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

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Not Personality But Process.

So Zed Hollingsworth is trying to reopen budget talks and take taxes off the table, and if there's not a breakthrough in a couple days, he'll probably succeed. Darrell Steinberg is vowing to hold out, but the dynamic can change quickly and he doesn't have much left to offer the likes of Cox and Maldonado.

I have to wholeheartedly agree with Robert's take on how the Yacht Party putsch last night does nothing but highlight the need for fundamental reform and a return to democracy in California. He did an admirable job going over the history and the menu of options, but I want to make the more emotional argument for a return to majority rule. Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money did the best and most concise job of explaining why, despite the essential truth of the Republican Zombie Death Cult, it's the process-based enabling that it the original sin.

Although Krugman is of course right to blame a "fanatical, irrational minority" for the current crisis in California, it can't be emphasized enough that what really matters is the incredibly stupid institutional rules that empower this minority: namely, the idiotic super-majority for tax increases and an initiative system that both created that supermajority requirement and provides incentives to vote for every tax cut while mandating certain kinds of spending because the issues are isolated. Fortunately, the federal level (while it has too many veto points) is not quite at this level yet, and at least the stupid filibuster rule doesn't apply to budgets.

It's very easy to get people excited and motivated about a PERSON. Not so much about a process. And yet, as we all know, without the process, the villains in this melodrama would be sidelined. And I believe that is a fact which serves both parties.

People on the left often obsess over whether the electorate can figure out who to blame in these crises. The 2/3 requirement is a powerful enabler for that confusion. Because the elected representatives of the majority party are not allowed to impose their will on how the state is to be run, they cannot be held to account. Because the elected representatives of the minority party are in the minority party, they cannot be held to account. Therefore we have a political cycle that mirrors the economic cycle that results from these bad policies. The powerful stay powerful, the voiceless stay voiceless, people lose faith in the process, leading to more entrenched power and more voiceless, and so on.

Greg Lucas at California's Capitol makes the moral case for a majority-vote budget along these lines, that it is the only way for true accountability in the system.

If the huckstering of the President’s Day Weekend demonstrated anything at all, it’s that the majority party should be able to pass the budget it considers best for California.

If its awful the governor, should he or she be of a different political party, can slice-and-dice it through the miracle of the veto process.

Should the governor be of the same political party and warmly endorse the spending plan well he or she can be thrown out by voters.

And, if the non-partisan commission created by Proposition 11 last November to draw new legislative boundaries does its job it will be possible to throw out members of the party that passed the budget as well.

I don't agree about the panacea of redistricting - the available data shows virtually no link between gerrymandering and political polarization - but on balance Lucas is right. It's not a marketplace of ideas unless citizens can buy one idea or the other and make their decision based on the evidence. Democracies work when ideas are allowed to stand strong or wither on the strength of results. We do not have that here in California.

As to my point that this serves both parties? Greg Lucas:

Just to sweeten the majority-vote budget pot a little, there’s a fairly hefty number of folks who work both in and around the Capitol who assert that whichever team wins the power to run roughshod over the minority party will be so scared of exclusive blame for any badness in the budget being exclusively their fault that they won’t do anything real drastic.

This is what they are scared of CURRENTLY. There are lots of checks and balances in political systems. There is no need for an artificial veto. Democrats will still be timid to stick their necks out (they're politicians), but at least they would have no excuses.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is irrelevant and a failure. Democrats are spineless jellyfish. The Yacht Party is a collection of flat-earthers bent on destruction. All well and good. Yet all of these discrete groups are enabled by a political system that does violent disservice to the people of the state and the concept of democracy. We must have a return to majority rule. For the sake of accountability.

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