By Abraham H. Miller
Editor's note: This essay was written prior to Tuesday's election, in which actor Arnold Schwarzenegger was chosen to be governor.
Friends and relatives in Ohio and throughout the eastern half of the United States have been deluging Californians with letters, notes, e-mails and even phone calls pleading for us to vote against the recall of Gov. Gray Davis. From the tone of some of the communications, one might think the very essence of American democracy is at stake in Tuesday's recall election. The tone, of course, is set by "Move On," an organization that was prominent in the attempt to block the impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton.
One friend from Cincinnati pointedly asked me," Are you going to vote for the muscle man?" To which I replied, "If Mickey Mouse were running against Gray Davis, I would give pause to consider voting for a real cartoon character instead of a governor who has become a caricature of himself."
I moved to California from Centerville, Ohio a year ago. When I arrived here the state was facing a $34 billion deficit. Unless you live in the State of New York that amount is larger than your entire state budget. After a year, the Democratic majority had failed to take any steps to reduce our mounting debt or take note of the fact that every day we spend $29 million we don't have. The capital markets could not help but take notice as our bond ratings plummeted and the cost of maintaining our indulgent state programs rose.
My neighbors and I watched feeling helpless and powerless. We raised private money to keep physical education, art and music in our public schools as Gray Davis expanded his over-paid political staff. One day in the middle of our rainy season, a young man was standing in the Safeway parking lot with a clipboard gathering signatures to recall Gray Davis. I pulled up my sweatshirt hood against the rain, stood in line, and eventually got to the front to scrawl my signature. I felt so empowered that I only wish I could have signed twice.
We live in a one-party state that at some level of government has indulged every liberal, public policy fantasy. These programs are not totally dysfunctional. Las Vegas and Phoenix have become the fastest-growing cities in America thanks to the out migration of California business. The government of Ontario, Canada runs repeated advertisements on cable television enticing California business to move to a friendlier environment, as does the state of Michigan. It would be easier to get a permit from the council of Mullahs in Tehran to open a Barbecue than it is to open a small business in California.
In any given year, 32,000 people account for 10.2 billion dollars of our total income tax revenue. We can lose 1000 ordinary workers and not see the revenue impact of losing one millionaire. When the state creates business policies that causes these people to leave, the schools, social programs and community services they support go with them. The facts of economic life are that losing the senior management of a business is even more devastating for state coffers than losing all the rest of the employees.
Most states are running deficits, but ours is extreme, and it is extreme because of the liberal mindset that guides our economic policies. During the dot-com bubble, California state coffers were dramatically enhanced by capital gains tax levied on the sale of stock options. In fact, it is estimated that our state surplus was disproportionately due to the capital gains tax paid on options by 44,000 people, less than the number it takes to fill a major league sports stadium.
Instead of seeing this as a momentary windfall, our tax-and-spend legislators made all sorts of ongoing program commitments, which now they can't fund. When I moved to Cincinnati in 1971, the city had one of the best bond ratings in the country because its civic leaders had avoided signing on to a number of so-called, "Great Society Programs," and were not left holding the bag for those programs when they collapsed, as were so many other cities. That kind of fiscal prudence could never happen in a Democratic-dominated California where the political establishment caters to an ever-increasing base of tax consumers rather than tax producers.
Among these are our nine million illegal immigrants, who tend to vote for the Democrat of their choice, and thanks to Gray Davis are about to get California driver's licenses to drive to their illegal jobs. In fact, it is politically incorrect to call them, "illegal." They are now officially called "immigrants," as if wading across the Rio Grande and waiting your turn for an immigration visa are one in the same exercise.
"Citizenship," we are increasingly told, is an arbitrary concept. Cruz Bustamante, lieutenant governor and Democratic front-runner, refuses to repudiate his one-time membership in an organization that seeks to link California to Mexico, calling it Mexifornia. Peter Camejo, the Green Party candidate, says that it is the Europeans who are here illegally, an utterance that did not raise an eyebrow in the mainstream media.
Illegal immigrants artificially depress wage rates while creating demands on health, education and social services to which they do not contribute. The great myth is that they do jobs Americans won't do. Americans won't do these jobs for the depressed wages created by an abundant supply of illegal labor, often paid in cash, below minimum wage and without benefits. Take illegal labor out of the equation and let wage rates be determined by supply and demand and see who takes these jobs.
You may smugly think our problems are our problems not yours. We are more than 17 percent of America's economy and the world's seventh-largest economy. If you think our economic problems will not impact your economy, you live in a shell. If you think the redefinition of citizenship in California will not affect you, think again.
When you pay our taxes and deal with our issues you can tell us how to vote. To use the slogan of the guiding organization in this effort in behalf of Gray Davis, you liberal Democrats really do need to "move on." We Californians have a political system to save.
Abraham H. Miller, emeritus professor of political science at the university of Cincinnati, lives in Walnut Creek, Calif.
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