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Friday, January 07, 2005

ARNOLD'S REFORM: STANDARD RIGHTWING FODDER 

BY JACK RANDOM


Arnold Schwarzenegger’s political career began in earnest with his sponsorship of a ballot initiative funding after-school programs, a measure that passed overwhelmingly but never took effect. It was designed as a public relations campaign, highlighting Arnold’s love of children, but the funds were cleverly tied to budgetary restraints. The children never saw a penny’s worth of Arnold’s love. It was all fluff, no muscle.

The Governor has continued the practice of talking big but producing little in his brief tenure as California’s chief administrator. His primary achievement thus far is his enthusiastic support of America’s Vore Leader (sic). While the Bush-Cheney-Rove campaign welcomed his support, it has not produced any benefits for California’s beleaguered economy.

It is a good time to review why California’s economy is beleaguered. The root and cause is made to order for the Governor’s incisive political mind: simple and pure. In the year 2000, a handful of Texas energy corporations manufactured a west coast energy crisis and gamed the system to the tune of $50 billion. (The amount dwarfs the state’s deficit and places the amounts pledged by wealthy nations to tsunami relief in proper perspective.) These corrupt but well-connected corporations have been allowed to profit by California’s misfortune and their profits are skyrocketing under the friendly leadership of Washington, Austin and Sacramento. We may never know whether the ouster of a Democratic governor and the rise of Arnold was a part of the package or merely a fringe benefit. We do know that, while the old governor was in bed with California’s rapists, the new governor is having their babies.

The first order of business for the new governor of da people should have been reparations. Tellingly, it was not. It is revealing, however, that the governor could not match his condemnation of corporate contributions by refusing to accept them. It is equally revealing that corporate corruption, campaign finance, and the wasteland of California’s burgeoning private prison industry are missing from the governor’s program. Clearly, it is not da corporations that will pay for his reforms; it is da people.

Mainstream media, of course, remains enchanted by the very image of Arnold being cast in the title role of Mr. Smith Goes to Sacramento. Politicos are so used to second tier celebrities that the presence of a bona fide Hollywood movie star is enough to trigger salivation. It is not surprising, then, that the governor can do no wrong. His state of the state reform program is characterized as bold, new and broad as the governor’s implanted biceps. A less mystified analysis would reveal that there is literally nothing new in the Arnold approach to governating. It is the standard package of rightwing fodder, full of self-interest and blatant partisanship, devoid of compassion.

The proposed spending cap for budgetary restraint is at the top of every fiscal conservative wish list. Few seriously object to spending limits in a time of deficits (except perhaps the current inhabitants of the White House), but this proposal is designed to punish the governor’s political enemies. It disallows flexibility in governance at time when flexibility is most needed. The cuts go across the board and will inevitably hurt all interests that do not have a corporate sponsor. Multibillion-dollar contracts for everything from roads, bridges and highways to prisons and computer networks are safe as long as they are privately owned. Caps are a cover for cuts in education, welfare, worker training and homeless programs, cuts in mental health and medical care, cuts in everything public, and these cuts will not require debate. They will simply happen beneath the radar.

Pension reform, like most rightwing ventures, is another scheme for privatization. It has worked so well in foreign countries (operating under perpetual debt while eviscerating social programs is the new third world occupation), the governor wishes to bring it home to Caleefornia. With any luck, Arnold will move on to bigger and better scripts by the time the state joins the third world and secedes from the nation by mutual consent.

Education reform is the rightwing politician’s favorite whipping post. It is of no consequence that the model promoted by Texas crooks and adopted by the nation was itself a failure. It does not matter that No Child Left Behind is the most disastrous educational initiative since California essentially banned phonics instruction in the early nineties. It does not matter that private schools, which are not saddled with massive compulsory testing, are less effective than public schools and charter schools are pretty much a bust. It only matters that Arnold loves kids and those nasty teachers are ruining their bright future. (Here is the nasty little secret: their future has been exported by the same anti-labor politicians who make sport of publicly flogging educators). Teachers would have little problem with pay by merit except they know that merit will be determined by administrators who are pimping test scores. Most of these administrators are sincere people who really do not like what they are being forced to do but they are left no choice by deceitful politicians like the governor. Why not pay the politicians by their merit – and that should be measured by the real effects on people, not whether they are positioned for a run at the White House.

Government reorganization is just a way of clearing out the remaining Gray Davis appointees. Mark it: this governor will appoint his own. It is the way of government: when there is nothing you can or will do, appoint a commission.

On the face of it, the governor’s proposal to eliminate designer redistricting is long overdue and desperately needed on a national scale. When one factors in the party, however, it becomes an obvious partisan ploy. The Democrats still control the state and the governor wants to do away with gerrymandering until his own party takes over.

As for the governor’s paltry prescription drug benefit, one can only assume it is a duplication of the fraud perpetuated by the president with extremely limited application. One must be careful in abusing the elderly. Someone might notice.

When it all comes down, the Governator’s bold new program is like his featured address at the Republican National Convention: full of platitudes, plumage and aplomb but signifying absolutely nothing.

Jazz.

JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS) AND GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS). HE WRITES FOR BUZZLE.COM. SEE WWW.JACKRANDOM.COM.

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