Point of View Columns

When Nightmares Become Real

The gubernatorial recall election circus in California is coming to a close. Very shortly (some of) the voters in the Golden State will decide whether Gavin Newsome should remain as governor of the state. If the decision is that he should not continue in office, the second part of the ballot has a couple of dozen Republican candidates from which voters could choose.


In that case the new governor of California will have been elected with far less than half of the votes cast. This is minority rule in living, breathing color and it could happen.


This nightmare scenario could happen because even though a small minority of voters could arrange for a recall, an even smaller minority could elect the next governor. This could take place even though the overwhelming majority of the people of California wouldn’t touch most of the Republican Dirty Dozens with a ten foot pole.


It is more important than ever that the American people realize that we have been living in an approximation of minority rule in this country for decades. Consider that the successful Republican presidential candidates have won the popular vote only once since 1988. Consider that the 50 Republicans in the Senate represent less than 40% of the American population. And it is certainly fair to say that with Republican presidents and senators putting their thumb on the scale of justice, the 6-3 protoconservative majority on the Supreme Court isn’t even close to giving full consideration to the prevailing concerns of the majority of the American people.


This has happened in large part because the protoconservatives – the right wing of the right wing – have had laser like focus on the real levers of power in the American governmental system. The Constitution vests a tremendous amount of power in the states (try taking a brief look at the 10th Amendment when you get a chance). With this bit of knowledge firmly in hand Republicans have managed to gain a stranglehold on the legislative process in over thirty states even though every credible poll indicates that less than 40% of Americans self-identify as Republicans.


Republican legislatures gerrymander districts to reduce the power of voters who don’t share their vision. Further, they redistrict electoral boundaries to literally reduce the number of non-Republicans who can win elections.


This in turn translates into significant power every four years when the rules of the Electoral College require state legislatures to validate the election of the president. And one would be right to be concerned about this particular fact after the refusal of many Republicans to accept the 2020 election results. This could easily result in the overturning of the election results in their favor as a certain ex-president wanted not too long ago.


Minority rule is further enabled by the tendency of moderate and progressive Democrats to look the other way while the Republicans the foundations of democracy. Usually its because too many people “don’t want to be bothered with politics” or seriously believe that there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans.


And when that happens you get California on the precipice of a public policy debacle of epic proportions. Whether it is Kaitlyn Jenner or Larry Elder or The Man With The Bear, if Gavin Newsome is recalled the people of California are in for a rude and cruel awakening. There will be too many people who will find out much too late that they needed “to be bothered with politics”.


The countdown begins.

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Point of View Columns

A New York State of Mind

As you are reading this column the New York State legislature will have passed a budget that contains over $10 billion in spending cuts. The budget largely reflects proposals from recently elected New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and it appears that the New York budget scenario is being played out in state capitals across the country.

A few facts – Governor Cuomo is the son of the historically liberal former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and worked for the historically progressive former President Bill Clinton as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He was elected as the progressive alternative and antidote to the toxic right wing of the right wing gubernatorial candidate Tom Golisano.

The public in New York and throughout the country has understood that local, state and federal budgets are in need of reformation and restructuring. The damage wrought by the great economic collapse of 2008 cannot be overstated.

Years of treating taxation as punishment instead of part of the price that all people (and corporations) pay for living in a civil society has created unsustainable imbalances that have to be rectified.

The turning point in these fiscal discussions has been focused upon whether these budget battles are going to be about dollars and sense or will they be about reforming the social and political landscape in this country. There are those who are willing to pursue a prudent social services agenda while also being fiscally prudent.

And then there are those who are willing to use the public sector fiscal crisis as a Trojan horse that will permit entry inside the gates built by a century of progressive reform so that they can begin to dismantle the safety nets for all citizens.
The New York state budget is a case in point.

Governor Cuomo and the legislature have determined that no tax increases are possible. Indeed, in the new budget any New York citizen who makes over $200,000 per year will get a tax cut. Meanwhile statewide aid for education will be cut by $1.25 billion and Medicaid benefits will be cut by $2.8 billion.

And certainly, and most clearly, the citizens of New York who earn the least, who own the least and who control the least will be the ones who will bear the brunt of these budget cuts.

This scenario is being replayed from Wisconsin to California to Washington, D.C. The balanced budget mantra is overlaid with the themes of reducing the tax obligations of the wealthiest Americans (and corporations) and reducing the services provided to citizens, especially the citizens with the fewest resources and the greatest need.

There is an empty and heartless meanness to this approach that transcends the numbers and figures that are in a budget discussion. The suggestion that it somehow makes sense that a corporate behemoth like General Electric has a final tax bill of zero while Headstart programs are closed and veterans’ benefits are cut is difficult to comprehend.

Just as no one is entitled to great wealth, no one is entitled to unnecessary hardship and misery – particularly in a country with the highest standard of living in the history of the Planet Earth.

The sense of community that brings citizens together into a caring and cohesive entity is clearly fraying. Perhaps this is attributable to the fact that the sense of shared obligation has been diluted to a point that it is hardly noticeable.

Spending has been supported at the local, state and federal level for everything from football stadiums to bridges to nowhere and the taxation consequences have been largely deferred or ignored.

As is the case for every celebration, there is a bill that has to be paid. It would seem logical, fair and patriotic that those who have benefited the most from American society would have to pay their fair share of the cost of that society.

The constant caterwauling about “no new taxes” might make sense in some other circumstance, but not during a time of crisis. That point seems to be lost upon those who see taxes as punitive and view cutting social services as the only logical choice.

Americans who lived through the Great Depression and World War II learned about shared responsibility and common sacrifice out of necessity. And out of that necessity was born the G.I. Bill and the beginning of the largest middle class expansion in world history up to that point.

That sense of shared responsibility and common sacrifice resulted in everything from the national highway initiative to the Great Society to landmark civil rights bills.

If you wonder if any of those bills would pass today you only need to look at the scorched earth that resulted from the debate and passage of the recent healthcare bill and you will have your answer.

Blanche Dubois was probably wrong to depend on the kindness of strangers. But I do believe that Americans should be able to depend on the compassion and concern of their fellow citizens.

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