Since it came from a family friend, it took me a minute to realize that this question came via Ask Andrew. Maybe it’s time to set up a separate “Great ” Thoughts email account. In any case, we have our first “Ask Andrew” question. (Cue the trumpets!) :
Reader Liz writes:
I read this story today and thought I wonder what Andrew thinks about this. Here’s the article:
It’s about cuts to California’s budget, including closing state parks, cutting college funding 23% and others.
To be honest, some of it I don’t care that much about but I do wonder about cutting parks. California hosts a national treasure in its’ parks and is one of the most, if not the most visited/toured park systems in the country. I suppose that if we are realistic about the dire financial condition our country is in, it makes sense, but letting the parks go feels tragic to me, like letting go of our national pride.
But anyways, I was just wondering what you think about the state of California and the budget cuts they are making.
There’s a lot I could say about this. First, California has a special problem in that you need a 2/3 majority of the legislature to raise revenue. I’m not quite sure how they enacted the increases that they did, as I’m not fully versed on the current procedural constraints of the California legislature. I have a problem with supermajorities because they allow minority rule. Think about all the good legislation that the 110th Congress could have passed had the Senate Republicans not made a policy of filibustering just about everything. So the supermajority requirement take a lot off of the table. Sure, it prevents (sometimes necessary) tax increases, but more importantly, it prevents comprehensive legislation that includes tax increases as part of a package or plan. California is a place that has a lot of creativity, a lot of ideas. Some are good. Some are bad. When it comes to state budgets, some may raise taxes. Some may lower them. But when you have an ideological minority that is dead set against tax increases and with the power to make that stick, you leave a lot of ideas, a lot of innovation out of the equation.
Sadly, California’s problems are not unique. Budgets are strained all across the country, at every level of government, and it seems that very few people are willing to take a stand and close tax loopholes or even raise taxes on people and businesses that can afford it. There’s a national narative that says that teachers, firefighters, nurses, bus drivers, social workers, and all manner of public employee are responsible for our economic woes. There’s been some pushback against those ideas, and it has slowed the Republican crazy train that was elected last November, but not nearly enough.
There needs to be a counternarrative, the one about tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans that wiped out a surplus, the one about two wars conducted without budgetary considerations, the one about a giveaway to prescription drug companies, the one about a giveaway to an underregulated banking industry that blew up our housing markets, the one about companies moving overseas because they can exploit workers and increase profit margins with no regard for the communities that gave them life.
On one side, we have schools, libraries, parks, and hospitals. On the other we have tax breaks for people and corporations who have more money than most of us will ever see. What do you want to preserve, enrich and protect? It should be an easy answer.