No new taxes? Do it yourself
No slogan is more popular among conservative politicians in California, nationally and internationally than, “no new taxes.” Almost no Republican gets anywhere without signing a pledge never to approve new levies of any kind for any reason. Violating the pledge is political death.
So GOP state legislators this year repeatedly refused compromises offered by Gov. Jerry Brown that could have created a bit of new revenue for the state in exchange for some breaks that business lobbies have long sought.
But until last month, no one had pierced to the core of what politicos really mean when they say, “no new taxes.” Then Republican state Sen. Sharon Runner, of Lancaster, issued a press release telling Californians how to respond to the state’s budget crisis:
“Now is the time to get a dog, buy a gun and install an alarm system,” she instructed. “The state of California is no longer going to protect you.”
Specifically, Runner referred to the state’s plan – due to start this month – for remanding thousands of “low-level” convicts from state prisons back to county jails, which are already so cash-strapped they often hold misdemeanor offenders for only a fraction of their sentences.
Why did Brown spur legislation to allow this? Mainly because the state, as Runner said in the same press release, “is out of money.”
Runner did not go further than addressing some public safety aspects of the latest cutbacks and the further reductions likely to come in January. But she could apply the same self-sufficiency message much more widely.
Chop the public school budget any more than it has already been cut and maybe she’ll tell all parents to home-school their kids, or at least buy their own shoulder pads and kicking tees if their kids want to play football. Never mind if they don’t have the money. Or she could tell parents without health insurance of their own to make sure they have good coverage for their kids, because their aren’t many school nurses left.
Cut millions from state parks and close 70 of them, as is already happening, and maybe she’ll tell Californians to make sure they have big back yards to camp in, because the state won’t be providing anywhere near as many campgrounds as before.
Worried about fires? Get a fire extinguisher or a swimming pool full of water and a good hose and pump, because there will be far fewer firefighters.
These messages could come almost straight from the rhetoric of Ron Paul, the longtime Texas congressman and Libertarian favorite who not coincidentally won the presidential straw poll at the California Republican Party’s fall convention.
Paul’s basic message is that government should not be doing most of the things it has long done nationally and in this state. He draws the line at the military, but almost everything else is fair game. With him as the California party’s most popular figure and his ideas its favorites, who can be surprised when Republicans cast votes to decimate all manner of public services?
That’s one reason Brown was correct when he observed in a recent interview with a blogger that Republicans are “embedded in a deep belief system that does not permit any association with something that could be called a tax increase.”
If Republicans cast votes to cut government programs, they don’t mind because they don’t really believe there ought to be many government programs to begin with – even if private solutions to the problems that might occur would be both chaotic and would cost individuals and families far more than any recently-proposed tax increase.
Because the same principles prevail among national Republicans – Paul won the GOP’s straw vote in Iowa and former pizza executive Herman Cain, with a similar message, won another in Florida – it wasn’t so far-fetched when President Obama told a $35,000-a-plate San Francisco lunch recently that the GOP vision of government (or non-government) would “fundamentally cripple America.”
And so Republicans say they would oppose any further bailouts of banks, no matter what the consequence for the nation. They opposed funding disaster aid without cuts to other programs, including public health.
It all stems from a conviction that individuals should do almost everything for themselves, with little or no government intervention or help. If that translates into getting a dog, a gun and an alarm system (how many Californians have the money to follow that advice, when alarm systems can cost thousands of dollars?) because prisons are being cut and more convicts will be on the streets, so be it.
Thanks to Sharon Runner’s frank, unsolicited and unprecedented translation of the real meaning of her and other like-minded legislators’ votes, their purpose, intent and potential consequence is now clearer than ever.