Letters for December 25, 2003

Stewart makes a fine point …

Re “The power (elite) diet” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol Punishment, December 11):

Kudos to Jill Stewart and SN&R for having the courage to tell the truth about the out-of-touch leadership in the Democrat-run Legislature. Stewart hits the nail on the head when she points out that key Dems are repeating the mistakes of Christmases past.

The ultimate problem is that the philosophy of Democratic leadership is that they are right, no matter what the public has to say about it. They ignored the problems that galvanized voters on Propositions 187 and 209, and they’re right out front with wanting to overthrow Proposition 13. If the voters now imposed a real constitutional spending limit on the free-spending Dems, they’d respond with enough lawyers to storm Normandy.

The debacle has its roots in redistricting. Currently, the Dems are so far to the left that many of them are clearly socialist in their proposals, and some venture into Marxism, which would be fine if Californians were Marxist, but we aren’t. The alternative, the GOP, has such self-esteem problems that even if voters handed them all 120 legislative seats, they’d find a way to screw themselves before the next election. Both parties are hobbled by extremist ideologues and wannabe tin-pot dictators, such as state Senator John Burton.

The solution lies in taking redistricting out of the control of the ideologues. It also requires that legislative districts be reduced in size to better reflect the communities they pretend to represent. A state Senate district is larger than a congressional district. A current state senator represents more people than California’s first governor!

Paradoxically, the solution to our problem with these politicians is more politicians! It’s easy for a thug like Burton to control the 30 or so people required to run the Senate, but what if that number were over 100? Gosh, we might get better government.

Peter Finn

… and strikes a nerve

Re “The power (elite) diet” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol Punishment, December 11):

Jill, you’re about as Democratic as Attila the Hun. You don’t like helping people in need (especially at Christmas time?), but you don’t identify the source of the problem or any solutions, other than being mean.

We subsidize everyone from farmers to homeowners to multinationals in this country with big bucks, not the petty amount we give to families on welfare. As long as there is a large cheap-labor base, whether moms or illegal aliens, wages cannot rise to a decent level. Go after the problem at its source; dry up the labor pool, unionize big-box stores and fast-food joints, grubstake into homeownership, and these people will be more than happy to carry their own freight.

Life may not be fair, but we created a society that will make it as fair as possible, not mean and petty.

Pat Blackwell

Jill’s joined the poor-folks bashers

Re “The power (elite) diet” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol Punishment, December 11):

I’m usually a fan of Ms. Stewart but was distressed to read this column. It looks like she’s joined the parade of right-wing poor-folks bashers.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m no big fan of California’s welfare state either, but in light of the recent welfare lavished on the not-so-poor, her criticism of health and welfare programs is at least unseemly.

Never mind the hundreds of budget-busting billions in federal tax cuts for the rich; simply consider that, for example, if minimum wage increased at the same rate as executive compensation for the last decade, it would be $25 an hour.

You want to talk about state and local policies? Yes, there are abuses in programs for the poor, but they are dwarfed to insignificancy by the simple fact that California land speculators can still purchase agricultural land and then persuade (or suborn) some local government to up-zone it for as much as a 2,000-percent profit. The profits can be completely exempt even from state and federal income tax!

The revenue foregone with just this bit of mis-governance far exceeds the depredations of those treacherous poor people. Let’s report the big stories; what do you say?

Mark Dempsey

Shut up and New Deal

Re “The power (elite) diet” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol Punishment, December 11):

The budget deficit in California is part of a U.S. economic downturn. It is largely a result of the stock- market bubble of the late 1990s that burst. That boom and bust was unplanned.

What was planned before, during and after the recent financial bubble? The privileged few who own and control the state and the nation have been seeking nothing less than the rollback of New Deal and Great Society legislation. Such legislation strengthens working people by protecting them from the market and its harsh reality of unemployment.

The federal government has been leading this rollback of market protection for working people partly by forcing state and local governments to pay more for “Medicaid, Social Security Insurance for low-income households, and new domestic-security measures in the wake of 9/11,” as Richard B. Du Boff writes in the December edition of Monthly Review (www.monthlyreview.org/1203duboff.htm).

The goal of the rich and corporate America is to restore the rate of profit that ended with the war in Vietnam. That is what has spawned the past 30 years of economic restructuring, in which unions have been weakened and the working day has lengthened. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s attempt to houseclean state government is a part of—not apart from—this trend.

Seth Sandronsky

Keeping the poor alive is not “overspending”

Re “The power (elite) diet” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol Punishment, December 11):

Ms. Stewart has written an unhelpful “analysis” of our state budget problems. By utterly misunderstanding the problems that afflict California, as they do every other state in the union, she proffers the tired cliché that “overspending” has created the budget woes. Not true. Like all other states, the near depression in the national economy, the collapse of the dot-coms and the stock market all caused an abrupt shortfall in money. What did not happen was a shortfall of need.

Over the years, voters, not legislators, mandated the expenditure of nearly 80 percent of our state budget. Proposition 98 constitutionally requires that we expend increasing amounts for schools. There are already spending limits; according to the California Budget Project, we are currently $15 billion below those limits. However, had we shut down the entire government and discontinued every dollar of non-mandated spending, we could not have closed the revenue shortfall that came this year.

On December 12, the Senate voted, with the new governor’s approval, to uphold the Assembly’s responsible compromise to the governor’s original and questionable proposals. Rather than a $15 billion 30-year bond that would cost over $44 billion with interest from the general fund, we will have a seven-year bond with a dedicated revenue stream and vastly less interest. Instead of locking this state into spending restrictions pegged to this lowest budget year, the Legislature, in a responsible bipartisan move, will proffer a balanced-budget requirement with a mandated rainy-day fund. That will keep us in the black with very little threat of new taxes.

Every time anyone blathers on about “overspending” and “waste,” be prepared to provide significant examples. Every spending issue is important to some citizen. Thousands demonstrated December 10 against cuts in social services—the major targets for massive spending reductions—and wore signs: “I am not waste.” Ms. Stewart should now tell every child and disabled adult why they are utterly inconsequential. Then she should live with herself for her callousness. Keeping them alive is not “overspending.”

Elizabeth Sholes
public policy coordinator, California Church IMPACT

WWCD (What would Cheney do?)

Re “Journey to Cuba” by Melinda Welsh (SN&R Cover, December 4):

Melinda Welsh writes that “Castro threw 75 dissidents in prison with seemingly little provocation.” I’m sorry to say that these people broke laws. They were meeting with CIA agents in hotel rooms, hatching plots against a fairly elected government, and the laws were in place prior to their voluntary actions.

What in the world do you think Dick Cheney would do if Taliban agents were here in the United States meeting with key officials? There was a trial in Cuba. Do you think there would be a trial in this country?

The reason there is no legal travel between these two lands is that nobody in this government wants garbage collectors, grocery sackers and construction workers finding out that education and health care are free. They don’t want unionization ideas floating around in the heads of our poverty-wage slaves. God forbid!

Paul Knopp
via e-mail