After eight years of Bush-Republican malfeasance that decimated the world’s economy, many voters learned that Republicans were incompetent, and dangerous, but it is likely voters in California were more observant than the rest of the nation. In 2010 when angry racists sent teabaggers and extremist Republicans to Congress and several governorships, California voters still remembered the Bush disaster and when presented with a clear choice between a dangerous Bush-surrogate and a centrist Democrat, they chose wisely and rejected the Bush clone. Republicans are wont to tell Americans that Democratic governance will bring about economic and social apocalypse, but if Americans want to understand just how wrong Republicans are, they should look to California for a model the entire country should follow.
In the 2010 midterm elections, an ALEC-Koch Republican and job-destroying corporatist ran for governor of California, and voters clearly understood a victory by Meg Whitman would have made the rape and pillage agenda of Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Rick Snyder look tame in comparison. Throughout Whitman’s campaign, she was not remiss to publicly and frequently boast about her intent to explicitly follow an ALEC-Koch agenda and it is likely because she was certain she could buy the governorship with her vast fortune. Fortunately for California, voters had just suffered two terms of another Republican and fully understood that their environment, economy, and residents could hardly survive a tax-cutting, deregulating, and privatization-mad Republican following a scripted Koch-ALEC agenda with no regard for anything but handing the state to corporations and the Koch brothers.
California voters rejected the Koch-acolyte and in 2012 helped Democrats raise taxes on the rich and corporations, protect union labor, raise the minimum wage, protect the environment, and sought out and punished two Koch associates for campaign finance malfeasance. Despite the voters, legislature, and Democratic Governor Jerry Brown doing the polar opposite of what Republicans say will destroy America, California’s sky did not fall and for the first time in ages there is a budget surplus, the state’s credit rating was raised, and is adding jobs with private-sector employment up by 0.8 percent. Americans should take heed that regardless what Republicans claim; raising taxes on the wealthy, raising the minimum wage, and protecting union labor will not eviscerate the economy or spell the end of America.
First, when voters sided with Governor Jerry Brown and raised taxes on the rich and corporations after multi-billion dollar shortfalls under a Republican governor (Arnold Schwarzenegger), California expects to take in $2.4 billion more in revenue than it spent. In fact, after paying off the previous year’s shortfall and setting aside funds for future obligations, California will have enough money available to increase funding for education, pay down its debt, and still have enough left over to set aside $1 billion in a rainy day fund. It prompted Governor Brown to boast that, “For the next four years, we’re talking about a balanced budget. We’re talking about living within our means. This is new. This is a breakthrough.” It is also a blueprint for the entire nation that President Barack Obama has proposed for four-and-a-half years and Republicans dismissed as doomsday for the economy.
President Obama has also pleaded with Republicans in Congress to raise the federal minimum wage, but they claim doing so is a proven job killer; except in California. Last month, Governor Brown signed a bill approving a $2 minimum wage increase. The state Senate President pro tem, Darrell Steinberg said, “For millions of California’s hardworking minimum wage employees, a few extra dollars a week can make a huge difference to help them provide for their families. They deserve a modest boost and after six years, an increase in California’s minimum wage is the right thing to do.” According to the Economic Policy Institute, about 3 million California workers are currently earning minimum wage and struggling to survive from paycheck to paycheck.
A Walmart employee pleased with news of the minimum wage increase who lives in a garage with his wife and two children (and a third on the way) said “If I had a higher wage, we would be able to rent an apartment, right now we’re living in poverty. I want to be able to buy my kids shoes without waiting for our income tax return to do it, and I want to give my wife money for maternity pants and underwear. I really don’t want to depend on food stamps. I’m a hardworking person; I want to be a proud, working American that’s not on public assistance.” Although the wage increase is not large enough to be considered as a decent living wage, it is huge improvement and with private sector employment rising, the Republican claims that raising the minimum wage hurts business is laid to rest as a blatant lie.
What Californians should be happiest about is last week’s news that two Koch brother affiliates were hit with substantial fines for their dirty dark money the Kochs spent to defeat Governor Brown’s tax increases, and to support a ballot proposition meant to cripple labor union organizing along the lines of what Koch-whore Scott Walker did in Wisconsin. The Kochs have interfered with California politics in the past primarily spending dirty money to put initiatives on the ballot to eliminate environmental regulations, and it can be frustrating to get regulators to police and enforce campaign finance rules. But with valuable assistance from Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris who “provided additional legal resources and clout to the Political Practices Commission,” the day before Election Day the Koch’s front group was forced to disclose the origin of their funds. It has taken nearly a year after California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) filed their complaint, but California’s regulators fined two Koch-backed groups $1 million each and two campaign committees in California will pay $15 million to the state. A Republican governor would have quashed the investigation and likely obstructed the FPPC for challenging the Kochs.
It would be premature and foolish to say California is thriving and completely recovered from the Bush and Schwarzenegger economic malfeasance, but it is on the road to full recovery with its first balanced budget in eons, increased funding for education, a higher minimum wage, and a billion dollars in a reserve fund. Why? Because voters rejected a Koch-ALEC lackey for governor and voted to raise taxes, protect union organizing, raise the minimum wage, and protect environmental regulations the Kochs were spending untold sums to destroy. Through it all there was no economic melt-down Republicans promised would come to pass with Democrats in power, and it is a portent of America’s economic recovery with a Democratic Congress to assist President Obama because he has championed every last worthwhile move California voters approved and Democrats enacted. If Americans really need to see what President Obama’s economic agenda holds in store for the nation, they can look to California as the model of success.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.