self-serving links.) Here's one thing that makes CA a effed up state. Budgets require a super majority to pass rather than simply a 50%+1. Essentially, it's like needing a filibuster proof majority in the US Senate. This allowed the GOP to screw over Gray Davis and make way for the original post-partisan, charismatic actor Arnold Schwarzenegger (who, in fact, was partisan except his 2006 reelection year). I encourage folks to learn a bit more about the state of California politics circa 2002-2003 (that's about the time I got fully immersed in politics) and to examine Schwarzenegger's ascendancy and compare it to Obama's, and to compare the "leadership" of the two as well.
I won't go into details about this, but will provide a brief background and the lessons I learned.
I was a staunch opponent of the recall because it was a flagrant abuse of the system and, in large part, a media driven circus, complete with porn star candidates. It was, also, a triumph for post-partisan rhetoric as a governing strategy rather than strict ideology. (To his credit, Schwarzenegger had a more rigid ideological framework than I see from Obama). Once in office, Schwarzenegger immediately pursued and championed a series of ballot initiatives (the 2004 primary contained55, 56, 57, 58). For those who remember, these were largely sold as a way to save the CA economy, which was supposedly on the precipice of disaster, mostly because of that dastardly Gray Davis and that evil correction officers union, but that's another story.
I was in the minority in opposing some of those initiatives, primarily Prop 57, which was a huge bond measure. Remember, states can't operate in the red like the feds so they have to use creative accounting techniques. Now, being the liberal that I am (even if at the time I would say "moderate") I'm not opposed to borrowing money to give the economy a boost. Prop 57 was sold as a way to do that (by none other than Obama booster and Dem. Gov candidate Steve Westly). The problem I had with prop 57 as well as others (notably Dem Gov. candidate Phil Angelides) was that it was hastily thrown together and really didn't address the massive long-term structural deficiencies faced by the state. Lo and behold, us naysayers proved to be correct.
The point of this exercise is not to pimp my foresight. Admittedly, I'm not economist. But when there are concerns over half-ass measures, I think those concerns should be vigorously discussed and using only rosy aspects can lead to future problems. If you visit Krugman regularly, you'll note that he and others find that the current stimulus bill seems to fall short of filling the shortfall. I won't link to individual articles because his blog is full of many good discussions on that particular issue and you should read the entirety, not just what I think is good.
While some are trying to paint the rosiest scenarios, I'm less inclined to accept as permanent solutions policies which fall short of addressing the entire problem. That the entire nature of the stimulus bill is so damn reminiscent of the situation in California circa 2003 makes me even more skeptical. The media and the post-partisans were getting all David Sirota like (e.g. creaming their pants) at the thought of Schwarzenegger's awesomeness that they failed to be as critical as they should have. We should not fall into the same trap this time since the stakes are even higher. Unfortunately, I think we may have already fallen into that trap.