Or where the (ugly) rubber really meets the (really ugly) road.
Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed a starter list of cuts to California’s bloated budget. Is it meant to be theatrical? To incite public frenzy and fear? To soften the public up for massive tax hikes? Probably. Yet the cuts don’t even touch the biggest sinks of California’s money – where a full 40% of the state budget goes to schools.
Faced with a ballooning deficit and a clear signal that voters won’t pay more to fix it, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released a budget plan Tuesday that would eliminate welfare, drop 1 million poor children from health insurance, cut off new grants for college students and shut down 80 percent of state parks.
In a state that long has prided itself on its social safety net, it could well go down in history as the most drastic reduction in social programs ever. And billions in further cuts will be unveiled later this week.
The governor’s proposal to whack an additional $5.5 billion from state programs stunned even longtime Capitol-watchers with its blunt force. Ending cash assistance for 1.3 million impoverished state residents, for example, would make California the only state with no welfare program.
“Every single first-world nation has a safety net program for children,” said Will Lightbourne, Santa Clara County’s social services director. “This would return us to the era of Dickens – you’d have to go back to the 19th century to find a comparable proposal.”
The governor’s office reiterated that the cuts were painful but unavoidable, with the proposed budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year already outdated before lawmakers even begin debate. Schwarzenegger’s finance team now says the deficit will grow to $24.3 billion by July 1, up from the previous $21.3 billion projected shortfall.
Frankly, despite the lurid claims of economic disaster here, Schwarzenegger’s proposed cuts are a drop in the bucket. The numbers are staggering (well, they would have been before the current administration took office in Washington), but they barely make a dent in California’s deficit.
One can’t help but point out that California is often touted as a bellwether for the rest of the nation. One would also be remiss in not pointing out that decades of frenzied spending without any visible means of support tend to lead to this kind of outcome.
Which should bother the rest of the country as the Obama administration is breaking America’s bank, so to speak. Without even having delivered anything yet.