As Republicans Do Nothing, Kochs Keep Controlling California

April 2011 - As I’m writing this at the end of March, it looks like California is not going to have a state budget for a long while, because that’s the way out-of-state billionaires who have scared and intimidated the Republican puppets they control want it.

Just hours before budget negotiations collapsed on March 28, a paid arm of the Koch brothers, the Kansas billionaires who fund ultra-right candidates around the country, aired threatening radio ads in the districts of two of the negotiating Republicans, warning them that they’d better not let the people vote on extending existing taxes. Here’s a link to the ad:

Charles and David Koch are the owners of Koch Industries, and they are two of the richest people in the world. They bankrolled the Republican governor and legislators in Wisconsin who ruined that state’s fiscal solvency with tax cuts for the rich, and then ordered state workers to pay the price.

A profile of the Kochs in the New Yorker spelled out their agenda. They don’t like being told not to pollute our air and water, they don’t like being told to protect the health and safety of workers, and they don’t like being told to pay decent living wages to those workers.

And they really don’t want you to vote on extending tax rates they pay in our state, and ending the corporate welfare they receive here.

There’s also wealthy anti-tax fanatic Grover Norquist promising to politically destroy any Republican who defies him, and nutty talk radio performers posting website images of Republicans who don’t agree with them with their severed heads on sticks.

In the face of all that, it would take incredible courage by a few Republicans to provide Californians with a balanced budget providing essential government services. So far, they have shown no courage.

Without any Republican support, Governor Jerry Brown had already secured billions of dollars of painful spending cuts to eliminate half the deficit. To address the rest, he proposed letting the people vote on extending existing tax rates set to expire in June. That requires a two-thirds vote, so two Republicans in each house were needed to show the courage to defy those rich right-wingers and side with the people. None did.

“Each and every Republican legislator I’ve spoken to believes that voters should not have this right to vote unless I agree to an ever-changing list of collateral demands,” the Governor said.

Before that, the Senate Republican leader submitted a list of no fewer than 53 demands, many completely unrelated to the budget, as a condition of negotiating. These demands included weakening environmental protections, preserving corporate tax dodges, spending more money on county fairs, and moving the date of the 2012 presidential primary.

“The only thing missing from this list is a pony,” observed Senate president pro tem Darrell Steinberg.

If the Republicans were serious about real reforms, they could have narrowed their list to an essential few and prevailed, achieved a balanced budget, and moved on. But they obviously weren’t serious. “You can’t expect to ram through a complete agenda as a minority party when all the governor is doing is asking you to give the people the right to vote,” a spokesman for the Governor said. “Any reasonable person knows you can’t get 53 things for the price of one.”

In fact, as Gov. Brown pointed out, the Republicans were actually making the ridiculous demand to worsen the deficit as a condition of letting the people vote to fix it.

“One of the most glaring (demands),” he said, “was a billion dollar tax break to giant companies that keep jobs out of California. I don’t think we should take money from schoolchildren, public safety and our universities and give it to companies that don’t want to create jobs in California.” You can watch the Governor explain it here:

The fact is, he did offer compromises to the Republicans that his own supporters don’t like; including deep cuts in social programs, reforms to state pensions, formulas to cap spending, and some regulatory reform.

We’re still hoping that some Republicans will show courage and common sense by giving Californians, whom they are supposed to represent, the right to vote. But at this moment, none of them are. They’re all still puppets of the Koch brothers, obediently doing nothing.

“If you’re not going to vote to extend taxes, if you’re not going to vote to cut, then what the hell are you going to do?” Brown asked.

“By the way, if you’re not going to do anything, why do you take a paycheck?”




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