HispanicVista Columnists

Girlie Man Budget

By Domenico Maceri

February 28, 2005

One of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first proposals since becoming governor in 2004 was to cut funds for Medi-Cal patients, California’s version of Medicaid, and reduce services to developmentally disabled people. After a lot of negative publicity, Schwarzenegger decided not to implement the cuts.

Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget for next year continues to be an attack on the weak segment of Californians. It's the budget of a Girlie Man governor.

The governor wants to cut education, healthcare, employee pensions, payments to healthcare workers, transportation and welfare. And as he proposed last year, he wants to reduce services to Medi-Cal patients by requiring them to pay a share of their premiums. He also wants to require the elderly and disabled to switch to less expensive HMOs.

Rather than raising taxes on the wealthy, for whom it would be no sacrifice at all, Schwarzenegger is asking the non-rich to take hits.

Schwarzenegger cannot afford to raise taxes because of his weak GOP credentials. Already many people feel he is not a "real" Republican because of his moderate stance on social issues. If he were to raise taxes, he would show he's really a "closet" Democrat.

For Schwarzenegger, the mere mention of taxes is kryptonite. When Warren Buffett, an advisor to Schwarzenegger, mentioned that property taxes in California needed to be reevaluated because Proposition 13 created unfairness, he was quickly admonished. Don't talk about raising taxes.

Someone with strong Republican credentials could afford to raise taxes and get away with it. Ronald Reagan was one such Republican. In 1967, Reagan raised business taxes, individual income taxes, and sales taxes. It was the largest tax increase in the state’s history.

Although Schwarzenegger has no plans or the courage to raise taxes, there may not be any other option.  People need to pay for the services Californians require and want. California's budget woes can be solved by modest increases on those making more than $200,000 a year. According to two California professors, the state can raise about $13 billion in revenue and these rich people's lifestyles would not have been affected at all.

For example, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was making $20 million a year making movies. Could he have lived well on $19 million? $15 million? You bet. Raising taxes on the rich would have meant that 98% of Californians would not have their taxes raised.

Raising taxes means people have to pay and unfortunately nobody wants to hear that even it only applies to the very rich.

The GOP has done such a good job of demonizing raising taxes that it's a threat to everyone.

In a way, taxes are indeed raised but it's done in subtle way. So when you ask people to pay higher fees, you don't call it a tax but in essence that's exactly what it is.

When the fees at the state colleges and universities go up year after year, it's a tax increase.

So we play this game the GOP likes which claims not to raise taxes but the results are the same regardless of what you call it.

Democrats, who have the reputation for "taxing and spending," are also terrified of suggesting raising taxes even on the very rich.

Republicans have done such a great job of maligning taxes that no politician can even mention the word without committing political suicide.

Yet, Americans pay low taxes. According to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) the taxes paid by Americans as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product is one of the lowest of industrialized nations.

Unfortunately, Americans believe the GOP oft-repeated myths about taxes being too high and the inability to cut programs means our kids will pay our taxes in the future. Instead of asking those who make a lot of money to pay their fair share, Schwarzenegger is asking future generations to pay for his cowardice.
Domenico Maceri (http://languageblogger.blogspot.com),  PhD, UC Santa Barbara, a contributing columnist to HispanicVista.com (www.hispanicvista.com), teaches foreign languages at Allan
Hancock College in Santa Maria, CA.