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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Friday, August 01, 2003

Prof. Krugman's Ambitious Political Agenda

Some days we laugh, and some days we just smile out loud. In a too-good-to-finish column titled "State of Decline", the Earnest Prof launches our August with flair. At the risk of intruding on his subtle drolleries, I have inserted the briefest of annotations:

From smog to silicon, from the sexual revolution to the tax revolt, the future has usually arrived in California first. Now the Golden State [with a Democratic Governor and Democratic control of both Statehouses] is degenerating into a banana republic. Can the nation be far behind?

The recall isn't just a case of hardball politics. It's also a grand act of evasion: in the face of a severe fiscal crisis, voters are being invited to focus not on hard choices but on personality. Replacing [Democrat] Gray Davis with someone more likable isn't going to pay the bills.

And California's slide into irresponsibility, in which politicians refuse to acknowledge any connection between the government services the public demands and the taxes that pay for those services, is being replicated all across America.

Thanks to the end of the tech boom and the bursting of the tech bubble — with an assist from energy price gouging — California's budget has plunged into deficit. State and local governments faced with deficits normally respond with a mix of spending cuts and tax increases. That's what [ostensible Republican] Mayor Michael Bloomberg has done in New York, it's what [ridiculous Republican] Gov. Pete Wilson did in California's last fiscal crisis, in the early 1990's, and it's what Mr. Davis proposed earlier this year.

Brief pause. Surely, this is not the direction that the Professor wants to be going. But where is he taking us?

But California's Constitution requires that budgets be passed in the State Legislature by a two-thirds' margin — which gives the Republican minority blocking power. And that minority has refused either to vote for any tax increase, or to make realistic proposals for spending cuts.

Exhale. Neither California nor, by extension, our nation can be free until we have veto proof Democratic majorities. At the national level, the furrows will not lift from the brow of the Earnest Prof until we have 67 Democratic Senators, and Democrats as Speaker of the House and President.

Oh, we'll give you Chaffee. But anyway, our nation needs lots more Dem Senators, and at least one more President, and a few Congressfolks.

I am sure he thinks this is bad news. Well, everything I want to know about California is right here. Have a great weekend, all.

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