Category Archives: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Schwarzenegger Brags on Government Reforms

Arnold SchwarzeneggerFormer Governor speaks out on redistricting and top two reforms

by Brian Leubitz

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had his ups and downs as governor. He peaked That’s not all that abnormal, but with him it was entirely predictable. When he went toward the middle/leftish, he was up. When he veered hard right, he went down. 2005 hard-right special election? Down. AB 32? Up. And, more relevant here, redistricting measures? Up. You can check his approval rating history here.

And so he’s trying to craft his legacy around the government reforms that have largely been quite popular. He’ll be speaking at USC this morning about redistricting and Top-2. Yesterday, he published an op-ed that lets us know which victory lap he’ll be taking.

Many of us believed, and voters agreed, that the two reforms in combination would put California on a path toward breaking up gridlock and hyper-partisanship, and making government work better for our citizens.

We were basing our efforts on common sense and a commitment to putting people over politics. And now, the early results are starting to come in, and they show that these reforms are working.

In 2012, the top-two primary yielded 28 elections that, for the first time, pitted members of the same party against one another. Also, legislative districts that previously had been gerrymandered to protect politicians were no longer “safe” for one party or the other. … This year’s races could shake things up even more, as candidates for office are forced to appeal to all voters, not just the party bosses.(Arnold Shwarzenegger in SF Chronicle)

Now, I think he has a few fair points in the op-ed. I was a strong opponent of the redistricting system when it was on the ballot, both times actually. But I’m big enough to admit that I was wrong. The system was far more responsive to the needs and desires of the voters, rather than the legislators. The process was transparent as any we have seen, and the results were fair. Sure, there were some who were disappointed by the results, but a fair system was always likely to upset some of the entrenched apple carts.

But, as for top two, the system clearly has some big flaws. First, despite his claims that somehow the primary system allowed “party bosses” to choose, the primary system was made up of voters. There is no better example of this than the Tea Party, an insurgent force within the Republican party. How many times have we now seen the wishes of party bosses completely ignored at the ballot box? And let’s face it, the “party bosses” are bosses in name only these days. The bosses are really the big independent expenditure funding campaigns. Where they go, eventually our politics follows.

But the bigger issue of Top 2 is the troubling results it can sometimes yield to triumphs of game theory over the desires of constituents. There is no better example of this than California’s 31st district in 2012. In that election, two well-known Republicans ran against four less well known Democrats in a district with a 15+% Democratic registration advantage. In a relatively low turnout June primary, Democrats received 33,402 votes, and Republicans received 32,265 votes. Yet there was no Democrat on the ballot. This is a brilliant play for Republicans, they picked up a seat they wouldn’t have had otherwise. But, in the end, a plurality of voters in the district did not have an option from their own party. How does that make sense?

Add in the very troubling impacts of Top 2 on third parties, and you have a muddled, confusing, and anti-democratic system that favors parties that game the system with tight party boss control. If your party boss can’t impose discipline, you may end up with no candidates on the general election ballot.

Finally, with all of this, Schwarzenegger’s stated purpose was to create a more “moderate” legislature. In California, that really meant a less progressive, more pro-corporate body. It is hard to deny that Schwarzenegger was at least somewhat successful on that front. Despite the 2/3 Democratic control, many of these Democrats moved the caucus to the right. Now, whether you value the goal of making the legislature more moderate could lead you to differing judgments on Gov. Schwarzenegger. One would hope that a chief goal of structural government reform is to create a legislature that fairly and accurately represents the constituents, but that was never Schwarzengger’s thing. Sure, he had a flair for populist rhetoric, but drifted in other directions when in office.

Schwarzenegger will be talking to the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, so you will likely be able to see snippets of the conversation on TV. But, from a Governor who finished with an approval rating around 20% in 2010, there is a lot of work left to fully rehabilitate his legacy that a flawed government reform like Top 2 can’t address.

Ten Years On: The Aftermath of the Recall

Election Exacerbated Issues in the Capitol

by Brian Leubitz

In 2002, California reelected Gray Davis to a second term. His future was looking bright, and was considered a possible candidate for president in 2004. But, that all changed very quickly in 2003 as the Enron-manufactured electricity crisis combined with a few budget issues to create havoc in Sacramento.  Soon after the second inauguration, a recall petition gathered steam and then took off when (the farce that is) Darrell Issa dumped a bunch of money into the recall efforts.  

Issa was hoping for the spot himself, but he eventually gave way well before the election. The election itself was a mess and made the state the butt of jokes around the world. The list of candidates included a pornography star, a former MLB Commissioner, Gary Coleman, Arianna Huffington, and a slew of randoms that would never typically make the general  election ballot.

And of course one of those randoms that would never make the general election ballot was the man who became our governor for seven years. Arnold Schwarzenegger, though something of a celebrity Republican, would have severe difficulties getting through a Republican primary in California. While we have a progressive tilt overall, the GOP is just as crazy as any other state.

The immediate impact was clearly in the wrong direction for California, and brought us a slew of reactionary policies.  However, the Governator eventually realized that even he had limits with his beating at the 2005 special election.  At that point, it was easy to think that Arnold was a blip, and that perhaps the net result could be a more progressive governor in 2006. Alas, Phil Angelides was not that governor, nor even that candidate. Schwarzenegger won, but left himself in an increasingly difficult situation with his rhetoric, killing the chance to make any big substantive reform:

Although Schwarzenegger won reelection in 2006, by then the chance was probably gone. Indeed, it may have been gone from the first day, when he canceled the vehicle license fee increase Davis had approved, and thus enlarged the state’s gaping budget deficit by $6 billion by the time he left office.

And in talking like anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist about “starving the monster” of government, and about how spending alone, not revenue, was the problem, he backed himself even further into a political corner. Neither could be solved without addressing the other. As for the rest of his governorship, it was mostly showmanship and glitz.(Peter Schrag @LAT)

Schrag points to the non-partian reforms (redistricting, top-2, etc) and Gov. Jerry Brown’s election in 2010 with his “restrained approach” as the reason for our bounceback from the crisis. And perhaps that is true, but that debate will linger on to let history decide. But what is clearly true is that the 2003 recall was nothing but a temporary blip that brought us the Governator, but left us with very little real reform.

Arnold Achieves ‘Post Partisanship’ With Uniform Disapproval In New Poll

The quote of the week goes to Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, which is just out with a poll that shows Arnold Schwarzenegger with a 75% disapproval rating among voters and with 90% of Los Angeles residents rejecting him.

The quote of the week goes to Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, which is just out with a poll that shows Arnold Schwarzenegger with a 75% disapproval rating among voters and with 90% of Los Angeles residents rejecting him.

DiCamillo told the San Francisco Chronicle:  “He was going to be a … politician who really appealed to independent voters and who would reach across party lines,” DiCamillo said. The new poll shows that Schwarzenegger has “achieved the ‘post-partisan’ status.”

Republicans, Democrats, independents, Californians of all walks of life curse their former Governor. What’s made Arnold’s reign so disappointing is not that he betrayed his wife, but that he betrayed voters and their hopes.

Consumer Watchdog launched on Schwarzenegger’s gubernatorial inauguration day because we knew his talk about cleaning up Sacramento was phony.  At the time Schwarzenegger had a 65% plus approval rating.  We launched the blog to hold California’s new governor accountable to his pledge to clean up special-interest control in Sacramento and to chart the influence of big business over his administration.  By 2005 Californians came to learn the Gov did not live up to his word when they rejected a slate of reactionary ballot measures he proposed.  When Schwarzenegger left office in 2010, before the news of love child scandal, his approval rating was only 27%, tied with Governor Gray Davis at the moment of his recall.

What ruined Arnold wasn’t his infidelity to his family, but to his state.  The blogs at Arnold Watch stand as a reminder of the need to be ever vigilant in holding our politicians accountable.  The special interests he bedded while in the governor’s suite spawned some of the uglier moments of California governance.  Sometimes we stopped him, sometimes we shamed him, other times Schwarzenegger’s donors won more than they should have.  When Arnold was hurting, he was forced to take huge steps forward to rehabilitate his image — an increase in the minimum wage, a greenhouse gas emissions cap, support for gay marriage.

What matters to voters in the end, though, isn’t these strides forward for progress or the master marketer’s cosmetic remakes of himself.  The voter’s final verdict was cast about his character.

Other politicians across America would do well to learn the lesson that, in the end, reputation and trust are all that truly matter. Every vote, every decision should be based not on the power of the interest group of the moment, or the political winds of an insular world, but on what’s right and wrong for history and a public official’s place in it.  Until politicians are ready for that truth, Consumer Watchdog will be here to remind them of it.


Posted by Jamie Court, author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell and President of Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

California Democratic Lawmakers Revive Schwarzenegger Scam To Sell Off Historic State Properties In

Today California’s Democratic state lawmakers announced a budget plan to keep their paychecks coming that included one of the worst ideas Arnold Schwarzenegger had since impregnating his kids’ nanny.

If lawmakers don’t pass a budget today, they lose their pay tomorrow. So Assembly Democrats have included in their hastily-assembled budget plan Schwarzenegger’s political love child, selling off treasured state properties to a group of politically-connected investors.

Schwarzenegger tried to sell off 24 historic state buildings — including the San Francisco Civic Center and the California Supreme Court – to his big campaign contributors. The Los Angeles Times reported the investors behind the so-called “California First” group contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Schwarzenegger’s political campaigns (Maria L. La Ganga, “$500,000 `Success Fee` Revealed In Proposed Sale of State Buildings,  Los Angeles Times, December 7, 2010)   The shady deal also included a half million dollar ‘finders fee’ to a local official.

Schwarzenegger’s fire sale was stopped in the courts by legendary attorney Joe Cotchett. My group Consumer Watchdog recently feted Cotchett at our Rage for Justice Awards for the lawsuit and his lifetime of legal achievement.

This short video from the dinner about Cotchett’s role and his acceptance speech of the Phillip Burton Lifetime Legal Achievement Award expose the corruption, stupidity and infidelity to the state’s constitution behind the ploy to sell off state buildings only to pay investors to lease them back.

So what gives with the Assembly Democrats’ plan?   Is it just about passing any budget to get paid? Are the investors behind California First putting up more finder fees and political contributions?

Whatever the reason for this misstep, legislators should realize by now that following Schwarzenegger’s lead is a recipe for disaster.


Posted by Jamie Court, author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell and President of Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

Arnold to Meg: You Kinda Stink

Gov. Schwarzenegger has been pretty quiet since he left the Horseshoe.  However, that doesn’t mean the muscle builder doesn’t have some pretty interesting thoughts running around that very interesting brain.  Fortunately, after his first interview went to Entertainment Weekly about his Governator cartoon/comic book project.  He sat down for another interview in London recently, and Newsweek got some interesting dish out of the the “Governator” on a few more items of interest to us here.  

While this is basically rehashing what we already know, that this is coming from Arnold makes it interesting, I suppose:

“She kind of took herself out of the game,” Schwarzenegger said. “What she did was play to the right, and she couldn’t come back for the general election to grab the center …. Brown was very smart to do exactly the opposite of what she did – which was to say, ‘I’m not a rich guy, all I have is my knowledge and experience, and I don’t need to cater to anyone, I will do what is right for California.’ She was not as effective as a communicator, and her ideas were too extreme.” (Newsweek, via LAT)

What he is basically saying is that Whitman just didn’t manage expectations as well as he did.  Now, by the end of his time in the Horseshoe, the people of California were pretty much done with him.  Perhaps it would have been interesting to see a showdown between Brown and Schwarzenegger, but the odds would surely be as least as stacked against the incumbent as they were against his perceived logical ideological heir, Whitman.  While we all now understand that Arnold was kind of hissing at her behind her back, the Brown campaign did an extraordinary job at tying her to the incumbent.

Elsewhere in the interview, beyond the effusive praise from former Secretary of State and longtime Arnold confidante George Schultz and the suggestion that he become the next President of the European Union, he tried to explain the situation with former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez’s son and the fact that Arnold commuted his sentence down to seven years.

“I understand people’s disappointments. I understand the parents’ anger. I would probably feel the same way,” Schwarzenegger tells me in his first public comment on the commutation, which he granted hours before leaving office, arguing that his friend’s son didn’t inflict the fatal wound. “My office definitely made a mistake in not notifying the parents beforehand … and I’m ultimately responsible.” But, Schwarzenegger adds, “I feel good about the decision … I happen to know the kid really well. I don’t apologize about it … There’s criticism out there. I think it’s just because of our working relationship and all that. It maybe was kind of saying, ‘That’s why he did it.’ Well, hello! I mean, of course you help a friend.”

In the end, Arnold was close to Fabian, so it’s no real surprise.  He did it on the last day, well, because that’s when that sort of stuff happens.  But at this point, unless something extraordinary comes along, I just can’t see Arnold getting back into politics.  He’d have to be some sort of superstar executive. Perhaps the only place left for him is the EU presidency, because he’s sure not going to win any elections around here anytime soon.

51% of Californians Support Marriage Equality as Majority Wishes a Do-Over on 2003 Recall

This is fairly consistent with numbers that we’ve seen in the past, but PPP has just released their own data showing a majority favoring full marriage equality.

-The tide is turning in support of gay marriage in California. 51% of voters in the state now think it should be legal while 40% think it should remain illegal. It was just a little over 2 years ago that the state passed Proposition 8 but these numbers are reflective of a general liberalization in the views of Americans toward same sex marriage. (PPP)

The numbers get even better when you pull out senior citizens at 53-38.  It is only a matter of time before we have full marriage equality in California and, eventually, the nation.

Oh, and they also tested a retrospective on the 2003 recall, and guess what, Californians wish they hadn’t done that.  By a 42-32 margin, voters would have refrained from recalling Davis.  Too bad we can’t take back the past seven years and the havoc the Governator wrought.

Who will be GOP’s sacrificial lamb against DiFi?

Last week, PPP polling asked the Twitterverse what challengers they should test against Dianne Feinstein for her 2012 re-election campaign. It solicited a wide range of suggestions — some serious, some decidedly less so — including testing other Democrats given our state’s new top-two primary.

The results rolled out yesterday, finding to (hopefully) nobody’s surprise that DiFi “stomps the field.” The full pdf of results are here, where PPP doubled down on the dire, declaring “No hope for Whitman, Fiorina, Arnold, anyone.”

Before abandoning us for the Emerald City, Robert had an excellent series breaking down the long-term realignment that’s settling in in California, and these PPP numbers certainly reflect that. But it goes beyond simply an overwhelming lead for DiFi due to her perpetually superhuman support. PPP, through their own calculations and twitter suggestions, couldn’t come up with a single potential Republican candidate that hasn’t already run a statewide campaign.

And of all those tested- Tom Campbell, Carly Fiorina, Darrell Issa, Steve Poizner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Meg Whitman- only Campbell managed a net positive approval rating (+3). And he only pulled that off by being notably less known than the rest of the field.

Arnold’s at negative 40. eMeg a solid minus-22 and Fiorina at minus-19. A bare majority have an opinion of Steve Poizner, putting him at 13 points to the negative. And of the 48% who have an opinion of Darrell Issa, it’s an unfavorable one by a 2-1 margin.

In other words, it’s impossible to run statewide as a Republican without alienating people faster than you win them over. It hasn’t just left all recent GOP contenders in a deep hole, but it should scare off anyone thinking of using a doomed DiFi challenge as a boost to higher office- just running statewide from the right is a career-ender. The half-dozen California Republicans with leadership positions in the House have no reason to come back and end their careers, and the new House members ought to see these numbers as reason not to bother.

It’s a cycle that’ll feed on itself as long as the Republican party is set on a dead-ender agenda of hyper-conservative purity.

Legislature Hopes to Save CalWorks Day Care Subsidies from Arnold’s Wrecking Ball

Sure, Arnold Schwarzenegger has left the Horseshoe, but that doesn’t mean that we can just forget about him or what he did to the state.  In this case, we’re talking about the child care subsidies for parents who have recently left welfare.  For this one, there at least seems to be a remedy that gets us through to the next budget. (hopefully)

Assembly Speaker John Pérez will announce today that state officials have found a way to save child care subsidies for 55,000 low-income families – a program that then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to eliminate last year.

The subsidies are available to parents who were formerly on cash assistance but now have jobs or are in school. Supporters had argued that eliminating the subsidies was shortsighted and could ultimately cost taxpayers more than keeping it, because many parents would quit their jobs and apply for welfare if they were unable to afford day care.

Under a plan Pérez will announce today, state officials will use $60 million in child care funds left from previous years to fund the subsidies through March. The program’s funding would be restored April 1 under Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal unveiled this week.(SF Chronicle)

Now, clearly this is a stopgap gimmick, but a necessary one.  We really cannot afford to let this program just die for three months.  If we are really attempting to get people off of welfare rolls and back in jobs, we can hardly pull the rug out on them so quickly.  There has to be an effort to transition off of being a full-time child care provider as a parent to a place where the parent can reasonably afford child care expenses.  We can’t say we want people to work while at the same time presenting a net loss in money coming into the household if they are working a low-wage job.

CalWorks has been a pretty successful welfare to work program, and that’s what the Right has been clamoring for.  But, when times get tough, better to squeeze the poor than the rich, right?

UPDATE: Just got the word that the effort worked. Find the full press release (with a timeline) over the flip.

Speaker Pérez: Child Care Effort Succeeds– Big Victory for Thousands of Working Families and Small Businesses

SACRAMENTO-Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) today announced that thanks to efforts by the Assembly, California’s local First 5 Commissions, and the Brown Administration, thousands of working parents in California will continue to receive the child care services that allow them to stay in their jobs and keep their families off welfare.

“With the stroke of his blue pencil last fall, former Governor Schwarzenegger forced thousands of working parents to face the choice of losing their jobs or letting their kids fend for themselves,” Pérez said. “Today, I am pleased to announce that we did not let that happen and that this program is in fact being restored and is included in Governor Brown’s budget. This is a big win for working parents and their children, and also for the thousands of small business child care providers who would have had to close their doors or lay off their employees.”

In December, Speaker Pérez introduced AB 1, the first bill introduced in the 2011-2012 session of the Assembly, to reverse Schwarzenegger’s veto and restore the Stage 3 Child Care services that enable parents to transition from welfare to work.  Speaking from the Assembly floor today, Pérez announced AB 1 would now be used as a vehicle if one is necessary to allocate existing transition funding until the budget is enacted and the program officially restored.

“Not only did Governor Brown hear us and restore Stage 3 Child Care in his budget this week, his administration is also actively working with us to identify existing funding that can be used to transition until the budget is enacted,” Pérez said. “As we move forward, should it be determined that any interim funding we identify requires authorizing legislation, I will make AB 1 available for that purpose.”

More than $40 million in bridge funding – including $6 million from cuts Speaker Pérez made to the Assembly’s own budget and additional funding he sought from the county First 5 commissions – helped buy time until Stage 3 Child Care services could be restored.  A judge’s stay of the elimination of the services also allowed time for Speaker Pérez and other advocates to successfully push for the program’s restoration.

“Of course, there are still difficult cuts proposed to all child care programs – and undoubtedly, the final budget will have to include some of the proposed reductions,” Pérez said. “But as painful as those cuts may be, they will still be far better than Governor Schwarzenegger’s wholesale elimination throwing 60,000 families out of the workforce or their children into harm’s way. This is a very positive sign we can work with this Governor to create jobs, put California’s fiscal house in order, and make sure every Californian can find opportunity and the chance to succeed.”


October 8, 2010-Governor Schwarzenegger blue-pencils Stage 3 Child Care funds eliminating services for 81,000 children in 60,000 families transitioning from welfare to work.

October 19, 2010- Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez pledges $6 million from part of his 15% cut to the Assembly operating budget and contacts state and county First 5 commissions asking for help in providing bridge funding until Stage 3 Child Care can be restored.  Local commissions take action throughout the next several weeks.

October 29, 2010-Alameda County judge issues stay in implementation of the cuts and orders November hearing.

November 5, 2010-Speaker Pérez announces more than $40 Million in bridge funding pledged so far.

November 17, 2010-Judge approves settlement keeping child care services available through end of year.

Dec 6, 2010- Speaker Pérez introduces AB 1 to reverse the veto and restore Stage 3 Child Care.

January 10, 2011-Governor Brown includes Stage 3 Child Care funding in his 2011-2012 budget proposal.

January 14, 2011-Speaker Pérez announces victory for working families and providers. Moves AB 1 to become authorizing vehicle if necessary for interim funding identified by Assembly and Brown Administration.

Website of Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez:  

Just Who Are The People Trying to Buy Our State Buildings?

The deal would sell the building that houses the California Supreme Court

Arnold Schwarzenegger was quite keen to get the sale of buildings through before he left office.  That’s no surprise, considering that Jerry Brown was never really a fan of the deal.  His latest statements have been somewhat ambivalent, essentially saying that he wants 30 days to review the deal before he does anything.

But the deal is now rapidly losing investors, and the Bay Citizen (a website you should be reading), notes that in addition to the shrinking pool of investors, there is also the question of who the investors are that are left paying the up-front costs.  Well, turns out it isn’t that easy to find out:

Most of the members of a shadowy investor group that agreed to finance the sale of tony state office buildings last year appear to have dropped out of the deal, and those that remain are tight-lipped about their involvement in the transaction, which is being challenged in court as an illegal gift of state assets to a group with political pull in Sacramento.

*** **** ***

The identities of the people and companies behind California First LLC have been a mystery. And the increased public scrutiny and court challenges have done little, thus far, to shed light on them. The group declined to participate in the legal battle to close the deal, a stance that Renne finds “extraordinarily unusual. I think, frankly, they cannot stand to see the light of day on their transaction.”

The Bay Citizen reporter continued to follow the trail of money, but ended up with more questions than answers.  People avoided her calls, said they weren’t really helping, merely advising, and generally being unhelpful.  That being said, the three “main partners” in the deal have long history in government and ties to past administrations.

Even if you were to look at this deal from a totally outside perspective, without this information, the deal would look like a bad one.  We aren’t really getting enough money to make this worthwhile.  It’s a short-term fix for a long-term problem. Oh, and it leaves us with a huge pile of debt to deal with over the next generation.  Adding on the mysterious and rather shady nature of this deal, you really have to question Schwarzenegger’s motives for this deal.

We still have a while before we get a decision from Gov. Brown, but one hopes that we can once and fully put this stinker of a deal behind us.

Worst Governor Ever

Arnold Schwarzenegger is packing up his office in the Capitol and finally, after 7 long years, leaving his post as governor of California. It comes not a moment too soon, as he has distinguished himself as the worst governor in California history by quite a wide margin. The Sacramento Bee’s readers agreed there was one word that encapsulated his misrule: failure.

George Skelton has recognized that the recall of Governor Gray Davis in the fall of 2003, which brought Schwarzenegger to office, was a colossal mistake. John Myers of KQED offered a more in-depth assessment of Arnold’s signature failure, his inability to fix the state’s budget mess. And he leaves office with approval ratings at record lows – at or below the numbers Gray Davis had when he was recalled.

But why exactly did Arnold fail? Getting that story right matters quite a lot as Governor Jerry Brown and the Democratic legislature seek to fix not just the 7 years of misrule, but 32 years of destructive policies that were initiated by the passage in June 1978 of Prop 13. More below.

Arnold’s defenders and apologists blame the state’s broken political process and its entrenched “special interests” for making it impossible for the former action movie star to “blow up the boxes” in Sacramento. There’s no doubt that California’s government is indeed broken, and many labor unions – often the target of the “special interest” charge – helped mobilize voters to reject Arnold’s proposals.

But this lets Arnold off the hook for his own failures, which were ideological in nature. Arnold Schwarzenegger became the worst governor in California history through his unwavering commitment to a far-right economic agenda, his fealty to the large corporations who helped elect him back in 2003, and his pursuit of a shock doctrine attack on the state’s institutions and prosperity in the service of his ideology and of his wealthy backers.

Early in his tenure in office, Arnold rejected advice from Warren Buffet and others that he needed to raise taxes in 2004 to close the state’s budget gap. Instead of this responsible – and necessary – solution, Arnold stuck to his ideological guns. He pushed through a costly campaign promise to repeal the restoration of a higher Vehicle License Fee, costing the state $6 billion a year in expenditures to local government to make up the lost funds.

Arnold’s “solution” to the structural revenue shortfall was to borrow our way out of the mess. A total of $25 billion in bonds were sold to help pay the operating costs of the state in 2004 and 2005. While deficit spending in a recession is sensible, California’s economy was in recovery during those years, and could have handled a tax increase. In fact, a tax increase, especially on property taxes, might have slowed the growth of the real estate bubble that eventually crippled the state’s economy. The debt service on those bonds takes away from other spending priorities, and lessens the state’s ability to borrow to build infrastructure.

After Arnold’s extremist special election initiatives were rejected by voters in 2005, he embarked on a high-profile effort to moderate his image and, for a time, his governance. The only product of this period worth noting was his belated support for AB 32, a bill that any Democratic governor would have signed in a heartbeat. Meanwhile Arnold ignored other concerns, such as a growing property bubble and the need to wean the state off of its dependence on oil. While Arnold was signing AB 32 in the late summer of 2006, he was threatening to eliminate the funding for the California High Speed Rail Authority, risking the HSR project.

This short period of moderation did not last. From 2007 onward, Arnold became a truly destructive force. As the economy turned south, he began implementing a shock doctrine attack on California’s basic prosperity. The term comes from Naomi Klein’s 2007 book The Shock Doctrine, she explains how the last 30 years of neoliberal economic policy, aimed at the transfer of wealth away from working people and toward a small elite, was implemented largely through the taking advantage of a crisis, a crisis usually manufactured by those same neoliberals. As she explained it to Democracy Now!:

The shock doctrine, like all doctrines, is a philosophy of power. It’s a philosophy about how to achieve your political and economic goals. And this is a philosophy that holds that the best way, the best time, to push through radical free-market ideas is in the aftermath of a major shock. Now, that shock could be an economic meltdown. It could be a natural disaster.

This describes Arnold Schwarzenegger’s approach to California government after mid-2007 quite well. Surrounded by Friedman acolytes such as David Crane, Arnold sought to use the recession and the budget crisis to push through a radical attack on government and prosperity that he would never have accomplished before the crisis – a crisis he himself provoked by his failure to resolve the underlying budget problems as described above.

What did Arnold’s shock doctrine attack look like? Let’s review the list:

• An unprecedented attack on education. Over $9 billion was cut from K-12 schools in 2009, leading to mass layoffs of teachers and a collapse in instructional quality. The intent appears to have been to force parents and students into the arms of private charter school operators, something that had been resisted prior to the crisis.

• Similarly, Arnold slashed higher education budgets as part of a predetermined plan to privatize higher ed. While the privatization isn’t complete, UC and CSU education has become increasingly unaffordable for most Californians. Along with the K-12 cuts, these cuts threaten the state’s future prosperity.

• Beyond education, Arnold pushed a broad privatization project, intended to encompass as much of state government as possible, including infrastructure projects – despite the higher cost of public/private partnerships.

• Arnold has pushed mass transit in California to the brink of collapse through his cuts to state transportation funding. Despite a massive increase in mass transit ridership after gas prices rose in 2007, Arnold has attacked mass transit in the service of his oil company donors, who want to eliminate the competition and force Californians to pay their exorbitant prices. Without affordable, available mass transit options, California cannot possibly hope to recover from a recession triggered when gas prices rose above $3/gal in 2006.

• Arnold’s attack on health and human services, from his cuts to Medi-Cal to his effort to eliminate CalWORKS and even his proposed cuts to HIV/AIDS services, has been designed with two purposes in mind: to increase poverty, and to push more people to spend their health care dollars in the private sector.

• Arnold frequently acted as a puppet of the right-wing, anti-business California Chamber of Commerce, implementing their job-killing agenda of favoring large corporations at the expense of small and medium-sized businesses of the state. Under Schwarzenegger, California lost millions more jobs than under Gray Davis. Unemployment rates in 2010 were nearly double those of the peaks seen during Gray Davis’s tenure as governor.

We could go on, and I encourage others to add in the comments the ways in which Arnold Schwarzenegger has destroyed the California Dream.

But the conclusion is clear and obvious. Arnold failed not because he couldn’t get his agenda through Sacramento – quite the opposite. He failed because so much of his right-wing shock doctrine did make it through Sacramento to become law.

I wish that Arnold had been defeated at every turn. Sadly, he wasn’t, and only in his final year in office did Sacramento Democrats learn that resisting him was necessary – and only then after the public had already turned on the governor.

Arnold’s failure is the failure of his right-wing ideology. No wonder California voters soundly rejected Meg Whitman last month, who promised to continue Arnold’s right-wing policies.

It’s unclear whether Jerry Brown can use his third term as governor to fix this mess. It will take a long time to recover from the catastrophic Schwarzenegger Administration. We might be able to begin the recovery in spring 2011 if voters approve new revenues to restore the cuts Arnold brutally pushed through. But even then it will just be the start of a long road of recovery.

Back in 2003, many joked about the Terminator becoming governor of California. Nobody is laughing now. Arnold Schwarzenegger terminated the California Dream, smashing prosperity and gutting the public services that made the middle-class possible. In an ideal world, he would be chased from office by pitchforks and torches, and would be forced to flee California entirely. Instead he slinks from office back to Brentwood to enjoy his riches along with his wealthy allies, untouched and apparently unmoved by the suffering they have wrought.

It’s up to us to fix what he destroyed. And it begins by ensuring everyone knows why Arnold failed, and why we must never allow his policies to become law again.