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Hullabaloo


Friday, January 11, 2013

 
Deja Vu all over again, California style

by digby

So, the Golden State is recovering. Huzzah:

California has been Exhibit A for the fiscal upheaval that has rocked states throughout the recession. Year after year, California officials reported bigger and bigger deficits and sought to respond with spending cuts that left the state reeling.

So it was something of a moment when a jaunty Gov. Jerry Brown strode before cameras here on Thursday to present his budget for 2013-14.

“The deficit is gone,” Mr. Brown proclaimed, standing in front of an array of that-was-then and this-is-now charts that illustrated what he said were dramatic changes in California’s fortunes.

“For the next four years we are talking about a balanced budget,” he said. “We are talking about living within our means. This is new. This is a breakthrough.”

Mr. Brown was not just talking about a balanced budget. He projected that the state would begin posting surpluses starting next year, leading to a projected surplus of $21.5 million by 2014, a dramatic turnaround from the deficit of $26 billion — billion, not million — he faced when he was elected in 2010.

The governor said California’s finances were strong enough that he wanted to put aside a $1 billion reserve fund to guard against future downturns, and included in the budget sharp increases in aid to public schools and the state university system, both targets of big spending cutbacks.

There may be some glitches, having to do with Federal cutbacks, that could set this rosy outlook back, but the assumption is that California did all the right things by heavily cutting back on desperately needed services and imposing some small tax increases and now we are on the road to recovery.

And Democrats in the state legislature, some of whom voted for these draconian cuts on the logic that they were a necessary, temporary measure, would like to restore them now.

Well ...

Democrats now control two-thirds of the Assembly and Senate, and some of them have talked about restoring at least some of the social service cuts, like dental care for the poor, that were imposed to bring the state to this point, Mr. Brown said he understood the impulse to repair broken social services, but he warned against returning to a boom-and-bust pattern of spending during the good years, only to later struggle through debt.

“We have to live within the means we have; otherwise we get to that situation where you get red ink and you go back to cuts,” he said. “I want to avoid the booms and the bust, the borrow and the spend, where we make the promise and then we take back.”

Mr. Brown, who has always presented himself as something of a moderate in his party, suggested that in the months ahead, he would be an enforcer.

“It’s very hard to say no,” Mr. Brown said. “And that basically is going to be my job.”

Ok. So, what we have is a typical Democratic chump who sees his "legacy" as being the wonderful leader who left a surplus when he left office. We've seen that movie before. It came out only a little over a decade ago. And what's the plot? The Democrats preside over the creation of a recovery and surplus and burnish their "fiscally responsible" bonafides by cutting vital programs and emphasizing "saving" their surplus rather than restoring those services. The Republicans then ride into power on the promise that they would hand out hundred dollar bills like candy in the form of tax cuts. ("It's yer Muneeeeee!) And the next thing you know we're back in deficit and it's time to start cutting even more. The Republicans usually let the Democrats do this dirty work because well ... cuts are unpopular. Tax cuts aren't.

It's a scam, but one that Democrats must be in on. (There's no other way to explain why they keep doing it.) I'm guessing they have mistakenly bought into the notion that being remembered as being "fiscally responsible" is a good thing. Unfortunately, nobody really cares about that. And even more importantly, no matter what he does, the conservatives will make sure that he's remembered as a tax 'n spend liberal. Democrats may not understand the power of that charge to the Republicans, but the Republicans certainly do. They are not going to sit still and allow him to take credit for something they feel entitled to take credit for even if they never actually do it.

Like I said: scam.

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