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Ear to the Ground

California: How Heartless Can You Get?

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Posted on Jan 19, 2012
Brad Montgomery (CC-BY)

California Gov. Jerry Brown has suggested steep cuts to social programs that benefit parents and children on the verge of homelessness. Brown is hoping to close a $9.2 billion hole in the budget (and drum up support for tax hikes) by asking the state’s most desperate families to do without.

Brown’s plan is to split the state’s CalWORKs program into three new schemes, which would result in smaller payments overall and less time for recipients to find work before they lose assistance. Let’s not forget that California has the second-worst unemployment rate in the country.  —PZS

The Sacramento Bee:

Those who study poverty say Brown’s proposal is harsh because even well-qualified workers can’t find jobs in this economy. They contend that parents who max out on welfare benefits are the least equipped to join the workforce.

“These are the families with the least work history, the least education, and states are saying, ‘We don’t want to deal with you, we’re going to cut you off,’ ” said Liz Schott, a senior fellow with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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mrfreeze's avatar

By mrfreeze, January 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm Link to this comment

Blueokie - Here’s what’s so disturbing about the disparity gap in this country today. As ardee points out, the fact that we refuse to reform our tax system (which unduly rewards the wealthy and corporations) in order to create a more equitable, egalitarian society is at the heart of our problems. BUT…and this is a big but, no one I know, not even the staunchest liberals seem to have any idea how the system can be changed. There is simply too much power, money and influenc exerted by the wealthy to change things.

Heck, I even have friends who own small businesses here who simply will not cotton to ANY taxes for ANYONE. They think it’s the teachers and unions who have caused all of our economic woes. But ask them to ponder the absurdity that a Boeing or Microsoft pays little in taxes, their answer is: “well the government is going to waste those tax dollars and grow government unnecessarily if they paid more.” It’s a strange circular argument which always ends in the “taxation is confiscation” argument….government is “inefficient,” government is “evil.”

WA State has no State Income Tax and we have some of the most regressive sales and Business/Occupation taxes in the nation. Last year WA State had a high-earner state income tax on the ballot (one of those pesky initiatives) which was defeated. It would have generated a huge amout of revenue but it was defeated because people were convinced that “someday everyone will be paying that tax.” Sooner or later “someone” must pay to run our state government and I believe, in the end, it will be the poor and working classes. It’s a problem to which I seen no long-term solution.

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By ardee, January 20, 2012 at 1:45 pm Link to this comment

The refusal to correct the tax codes, and place a fair burden on the wealthy and the corporations shows rather plainly how far we have sunken into fascism.

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Blueokie's avatar

By Blueokie, January 20, 2012 at 12:26 pm Link to this comment

mrfreeze -

Very nice post. I have friends/family in Washington State and in California, from what I hear your perception of the situation is shared by many.

One particularly pernicious recent use of the referendum system in California is the attack by corporate interests on local governments.  If their is an ordinance against certain commercial activities, or say your town doesn’t want a Mal-Wart, these interests hire professional petition services (at around $3 a signature) to force referendums.  In an economy that boasts a true unemployment rate of around 20% its not hard to get people to sign a petition with “job creation” at the top of the page.  After the required number of signatures is reached, towns and counties are faced with holding special elections they literally cannot afford, or acquiescing to corporate demands.  One guess as to which route is normally taken.

Regarding your response to hetero -

We ARE better than this.  The question is how much is too much?  When will the saturation point be reached that finally overcomes the fear that the Corporate State exerts to maintain its control?

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RayLan's avatar

By RayLan, January 20, 2012 at 10:46 am Link to this comment

Trickle down economics gives way to bubble up poverty and the gutting of the middle class

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Robespierre115's avatar

By Robespierre115, January 20, 2012 at 3:06 am Link to this comment

@socalcde, I’ll tell where the money can come from: Santa Monica and every other super wealthy pocket and gated zone in the state where the super rich and corporate fat cats live like aristocrats in Marie Antoinette’s court.

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mrfreeze's avatar

By mrfreeze, January 19, 2012 at 11:12 pm Link to this comment

heterochromatic - Thanks for that!

Truly, we’ve become a strange, stingy, selfish people we Americans…or at least, that’s how we’re behaving in these difficult times.

I honestly thought we were better than all this.

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By socalcde, January 19, 2012 at 8:47 pm Link to this comment

The governor is not proposing cuts, he is stressing the need for the taxes so that cuts do not have to be made. And also, taxes after the tax hikes would still be less than what they dropped from last July. The point is that if the people of California want to continue these programs (and we do) the money has to come from somewhere. Why is that so hard to understand?

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caped amigo's avatar

By caped amigo, January 19, 2012 at 6:38 pm Link to this comment

“We’ve created a culture of dependency that destroys human nature,” said
Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee. How ‘bout these b^*tards?! They support
sending jobs overseas; pay little or no taxes; vote for crony projects and issues
and then condemn the poor.
Yes, there may be many of the indigent who are taking advantage of the system,
but isn’t that what the corporate state has been doing for centuries? Go OWSers!

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By heterochromatic, January 19, 2012 at 5:25 pm Link to this comment

mr freeze—-that was rather a good comment.

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RayLan's avatar

By RayLan, January 19, 2012 at 5:12 pm Link to this comment

So tired of hearing the catch all for slamming the poor and unfortunate - “What it takes to balance the budget”
As though it’s the minimum support that social services give that is dragging down our economy - There are other areas of State grown fat closer to Brown - that could easily be cut without threatening to starve the ‘lazy dependents’ and would generate just as much to balance the budget.

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By jack pratt, January 19, 2012 at 3:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Trickle down economics.

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mrfreeze's avatar

By mrfreeze, January 19, 2012 at 12:28 pm Link to this comment

A couple of thoughts:

1) We here in WA State have had a Democrat Governor who has been forced to slash and burn a huge number of services for the poor. It’s been truly ugly. A blood bath that will continue. Even her critics feel sorry for her. The irony is, if the state would alter some tax policies for businesses and tax the wealthy (a bit), the $1.7 Billion deficit would disappear. (here a link to a website that shows how that would work…go to the revenue side of the balance sheet to see where monies could come from: http://www.educationvoters.org/budget-calculator/ )
Oh, one more thing: The voters in our state (through a ridiculous “initiative process” similar to CA’s) have hogtied the state legislature so that raising revenues is virtually impossible…......Never mind, Boeing, Microsoft and a number of other huge corporations in this state pay little to no taxes…...Ultimately, here and in CA, the public is the root cause of the hurt: they vote to raise taxes for services but when asked to fund those services….“oh no, don’t tax me..it’s not fair!” But they’ve also been led to believe that if the “job creators” are forced to fork up more, then somehow they are engaging in “class warfare.”

2) Ultimately, the whole discussion of how our governments are working (local/state/federal) boils down to the fundamental issue of deciding what kind of people we are. Today, Jerry Brown is being vilified for trying to balance an impossible budget (as is Christine Gregoire here in WA) via a system that is broken; broken because the wealthy whine about being victims (ha) and regular folk aren’t politically involved enough to demand economic and social justice.

In a recent article I read regarding economic mobility in the U.S. the author quoted Kurt Vonnegut from his 1965 novel, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater…a most appropriate statement for our times:

“Honest, industrious, peaceful citizens were classed as bloodsuckers, if they asked to be paid a living wage. And they saw that praise was reserved henceforth for those who devised means of getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no laws had been passed. Thus the American dream turned belly up, turned green, bobbed to the scummy surface of cupidity unlimited, filled with gas, went bang in the noonday sun.”

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By felicity, January 19, 2012 at 12:22 pm Link to this comment

Unless Brown (an ‘interesting’ case of a guy who is
constantly and consistently subjected to ridicule and
derision by his fellow Californians yet keeps getting
elected governor) has completely changed his
‘stripes,’ I suspect his latest budget lowering plan
as reported in the ‘Bee’ doesn’t contain enough
details/information/justification. 

Just this weekend I heard a fellow Californian remark
that the crime rate is up in the state “because Jerry
Brown in governor” - in case anyone doesn’t believe
that some residents of this state consistently hold
beliefs based on very little information.

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By doublestandards/glasshouses, January 19, 2012 at 9:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It’s the democratic way to campaign left and govern right.  Governor Moonbeam is no exception.

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prisnersdilema's avatar

By prisnersdilema, January 19, 2012 at 8:53 am Link to this comment

Welcome to California….the state where the middle class is fleeing to other states
because they can’t afford to live there, due to high taxes, and many other unresolvable
emotional issues among it’s politicians…

California is the Bi-Polar State….with extremes abounding every where….


But without Woody Guthrie to sing about it nothing will change… Keep on moving just
don’t migrate…

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By SharonMI, January 19, 2012 at 7:11 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It’s really pathetic that the idiots proposing these changes can’t see that THERE ARE NO JOBS! How can the blind lead a state or nation?

Less $$$ in the hands of the poor is less economic activity. “Recovery” indeed.

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By bpawk, January 19, 2012 at 7:03 am Link to this comment

Again, there is no difference between the Dems and Repubs as shown by the cruel behaviour of such a ‘liberal’ candidate. The lesser of two evils argument is wearing very thin. But where are the poor and the people directly affected by this? Why don’t they make their voices heard? I suspect they want someone else to speak for them.  You had your chance with Nader - he tried to for President and hardly anyone supported him. Why? Do most people identify with the rich? That’s what’s wrong with America - citizens don’t identify with their own economic class - they reject social democracy prefering instead a sort of caesar for a president (not godlike but certainly celebrity material). That is the average America’s downfall - not speaking up and rejecting social democracy.

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Robespierre115's avatar

By Robespierre115, January 19, 2012 at 4:02 am Link to this comment

And this was the “liberal” candidate.

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By ardee, January 19, 2012 at 3:56 am Link to this comment

A nation is judged, not on how well the wealthiest live, but on how well cared for are our neediest. We should be judged harshly indeed.

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