Monday, March 07, 2005

Pacific coast demagoguery...

Arnold Schwarzenegger is proud that he’s the best at anything he tries. I wonder if he realizes he is among the best demagogues in California’s political history. From the start of his political “career,” he has sought power by championing the popular prejudices of the electorate. Lately, wearing the mantle of governor as one of a great warrior-leader, he’s been trotting out a long list of measures that attack public servants as the source of the great scourge of the electorate: taxes.

Arnold, of course, calls these public servants “special interests.” But I dare say nurses, teachers, and state workers from highway patrol officers to university professors, Caltrans workers, and state park rangers are not quite what the popular electorate thinks of as evil special interests that hold sway over democracy. Perhaps one could make rational arguments that we have too many nurses staffing hospitals, that public employees should not have good pensions, and that merit not experience should be the basis of salary schedules. But Arnold’s attacks on these “special interests” stem only from his party’s unwavering unwillingness to raise taxes to cover needed government spending.

For the moment, ideology trumps all. And, since Arnold can’t work with the legislature, because that takes compromise (something repugnant to demagogues and ideologues alike), he wants to call a special fall election (which will cost at least $50 million in tax dollars) to put his agenda before the people.

This is what we get in a society that puts self-interest before all other things. We can only hope that popular prejudice shifts and topples Arnold from his pedestal of demagoguery and ideological narrowness. If not, if he wins, we Californians are going to lose lots of public servants who traded high salaries for a solid defined benefit pension plan, we're going to have shaky health care in our hospitals, and there won't be much incentive for teachers to stay in teaching for a full career.

Sailing, good jazz, and a bit of blogging...that's my escape from the political conundrums of the day. What's yours?


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