Theater of the absurd

Arnold adds to the ‘Kabuki’ with his rhetorical lines

When isn’t a government fee really a tax? Apparently, when Arnold Schwarzenegger says it isn’t. On the very same day he channeled George H.W. Bush with a “read my lips—no new taxes” pledge for any budget passed by the California Legislature, the governator proposed a surcharge on home-insurance policies to fund firefighting.

“This is a homeowners’ fee increase that goes directly for protecting the homes,” Schwarzenegger explained. “We need to have more fire trucks to work with, and someone has to pay for that.”

Private dollars funding public services—isn’t that the definition of taxation? Let’s check the dictionary: Tax (n) 1 a : a charge usually of money imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes.

“Fee” sure sounds like “tax” to us.

We don’t have a problem with the substance of his statement. The CN&R has, for months, editorialized against what this week’s guest commentators call a “cuts-only budget.” We’re as willing as most Californians to pay for vital services. Only rabble-rousers equate the rejection of Propositions 1A-1E to a rejection of any new taxation of any kind, on any individual or corporation.

In other words, the sort of rhetoric Schwarzenegger spouts and then contradicts. That’s the problem we have with his remarks.

State officials are in an untenable situation, partly of their making (stubborn partisanship) and partly of ours (ballot-box budgeting). Doublespeak won’t get California out of this mess. If the governor truly believes that taking strident stances is “part of the Kabuki,” he needs to assess his role in this theater of the absurd.