Bill Whalen: Politi-Cal

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Should Sacramento Try a Budget Summit?

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Have been watching the Washington health care summit . . . 

Let’s just say that Olympic curling never seemed so attractive — faster-paced, less arcane, and it’s chillier inside the Blair House than outside at the curling sheet. 

1) The feeling of disgust, distrust and disrespect in the room was palpable — witness the President’s uncomfortable body language, and neither side’s ability to finish a thought without being interrupted. 

2) Will the White House or any attending member of Congress feel different about Obamacare by day’s end? Of course not. Either the President’s plan heads for a reconciliation showdown on Capitol Hill, or the White House tries to save face with an alternate plan. 

Even Norma Desmond would agree: the Blair House summit wasn't ready for its close-up

In short, Washington wasn’t ready for its close-up, Mr. DeMille. 

Having said that, there’s a lesson in this for California. 

The Blair House summit may not change any votes, or much alter public opinion, but it did get the public’s attention. 

And, in that respect, California’s political leaders should consider doing the same with regard to the state budget. 

I’m thinking: have Governor Schwarzenegger convene a summit with key Democrats and Republicans in the State Legislature.

Discuss what budget are on the table. Make or rebut the case for tax cuts, tax hikes, spending priorities, economic revitalization and a steadier revenue stream. 

Only, don’t limit the fun-fest to Sacramento. 

Take the show on the road to San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County, the Inland Empire and the Central Valley.

It could be held in serious forums like Town Hall Los Angeles or the Commonwealth club of San Francisco. Or, in civic centers and university auditoriums — that should ramp up the drama. 

For one, it would do a world of good for lawmakers to break out of the Capitol, and hear real concerns from real Californians. 

Second, it would get at a not-so-discussed problem with California: not just our ill-advised leaders, but our ill-informed populace. 

Last month, the Public Policy Institute of California released a survey — the 39th in its “Californians and Their Government” series.

The findings were depressing, to put it mildly. Quoting from the report: 

“On the issue of long-term reform of the budget process, most (72%) Californians believe that they—not their leaders—should make reform decisions at the ballot box.” 

“Only 28% correctly identify personal income tax as the area representing most of the revenue. Thirty percent name the sales tax as the biggest source of revenue when it is actually a distant No. 2.” 
“Asked to name the area that represents the most spending, only 16% of residents correctly identify K–12 education. Half (49%) say the most money goes to prisons and corrections, although this category is actually in fourth place, behind schools, health and human services, and higher education.” 

California is not a ship of fools — just a ship whose passengers need a good fiscal talking-to. 

 

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Written by Bill Whalen

February 25, 2010 at 9:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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