Tag Archives: Grover Norquist

Norquistians Put Ideological Fealty Above Democracy and the Middle Class

You know how we are going to need to cut into our core expenditures next year unless we get some additional revenue?  This seems to be Gov. Brown’s intentions, but to do that, he needs a 2/3 vote in each house.  Of course, that means that he needs some Republican votes.

Well, “Americans for Tax Reform” aka Grover Norquist’s group that intends to drown the government in the proverbial bath tub, has no intention of not creating a feces laden storm if any of the Republican legislators break their pledge to him.

The national anti-tax group Americans for Tax Reform will e-mail and fax letters tomorrow to California legislators who signed its no-tax pledge, warning them the group will consider any vote to put tax extension measures on the ballot a violation of that pledge, said the group’s state affairs director Patrick Gleason. … “This is to make clear that putting before a vote a measure to extend the taxes that Brown has proposed would violate the pledge,” Gleason said. “We count that as an assist. It’s not a direct score, but it’s an assist.” (Capitol Alert)

Instead, Mr. Gleason would like to see not only the government, but the entire middle class drowned in the process.  A cuts only budget would bring the wrecking ball to our K-12 system, and shut down many social services.  In a very real sense, the fate of California’s middle class is on the line.

At a juncture like this, in a state like California where the plebiscite has become King, a vote of the people seems to make the most sense.  If the people really loathe taxes, and Grover and the gang are representing the wishes of California, shouldn’t a vote be the best thing for everybody.  After all, if the taxes were defeated, it would really signal to all the world that Californians favor short-term self interest over what was once called the “California Dream.”

Of course, the other side of the coin would be that California would approve taxing ourselves, as our neighbors to the north did last year.  

If we are going to have a system dominated by a slew of ballot initiatives, we need to give the people the vote on the very future of the Middle Class.  To do any less would be to thwart democracy for only the grand purpose of political expediency.

eMeg Joins Grover Norquist to Drown California in a Bathtub

Desperate to win over the wingnut base of the California Republican Party, and likely herself a true believer in the “let’s destroy government” cause, Meg Whitman has joined Steve Poizner and taken the Grover Norquist “no new taxes” pledge:

“By signing the Pledge, Whitman makes clear that if elected she will stand up for taxpayers and not the tenured bureaucrats, coercive utopians, and union bosses that currently run Sacramento,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “In a state with one of the highest tax burdens in the country, a dismal business tax climate, rampant overspending, and a government that is so costly that Californians had to work 235 days this year, well over half the year, just to pay for it, higher taxes should be a non-starter for all elected officials and candidates. In signing the Pledge, Whitman has made clear that she recognizes this.”…

“Californians are fortunate to have two high quality candidates who have made this important commitment to defend the overburdened Golden State taxpayers,” added Norquist. “I strongly encourage, and challenge, Tom Campbell, Gavin Newsome [sic] and every candidate for governor to sign the Pledge.”

Presumably this means Whitman and Poizner oppose making the wealthy pay more to help keep teachers in the classrooms, that they enjoy seeing classes with a whopping 42 students in them, and that they are happy to prolong the recession in order to carry out their shock doctrine of California’s once-great prosperity.

Interestingly, you’ll note that of the other candidates Norquist challenged to sign the pledge, Jerry Brown was not among them. He hasn’t officially signed that pledge, but as Brian mentioned last week, he might as well have:

Brown said he would not raise taxes if he became governor, noting that the public is opposed. “We’re not in the revenue raising business,” he said.

Of course, the polls tell a different story. Californians are quite willing to raise certain taxes to restore and preserve vital public services. How exactly Brown would balance the state’s budget without embracing the kinds of cuts eMeg has proposed is quite unclear.

If we are going to beat Poizner or Whitman, Democrats will have to offer a different vision for California’s future. And that means rejecting the “no new taxes” mantra that is destroying our state and the economic prosperity of the working and middle classes. If Jerry Brown won’t offer that vision, will Gavin Newsom?

Arnold’s Bathtub

With California’s Republicans fulfilling their sacred vow to Grover Norquist to stuff government into the bathtub and destroy the most basic services government was meant to provide, California’s Democrats, who–by the way–ARE in a majority, are finally standing up to this bully governor.

Throughout this recent highly expensive special election that the Republicans forced upon us, it was obvious that Californians were not buying the lies any longer. Much has been made about how we brought this on ourselves by all the initiatives and bond issues that we’ve passed. This totally misses the point.

California’s initiative system was put into place precisely BECAUSE the state legislature was bought out by the railroad monopolies.  Roll this picture forward a century and we have a state legislature that is now bought out by the current corporate elite and their minions of lobbyists that descend on a capital now devoid of most media coverage.

Initiatives exist because the state legislature does NOT respond to the needs of the citizens, or, rather, our needs are placed a distant SECOND after the corporate masters’ requests are fast-tracked through.

And, initiatives ALWAYS have problems. First, there is the language that is often poorly written, or ambiguous, and sometimes not even constitutional. Then there’s the summary blurb written by the Attorney General’s office. GOOD LUCK if that bears any resemblance to what is actually IN the initiative. Usually, there are significant parts that are NOT in the summary–the Trojan horses that haunt us later.

Not to mention that the forces for and against the initiative immediately reduce whatever it is into bite-size slogans that are then bandied about the pathetic corporate media that we have left and stuck onto the mailing pieces and slate cards that go to the most likely voters. The few who still bother. Only 12% came out May 19th. After the budget, PLEASE get on with a serious reform of the initiative process!!

Meanwhile, back at the negotiating table, the telegenic (he thinks so) gov has proposed a “reality show” starring himself and the four leaders from the Assembly. Just great!!! We SO want to see our macho narcissistic terminator posturing about some more!!!

During these last weeks, as Arnold holds his breath and turns blue while reciting his “No New Taxes” chant, I’ve been reading Ethan Rarick’s book “The Life and Times of Pat Brown: California Rising” (U of CA Press).  Gore Vidal has always admonished the U.S. as having amnesia about its past. In California, I think it’s probably NOT amnesia, because that would assume that Californians knew, or were taught, their history in the first place. Not likely. Or at least not for most. So, back to a time of giants–

“The governor walked over from his suite of offices and took the podium in each chamber, first the assembly and then the senate, greeted both places by clamorous standing ovations. After the noise died away, Brown said that his first legislative session as the state’s chief executive had been ‘the most exhilarating six months’ he had ever experienced. He pointed especially to the antidiscrimination bill that created the Fair Employment Practices Commission. It was, he said, a ‘great symbol of human progress– an achievement of enlightenment and understanding.’

There was much to be proud of. He had already signed into law 1,109 bills and had at least 1,000 more waiting on his desk. The increased aid to schools was only the second such boost since World War II. More than nine thousand poor, disabled people were provided with state-funded health care. For the first time, standards were set for air quality and for pollution from cars. Safety regulations for farm labor trucks were increased. Consumer protections were stiffened. Disability benefits were raised. Unemployment insurance payments were increased and the time limit for benefits lengthened, at least during periods of high unemployment.  State workers got a pay raise.

All of it was funded by the biggest California tax increase in a quarter century, which was perhaps the most important accomplishment of all, since it provided money desperately needed by an ever-growing state with ever-growing public demands. This was not necessarily an obvious outcome. Republicans and business groups complained that the proposed tax increases were too steep. Brown said no. Cautious legislators suggested that the tax increases be phased out after two years. Brown said no. The legislative analyst urged steeper budget cuts and an increase in college tuition. Brown said no. Again and again, in other words, the governor and his allies fought to keep intact an ambitious fiscal program that raised taxes–mostly on rich people, corporations, and cigarette smokers– in order to pay for important and expanding public programs. ‘Responsible liberalism,’ as it turned out, was an activist’s creed.”

Wow!! Contrast that with our so-called leaders today. And, Democrats who supported the recall and who wouldn’t support Phil’s bid to deny Arnold his second term need to re-examine their allegiances if they’re okay with what’s happened as a result of their poor judgment. We DO have a state in financial crisis for many reasons, not the least of which is the Republican intransigence over paying for the services often most needed by their own constituents. They need to be given a new framing: Paying taxes is patriotic!

I think back to those times of Pat Brown and his incredible leadership and wonder what he would do with this mess. I wasn’t in California during his time in office, but I was fortunate enough to know him as our party’s patriarch during Gov. Jimmy Carter’s campaign in ’76 and for several years after. There is NO WAY he would allow the type of cuts Arnold is trying to force onto Californians. Our Democratic leaders must find a way, and if it’s impeaching the governor, then let’s get on with it.


(bold emphasis mine)

CA-80 AD It’s Ad War Time

Republican Gary Jeandron’s gone negative on Manuel Perez again, airing a radio/TV ad that accuses Manuel of being for higher taxes, higher fees, we can’t afford Manuel Perez – primal scream, clutch the pearls, etc.  The usual GOP disingenuous hysteria.

The Perez campaign has responded:

Now, it’s not that Perez thinks that the Grover Norquist pledge is a good thing, he just notes that Jeandron is running on the usual GOP gimmick, while failing to meet the gimmick’s standards.

UPDATE – I had this diary all wrong before, I referred to the wrong attack ad. Now it makes sense.

ActBlue here.

Conservatives Unite Around Taxes

One of the most important but so far overlooked narratives of this election cycle is the return of taxes as a major political issue. The recession is hitting government budgets just as that same downturn, combined with soaring gas prices and global warming is creating demand for new spending.

Against this backdrop conservatives are now convinced that their way out of an ugly election cycle is to rally the public behind their rabid anti-tax politics. Constant attacks on Obama as a tax-raiser are partly to blame for McCain’s recent rise in the polls.

And here in the states Republicans are again turning to the tax revolt, their bread and butter for 30 years. Republican intransigence on the California budget is best seen as part of this national strategy to break Democrats on the tax rack.

The Wall Street Journal has a great overview of tax politics in the states, including a lunatic proposal to eliminate Massachusetts’ income tax and a equally nutty plan to allow Oregon residents to deduct an unlimited amount of federal tax on their state returns.

Here in California conservatives are already circling the wagons on taxes. John and Ken, the reliable bellwethers of SoCal conservatism, raked Arnold over the coals yesterday over taxes:

Schwarzenegger tried to defend new taxes as necessary because the state was still paying off debts incurred by predecessor Gov. Gray Davis. But the hosts pressed further and suggested that Schwarzenegger abandoned his original mission of fixing the state’s fiscal situation in order to pursue environmental goals.

That seemed to upset the governor, who maintained that his environmental policies had nothing to do with the state budget.

“This is absolutely absurd what you’re saying right now,” Schwarzenegger said. “….You’re living in the Stone Age if you think that the environmental issue has anything to do with the budget or the declining economy worldwide.”

“Don’t lie to the people,” Schwarzenegger added. “That’s all I can tell you, don’t lie to the people. Don’t pull wool over their eyes. It’s nonsense Republican right-wing talk.”

To which John and Ken then asked whether Arnold was under anesthesia. Stay classy, Los Angeles.

What this shows is that the conservatives are in no mood whatsoever to give ground on taxes. The drubbing John and Ken gave Arnold is a taste of what many Sacramento Republicans might face from within their own party. Their fear is that by voting for a tax increase, they’re going to face primary challengers who will simply tell the wingnut base “my opponent voted for a tax increase” and their ambitious political careers will be over.

So it seems very unlikely that Republicans will give in this time. That leaves it up to Democrats to force the issue. The only thing that should scare Republicans more than a primary fight is losing the general election. That means Dems have to go after Republicans hard – and that in turn means Dems have to finally stop avoiding the issue and for the first time in 30 years make a case for taxes.

The problem is that, with reporters like Lisa Vorderbrueggen repeating conservative tax framing, Dems have an uphill battle. Way too many Californians assume taxes are taken out of their own pocket and never returned to them, even though Californians derive great and real economic value from government spending.

One angle would be to, as Anthony Wright suggests over on the left-hand column, make the budget about the economy. Explain the value of the services Californians receive from government and show how, in a recession, the loss of those services will hurt their bottom line.

Dems would also do well to explain to voters how Republican tax cuts are behind this crisis – from the 1998 McClintock tax cuts to Arnold’s $6 billion VLF cut to the repeated borrowing that Republicans have demanded, this budget crisis would be quite manageable were it not for reckless tax cuts.

Further, explain how tax cuts are also responsible for our economic downturn. With more government spending on higher education, health care, and mass transit, many of the costs that currently cripple households would be eased.

It’s not about the “budget” and never has been. This about taxes. With their backs up against the wall conservatives have returned to the strategies that brought them to power in the first place, and in California that means stoking a tax revolt. Unless Dems are able to defang that argument this budget crisis, and perhaps even the 2008 election, are not going have a happy ending.

The Catastrophe of a Spending Cap

David mentioned this below, but it deserves deeper elaboration. Don Perata’s agreement on a spending cap is one of the worst possible outcomes of the budget crisis. A spending cap has been a core demand of the Grover Norquist far right.  In Colorado, where a spending cap had been in place for several years, it nearly destroyed state government and had to be suspended.

If Democrats agree to this, they will be agreeing to the destruction of the state of California, finishing the job Prop 13 started 30 years ago. I cannot stress strongly enough how bad an idea this is.

It’s also unpopular with voters. Arnold’s spending cap, Prop 76, went down in flames in 2005 with 62% of voters rejecting it.

But what is the spending cap about? And why is is such a horrible idea? An excellent LA Times article from 2005 explains how spending caps are at the core of the right-wing plan to drown government in a bathtub:

Hard-line fiscal conservatives say they hope to reinvigorate the types of populist uprising that led to the approval by California voters of landmark protections against property tax increases through Proposition 13 in 1978 and the passage of term limits on politicians here and in several other states….

The proposals put strict limits on how much state budgets can increase each year. Anti-tax activists see such controls as a means to scale back spending on education, healthcare and social-service programs that even the staunchest free-market Republicans have been reluctant to cut.

Schwarzenegger and his advisors, already battling charges that their spending cap is part of a conservative agenda the governor is trying to force on Californians, have resisted forming alliances with the national groups. But the groups have eagerly embraced the governor’s crusade.

“We think California is very important,” Armey said. “It is a trend-setting state. Getting it done in California will set a very good example for all these other states.”

The article also mentioned the impact on Colorado, which enacted a spending cap in 1990. By the 2000s the cap was gutting government, as intended. The problem is that the spending cap readjusts to a lower level during a recession – but cannot be easily increased once the recession ends, meaning the spending that was cut during the lean times can’t be restored.

It is Grover Norquist’s way of drowning government in a bathtub. Even though Prop 13 has had a destructive impact here in California, leading to a structural revenue shortfall, we have been able to muddle through and protect education, transit, and health care from total collapse. Norquist’s spending cap would deal the final blow to those services.

It would not solve our budget problems – as Colorado found it would make them much worse. In November 2005 Colorado approved a 5-year suspension of the cap, as even Republican governor Bill Owens realized the state couldn’t survive with the spending cap in place.

For Democrats to consider accepting a spending cap is unconscionable. If Democratic leaders agree to a cap as part of a budget deal they deserve to be recalled from office. The current budget crisis is severe, yes. And we need a solution. But a spending cap will produce worse budget crises in future years while leaving California public services in ruins.

Dems should take comfort from the 2005 special election results. Californians do not want a spending cap. Don Perata is totally and completely wrong to agree to one. Let’s hope other Democratic leaders, especially those in the Assembly, refuse to give away the state to the Norquist crowd.

But..But..He Promised Grover

Finally the governor is talking some sense about our fiscal problems.  California has a massive budget deficit, about $16 billion at the moment.  Previously he suggested balancing the budget with across the board cuts.  Now he seems to understand that California has a revenue problem.  And by revenues, I mean what the state pulls in from taxes.  It is not a dirty word.  Yes, that means raising taxes, though it does sound better when you call it closing loopholes.  LAT:

Addressing a community forum at a breakfast in downtown Los Angeles, the governor said he would like to raise as much as $2.5 billion in new revenue by closing “tax loopholes.” Schwarzenegger said the money could be used to offset some of his proposed $4.4 billion in school cuts, which educators say would lead to teacher layoffs and larger classes.

The governor endorsed the framework of a spending plan put forward last week by the Legislature’s chief budget analyst as an alternative to Schwarzenegger’s fiscal blueprint, which addresses the state’s deficit mostly with cuts and borrowing.

His earlier proposals were flatly unacceptable and now he is coming around.

Needless to say the Republicans are none too pleased.

“If that is what he is saying, then we have a real problem,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. “It is a fairly direct breaking of his no-new-taxes pledge. How do you dance around that?”

And by pledge he means the Grover Norquist, I swear on Reagan’s grave, I will not raise taxes EVER promise.

It is great to have the governor speaking some sense about our tax policy.  That does not mean that others in his party will see the light.

Schwarzenegger and Democrats cannot eliminate tax breaks on their own. Doing so requires at least eight GOP votes in the Legislature. Republican leaders say those votes will not be available.

I rather like that phrase “votes will not be available”.  I am guessing that the votes will be there to layoff teachers, increase the prison population, build damns, and any number of swell ideas.

The Republican’s approach will lead us right to a major battle, one that California can ill afford.  We need to be pragmatic this year.  The Democrats are willing to make some cuts, but we will damage the state from cuts alone.  The Republicans need to give some where.  Taking a walk instead of repealing a loophole for yacht owners, then arguing it was all about protecting worker’s jobs instead of keeping more money in the hands of the wealthy is not a good start.

Day 7 of CRP Hiring Scandal: Federal Law Violation? and Hanretty Unleashed

Who knew that Marinucci’s story a week ago on the hiring of Canadian Christopher Matthews to be the California Republican Party’s deputy political director would lead to his colleague resigning and accusations of breaking the federal law?  Here we are with yet another A1 story at the Chron.  Today’s story breaks the news that the CRP may have violated federal law by failing to demand to see Kamburowski’s green card.

Ron Nehring, who heads the California Republican Party, admitted Tuesday that he — and as far as he knows, any party officials — never saw the green card that would prove that Michael Kamburowski, an Australian citizen hired as the state GOP’s chief operations officer, was a legal resident.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division said Tuesday the law is clear that “it is the responsibility of the employers to check and see that someone is legally in the country and eligible to work.”

Whoopsies.  This may lead to a fine or something, but the greater damage is in extending the story in the news.  The Reeps can’t stand the Chronicle, for it’s supposed left-wing bias.  It must be killing them to see their party’s dirty laundry aired, day-after-day, on the front page.

Right now, they are just hoping this goes away, and quickly, if only because it would avoid giving their opponents the opportunity to lob shots at them:

“This is the typical GOP hypocrisy,” said Luis Miranda, spokesman for the Democratic National Committee Tuesday. “They will scapegoat immigrants to try and win elections, but they will look the other way when it comes to rewarding their cronies.”

Nativo Lopez, national president of the Mexican American Political Association, said the GOP case illustrates that on immigration and border security, “it’s good for (Republicans) when it’s convenient for them — and as long as it comes from a country of their choosing.

“But they are perennially focused on the southern border, and it smacks of racism when they posture against immigrants of color from the south.”

It does not look like Nehring is stepping down over this one, though if this keeps up, he may be forced to.  He has accepted responsibility for the scandal and promised to put in place more thorough hiring processes.  Meanwhile, those lower in the food chain are sniping at the Chron for running this story in the first place.

GOP northern region vice chair Jerry Maltby said Californians should “start worrying about the 12 million illegals, not the ones with green cards,” he said. “If you guys take more time and write about the immigration problem, rather than worrying about what one guy did and didn’t do, it would be more relevant.”

Sorry, Maltby, once the media has their claws into a juicy scandal they aren’t about to voluntarily give it up.  This story has legs and they will run it until it collapses.

Actually, what I am most interested in right now is what Karen Hanretty has up her sleeve.  She didn’t take to well to being told to STFU and is now promising a series of expose posts over at the insider Hill newspaper’s blog.  She filmed a video yesterday, promising a series of posts that will:

…provide a timeline that raises a number of questions for the California Republican Party, as well as for Grover Norquist with Americans for Taxpayer Reform, who is also involved in this intriguing and developing story.

She then goes on a little rant about what Republicans need to do and provides a bit of a hit as to what she has in store for her upcoming series:

They are going to have to clear their ranks of incompetent leaders who refuse to follow their law and try and do things behind closed doors. 

That means our Republican party is doomed.

I almost can see shades of what the netroots tries to do in term’s of Hanretty’s plan to take her party back.  In true Republican form, it is someone already within the party structure, and in fact the former spokeswoman for the CRP who is actually challenging the leadership.  And of course she is using the most insider of all insider blogs to make this pronouncement.  She is pissed to be out of power and is willing to tear down the party to build it back up.  Expect to see some serious resistance from the status quo.

Hanretty has a big megaphone, especially with her regular TV appearances and will provoke a strong reaction from those she goes after.  I guarantee she has some dirt on Norquist, Nehring and others.  It may provide some more fodder for a few more A1 stories by Marinucci.

Make sure that you have some popcorn stocked up.  This one is not over folks.

CA-Gov: Arnold has a crush on Grover

Arnold Schwarzenegger, our Dear Leader, has made the “no new taxes” pledge. 

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared Thursday he will not raise taxes if re-elected as governor, establishing a fundamental contrast in his November race against Democrat Phil Angelides, who wants to boost taxes on the state’s highest earners and corporations to balance the budget.

In an hourlong interview with The Bee editorial board, Schwarzenegger did not promise to balance the budget but said he would “chip away” at the state’s structural spending gap by controlling costs and expanding California’s economy.

He said new taxes are not an option.

“I totally rule it out,” Schwarzenegger said. “I will not raise taxes.”(SacBee 7/7/06)

We all know that worked really, really well for George H.W. Bush.  That pledge, which is now heavily pushed by Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, is eating into the American Dream.  It debilitates our governance and soils our nation’s honor.  It allows us to spend, but not pay for it.  It has brought our federal government to the brink of financial ruin.

Fortunately, California has a balanced budget requirement, which we have gotten around by using bonds in the past.  Thus, we now have this structural budget deficit without the long-term capability to a) increase services as the people of California desire or b) pay off that structural deficit.  Arnold plans to “chip away” at it, but how does he plan to fund health care for all children, better schools, more access to preschools, better after school programs (his own Prop 49).

The answer of course, is that Grover and his ilk don’t care.  They would love to see a state go bankrupt, in a similar fashion to Orange County.  Grover has said as much, that he would like a state to slide into bankruptcy to be a bad example for other states.  If any state would make a powerful exempary case, surely California would.

Arnold claims to be a moderate, but surely a moderate could see both sides of an issue and wouldn’t make broad blanket statements that bind his hands like: “I totally rule it out…I will not raise taxes.”  He is no moderate.  Moderates understand that sometimes painful decisions must be made for the betterment of the state.  Arnold does not, and that is why we need a new governor.