As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The High Broderists Come To Sacramento

Seeking to increase the statewide per capita vomit output, this $16 million dollar boondoggle called California Forward continued its weeklong rollout with yet another fawning article, this time from Shane Goldmacher.

Could late and unbalanced budgets, along with partisan gridlock, disappear from Sacramento?

That's the goal of a new bipartisan political foundation that unveiled its campaign Wednesday to improve state government, bringing along a three-year, $15.9 million budget and high hopes for overhauling the way the state does business.

If there's one thing we've seen over the years, it's that bipartisan unelected commissions really do change everything. After all, the Iraq Study Group got us out of the war, right?

"California cannot be a leader in the 21st century if its government is not functioning effectively and efficiently for the people of this state," said the group's co-chairman, Leon Panetta, a Democrat who has served in Congress and as chief of staff to President Clinton.

Thomas McKernan, a wealthy Republican activist in Orange County and CEO of the Automobile Club of Southern California, is the other co-chairman.

The foundation's leaders promised it will differ from past reform coalitions. As board member and former state Sen. Chuck Poochigian, a Fresno Republican, put it, California Forward has "the resources to get the job done."

You don't need ten cents to know what has to be done in California. You need to let elected officials govern. I believe in checks and balances, but here we have barriers and deadbolts. And guess what, the entire state understands this already. Well over 2/3 of the state believe major changes need to be employed in the budget process, like eliminating the stupid requirement allowing 1/3 of the legislature to block tax and budget proposals. Everyone gets that budget reform needs to reflect democracy.

But closing loopholes, while helpful, doesn't come close to real budget reform and restoration of the representative democracy and accountability that have been eroded for decades by an initiative process that encourages both ad-hoc automatic spending formulas and paralyzing revenue limits.

The governor properly points out that the common cycles of feast and famine – both in California and elsewhere – make little sense. But the fix is not more formulas. It's a return to a system of representative government that forces voters to make choices between good services and low taxes, and makes all politicians accountable instead of rewarding them, as the process does now, for fudging, borrowing and irresponsibility.

I don't think Peter Schrag was given $16 million dollars to come up with that.

Of course, it wouldn't be right to just advocate for democracy in Sacramento, because that would be too terribly "Democratic." It'd ruin the street cred of these sensible wise men, these moderate militants, who think that the best solution necessarily includes a little bit from the left and a little bit from the right, claiming that the real solution is just to tell lawmakers that "governing is more important than winning," because holding hands in a circle is the $16 million dollar answer. We actually need partisanship and a politics of contrast so voters can make real choices. This call for bipartisan solutions only goes out when progressive ideas are flourishing. Sacramento wasn't "broken" when the energy market was deregulated. It wasn't "broken" when Prop. 13 made it impossible for the state to gather expected revenue. It's only "broken" when a tiny group of Yacht Party Republicans are straining to hold back the tide of legitimate government with a proper revenue structure.

And by the way, guy from California Forward who emailed me within 10 minutes of the last time I wrote about this: don't bother. I've little interest of being assimilated into the Borg.

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