Choose a Budget Date, Any Date
I’m hunkered down here at Stanford, waiting for Judgment Day. That’s Thursday, March 10: California Gov. Jerry’s Brown’s gotta-have-it-by date for getting legislative agreement on a cut-and-tax deal, in time for a June 7 special election.
This isn’t to be confused with Bush the Elder unleashing Desert Storm hours after his announced deadline. There is no hard deadline in Sacramento — only a lot of hard-headed pols. Unless I’m mistaken (and that’s been known to happen), March 10 will come and go without a deal. And, perhaps, March 15. And March 20. Maybe even March 25. Won’t all we political know-it-alls look like fools if April 1 arrives without a deal in place.
Here’s the problem: the perfect deadline for getting this done already’s come and gone. And that was March 8. Lent. When the pious make a sacrifice for 40-some days. For Democrats: giving way on spending cuts. For Republicans: swallowing hard on taxes.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities ahead for the intrepid lawmakers in Sacramento. So I’d like to help out by offering some historical benchmarks.
March 12 — Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers his first “Fireside Chat”, in 1933. FDR has control of the airwaves and a rapt audience. These are two problems facing the new governor, with the gubernatorial bully pulp downsized to a post-Arnold reality.
March 14 — Albert Einstein’s 132nd birthday. Safe to say the word “genius” has never been applied for Sacramento politics, with the possible of “genius for avoidance”, “genius for failure”. Einstein’s father was an engineer and salesman — pretty much Jerry Brown’s job description these days (in addition to diplomat, arbitrtor and abnormal psychologist).
March 15 — The Ides of March. I’ll spare you the history/Shakespeare lecture. Is Brown’s face to be on the receiving end of angry unions, on his way to the Forum? Or will he be the one to turn on his erst-while friends. (btw, how unfortunate for Caesar that he didn’t live in Madison, Wisconsin, where some senators don’t bother to show up for work.)
March 17 — St Patrick’s Day. Can’t think of a better way to finish that day’s abdication of duty (the governor’s plan doesn’t solve California’s many problems, just kicks the can down the road) than by going out that same night and getting fall-down drunk.
March 19 — The 8th anniversary of U.S. invasion of Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom. Jerry’s gonna need some serious “shock and awe” to a wary/weary California electorate to buy into any scheme that has a Sacramento dateline.
March 21 — The 140th anniversary of Sir Henry Morton Stanley embarking on his mission to find Dr. Livingstone. California’s been stuck in a cycle of boom and bust economies for about as long. Or so it seems.
March 22 — The 246th anniversary of the Stamp Act’s approval by the British Parliament. Oops, better not let the Tea Party get a hold of this one. This one act didn’t trigger a revolution — it was a series of taxations without representation that led to the colonies breaking away. Is California headed for multi-year taxation cycle, or is the current debate in Sacramento a one-shot deal?
March 24 — The 22nd anniversary of Exxon Valdez running aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Need I say more . . . ?
March 26 — The 32nd anniversary of Israel and Egypt signing a peace treaty. Assuming we make it though a June special election, is there any chance of peace and coöperation in Sacramento, between Democrats and Republicans, for the rest of 2011?
March 28 — 32nd anniversary of the near-catastrophe at Three Mile Island. Maybe we save this one for if/when the on-again, off-again negotiations end once and for all, and the meltdown metaphors begin.