Editorials | February 2007
|Schwarzenegger: Veering Left?|
Domenico Maceri - PVNN
John Garamendi introduced the governor of California with the adjective "courageous." Garamendi, a Democrat, the newly-elected lieutenant governor of the Golden State was of course talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, who was also reelected in the November election.
Schwarzenegger’s bravery had little to do with the crutches the former Hollywood actor was using as he was recovering from a skiing accident. The comment had to do with the Governor’s recent plans to improve the state of California. It all began with Schwarzenegger’s proposal to provide health insurance to all Californians. It was later followed by a series of measures to rebuild the infrastructure of the state which would cost $43.3 billion dollars.
It’s a necessary expense, according to Schwarzenegger, because the population of California will increase by 30% in the next couple of decades and we must invest in the future.
Where will the money come from? Through the sale of bonds which California voters will have to approve in 2008 and 2010.
Schwarzenegger has proposed no new taxes, toeing the GOP party line on the subject. Critics, however, see bonds as taxes with another name which instead of being paid upfront will be dealt with in the future. Our children or grandchildren will pay the bills. In addition to the principal, of course, bonds will require interest payments, which will raise the total cost significantly.
The Republican Party’s reaction was predictable. Dick Ackerman, GOP leader of the California Senate, said that the governor deserves credit for having identified the problems but his methods move him away from the political center. Chuck Devore, a GOP member of the State Assembly, is reluctant to approve more bonds because future governors and legislatures will have an “untenable debt and repayment burden.”
But Republicans also believe that Schwarzenegger has abandoned the political center with the inclusion of undocumented workers in the healthcare plan. This is an important point for the GOP which gives them traction since a majority of Californians believes that social benefits should be available only to legal residents.
Schwarzenegger argues that healthcare insurance for all means savings for all. Since federal law prohibits denial of emergency medical services to anyone, those without insurance use emergency centers as a last resort. Who eventually pays for the care? Those with health insurance, since hospitals raise the prices for paying customers.
In essence, Schwarzenegger asserts, the situation translates into a “hidden” tax for those who purchase health insurance. Schwarzenegger has also been quoted as saying that “children are children” regardless of whether their parents are in the country legally or not. Morally, you cannot deny healthcare to innocent children.
Democrats in general agree with Schwarzenegger’s proposals although some have expressed the concerns of the GOP. But given the 2/3 legislative requirement to put the bonds on the ballot Schwarzenegger will have to convince at least some GOP state legislators to go along. In essence, the minority party in the California legislature could block the governor’s agenda.
Schwarzenegger is right about the need to invest in California’s infrastructure. His reliance on bonds to finance the various projects instead of raising taxes enables him to continue to claim he is a Republican and not a RINO (Republican in name only.)
Yet the expenditure calls to mind right away the investments of Pat Brown, California governor in the 1960’s. But Brown was a Democrat and the government expenditure was part of his party’s ideology.
Schwarzenegger is different because he is a Republican and the party’s platform is to let companies do the investing. Yet, California is a state-nation with a GDP at the eighth place in the world with significant needs.
The only way for Schwarzenegger to convince voters to spend the money is through bonds which will sweeten the bitter pill. Now all he has to do is convince 2/3 of the California legislators to bring about significant benefits to the future of California.
Domenico Maceri, PhD, UC Santa Barbara, teaches foreign languages at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, CA. He is the author of a book on Pirandello, one on Spanish grammar, and another on Italian grammar. He has also published a number of articles in newspapers and magazines around the world, some of which have won awards from the National Association of Hispanic Publications.
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