Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 12, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

PRESCHOOL BLUES....E.J. Dionne surveys the defeat of a recent ballot initiative to fund universal preschool in California and concludes that liberals need to face the fact that the public remains deeply skeptical of big government programs:

Progressives have a lot to think about. For one thing, there remains a deep skepticism about government spending, even for the best purposes. On the same day the two propositions went down, voters in five California counties rejected sales tax increases, mostly to fund transportation projects. Attacks on tax-and-spend sound old and tired, but they still have force.

....It gives me no joy to say these things, since I wish both California propositions had passed. But realism is not the enemy of idealism, and taxpayers aren't being selfish when they place a heavy burden on those who would ask them to part with some of their money. Advocates of public action need to meet that test.

I said something similar yesterday, but I want to offer a slightly different take anyway.

Dionne mentions several reasons the initiative might have failed (the wealthy bankrolled plenty of opposition, Californians are suffering from initiative fatigue, and preschool supporter Rob Reiner got caught up in a messy mini-scandal), but I think he might have missed a couple of dynamics that weren't entirely clear from 3,000 miles away.

First, California's fiscal problems are truly gargantuan, and everyone in the state understands this deep in their guts. This problem won't last forever (I hope), but for now any major spending proposal faces even higher than usual skepticism.

Second, Californians are really, really suffering from initiative fatigue. I've routinely voted against ballot initiatives for years, and it looks like my view is finally becoming much more mainstream. As near as I can tell, it's almost flatly impossible to pass a major initiative these days if there's any kind of serious opposition.

Third, the opposition to Prop 82 didn't really revolve around demonizing of higher taxes. Rather, the television ads and flyers pounded relentlessly on the idea of creating a "new preschool bureaucracy." I suspect that this resonated pretty strongly with voters, who have practically given up on the ability of state government to tackle even modest problems these days. Believe me, the gridlock in Sacramento makes Washington DC look like a model of Swiss efficiency.

Fourth and this is strictly anecdotal I ran into a fair number of people who were convinced that the whole thing was just a giant pander to the teachers union (Prop 82 required preschool instructors to be credentialed and paid at the same level as K-12 teachers). I may be off base on this, but I have a feeling that this might have been an underlying cause for a substantial part of the opposition.

These are all just details, of course, and basically Dionne is right. Californians liberals included see a state that's become largely dysfunctional combined with big-city school districts that are worse than dysfunctional. The idea of pumping money into a new education program while old ones still aren't working just wasn't going to fly. State government needs to work tolerably well in order for people to support funding more of it.

Kevin Drum 12:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (81)

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Good analysis. Even my ultra-liberal better half voted against it, primarily because it would increase taxes. I had no idea that it mandated salary levels for these pre-school teachers. Thanks for the info.

Posted by: ex-liberal on June 12, 2006 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

E.J. Dionne surveys the defeat of a recent ballot initiative to fund universal preschool in California and concludes that liberals need to face the fact that the public remains deeply skeptical of big government programs:

E.J. Dionne is right. The public is very skeptical of big government programs especially in education. That's why the best way to fund education while receiving public support for the funding is by supporting vouchers and private schools. Private schools are superior because parents can choose different schools which teach the best instead of relying on union controlled incompetent teachers who are impossible to fire. Private school students have consistently scored higher scores than public school students. Faith based teaching in private schools have resulted in academically stronger students with a strong sense of traditional American values. Furthermore vouchers empower parents to choose the best school for the children in the free market instead of fostering a culture of dependence of big government programs like public eductation.

Posted by: Al on June 12, 2006 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

As a near-neighbor to your state, allow me to offer some solutions:

First, California's fiscal problems are truly gargantuan, and everyone in the state knows it. This problem won't last forever (I hope), but for now any major spending proprosal faces even higher than usual skepticism.

Deny services to illegal immigrants and other criminals. Increase usage fees, cut back on wasteful 'public' spending.

Second, Californians are really suffering from initiative fatigue. I've routinely voted against ballot initiatives for years, and it looks like my view is finally becoming much more mainstream. As near as I can tell, it's almost flatly impossible to pass a major initiative these days if there's any kind of serious opposition.

Remind Californians that governments are inherently corrupt, and direct democracy is good.

Third, the opposition to Prop 82 didn't really revolve around demonizing of higher taxes. Rather, the television ads and flyers pounded relentlessly on the idea of creating a "new preschool bureaucracy." I suspect that this resonated pretty strongly with voters, who have practically given up on the ability of state government to tackle even modest problems these days. Believe me, the gridlock in Sacramento makes Washington DC look like a model of Swiss efficiency.

Offer school vouchers, then extend the program to preschool. By creating private market forces, the huge bueracracies of a state education department are neatly sidestepped. Allow parents to make rational consumer choices on behalf of their children.

Fourth and this is strictly anecdotal I ran into a fair number of people who were convinced that the whole thing was just a giant pander to the teachers union (Prop 82 required preschool instructors to be credentialed and paid at the same level as K-12 teachers). I may be off base on this, but I have a feeling that this might have been an underlying cause for a substantial part of the opposition.

Make teachers at will employees. Double their salary in exchange for the ability to fire bad teachers. Remove phony pedagogical courses from the requirements of being a teacher; if a lawyer wants a lower-pressure job teaching high school government classes, we should let him.

Posted by: American Hawk on June 12, 2006 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

I voted against it because I didn't want to blow our "tax the rich" wad on guaranteed preschool, to put it vaguely ickily. I think maybe we'd get one chance to pass a tax on just the very rich, and preschool didn't seem like the best reason for it. I'm not sure exactly what would be, but it would make more sense to put that money into an existing program- maybe just k-12- than create another taxpayer funded program that's subject to getting screwed via future ballot initiatives just like everything else. Meathead shoulda' spear-headed a initiative to remove prop 12 rather than this.

Posted by: The Tim on June 12, 2006 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

So what does this say for the prospects of improving the fiscal gridlock in California when (my impression is that) any significant reform would have to be submitted to the ballot for voter approval?

Maybe, though, I'm overgeneralizing from my favorite reform measure of publicly funded elections like they have in AZ and ME (see CCMC). It seems to me like it would go a long way to clearing up said gridlock.

Posted by: thump on June 12, 2006 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

American Hawk-

Pull your head out. There's more oxygen out here and it will allow you to think in larger terms than just recycled right-wing pundit talking points.

Posted by: The Tim on June 12, 2006 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Al got an intern. I shall now refer to American Hawk exclusively as "Monica".

Posted by: eckersley on June 12, 2006 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with all 4 points -- both as to reasons for the defeat of the initiative, and my personal opinions. As to point #4, most people I know do not want to state straight out that they oppose a new jobs program for teachers' unions, because they know plenty of individual teachers whom they respect. But the effect of the initiative would indeed have been to enlarge the teachers' unions and increase their political power -- at taxpayer expense.

Of the 4, #1 is surely the most important, in terms of prevalence among the voters and in terms of rank order for most individual "no"-voters.

Posted by: republicrat on June 12, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

#4, pandering to the teachers' union, is right on. My children are grown, but but the preschool teachers we sent them to were dedicated and compassionate, and worked for peanuts, compared to public school teachers. Plus, homes and churches are perfectly adequate facilities for small preschool groups.

Posted by: sf on June 12, 2006 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Um, also, people don't value preschool education. Well-off people don't think it's important enough to pay for other people to get for free.

It's another part of the death of the common good. The cynicism about how inefficiently and ineffectively public services are delivered is genuine, but it's also genuinely self-serving. It's a lot easier to rationalize being selfish if you convince yourself that benevolence doesn't work.

Posted by: theorajones on June 12, 2006 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Another factor was the report by the (nonpartisan) Legislative Analyst's Office that the initiative would only increase the percentage of kids in preschool from about 60 percent to about 70%--far from "universal" preschool. That (along with my healthy suspicion of all ballot initiatives) is why I voted against it.

Posted by: steve0 on June 12, 2006 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

On the other hand, Angelides (who admits the need for taxes) beat Wesley (the no-new-tax dem) in the primary for governor. So I perhaps the anti-tax mood here in California is not so great as you might think.

I voted against the pre-school prop, but not because of the tax issue. I just think we need to get our fiscal house in order -- and that includes raising taxes -- before we begin any new programs.

Posted by: JJF on June 12, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

American Hawk on June 12, 2006 at 12:28 PM

That isn't going to happen in California any time soon.

California could considerably increase its financial health by directing the enormous water subsidies toward growing fuel instead of food, and billing for the water instead of sibsidizing it, but that isn't going to happen soon either.

If California could go another 4 years without raising or lowering taxes, while everybody mulls over all the various ways of improving things, that would be a good first step toward solving the fiscal crises.

Posted by: republicrat on June 12, 2006 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Um, also, people don't value preschool education. Well-off people don't think it's important enough to pay for other people to get for free.

It's another part of the death of the common good.
Posted by: theorajones

Why do kids need pre-school? Can't we just let them be kids for an extra year? That' or just come out and call it state-funded day care.

Posted by: Red State Mike on June 12, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

There is possibly another point as to why the initiatives failed, the polictical climate. The republicans are in control not only nationally but also in California and in boths areas the conservatives have run things into the ground.

Arnold and the conservatives used their degenerate tactics to recall Gray Davis and to put their movie star darling into the governors mansion. In spite of the promises made Arnold broke almost all and he stopped being the great conservative hope for California. Now the Governor is doing what he should have been doing since his first day in office. Too little too late. Change Arnold to Bush and CA to US and you can see the parallels to the national political climate.

Many Californians do not trust Arnold to oversee the money from the initiatives since he already took away funding for CA schools. What would stop him from doing it again?

Posted by: SweettP2063 on June 12, 2006 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Like Kevin, my knee-jerk reaction to any Proposition is to vote no. This proposition sounded like a caricature of liberal proposals. It sounded like it was pandering. ONLY those who make over 400K a year pay anything? That doesn't strike anyone as equitable. If everyone uses it, everyone should pay something. Progressive taxation doesn't mean no taxes for those people who make 350K.

Furthermore, I think that there are more important spending priorities than preschool, even if we stick to schools. Course size reduction. After school care, special education (don't get me started on special ed). I think a little spending on depression prevention would go a VERY long way in CA schools.

Posted by: Doctor Jay on June 12, 2006 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

I think the failure of this vote has less to do with the merits of education spending, than it does the increasing skepticism of so called "voter-initiatives". If Californians want to be at the forefront of progressive policies, they should start with reforming their increasingly ungovernable state. For example, California has had a lot of success with environmental progressivism, but the actual governance of the state of California is the pits.

What's the point of paying for a government bureaucracy if everything worth while is pushed through directly to the people?

Posted by: Jon Karak on June 12, 2006 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

I think all four of your reasons for voting against the initiative speak to reasons why people voted no, but that doesn't mean that Dionne is wrong about big government programs either.

The Assembly has been under the complete control of Democrats for 35 years barring a single 2 year term. The Senate has been under the complete control of Democrats almost all of that time. Governors are fairly strong in California, and they have alternated back and forth between Democrats and Republicans.

If Californians are dealing with fiscal irresponsibility (and they are), it is tough to blame on Republicans.

As far as Prop 13 goes, the "don't kick grandma out of her home because of taxes" idea still applies. But like Social Security, you don't have to make a universal program to solve a limited ill. Prop 13 should apply only to residential homes--the reason to avoid yearly tax hikes due to fluctuating property values doesn't apply to commercial property.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw on June 12, 2006 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

My reasons for voting against the preschool initiative, despite my favorable opinion of both progressive taxes and preschools: (1) I think a lot of California's budget woes come from initiative-based earmarking, making the budget as a whole very inflexible. This sort of proposal only adds to that. (2) It is not clear to me that the cost-benefit of state-funded preschools, vs other early childhood programs such as better funding of the elementary school class-size reduction or medical care for the poor, makes it the right way to spend that money.

Posted by: Wireless Enthusiast on June 12, 2006 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking as a lib who thinks pre-school is a good idea, I voted against it. It just seemed like way too much money for not enough result. And the initiative fatigue thing.

An initiative would have to strip Arnie of his citizenship and send him back to Austria before I'd consider voting for it.

Posted by: craigie on June 12, 2006 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Why can't liberal columnists call people (like me) who agree with what we are: Liberals.

Time to retire the "progressive" label. It's weak.

Posted by: brewmn on June 12, 2006 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

As far as Prop 13 goes, the "don't kick grandma out of her home because of taxes" idea still applies.

But I thought the market was king? If granny is living in 2000 square feet, and can't afford to pay for it, then isn't the market telling her to move someplace more sensible, so that those 2000 square feet can be used more efficiently?

Sorry, but Prop 13 is just rent control for homeowners.

Posted by: craigie on June 12, 2006 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Doctor Jay. The fact that the initiative would only tax the super-rich is the main reason why my wife and I, liberal Dems both, voted against it. If something is so important that we need to set up a new state system, then we all have to contribute to some degree. It's simply not fair that only "the rich" would have to fund this effort.

I've always thought that this was a losing approach for the Democrats, and I think a big reason Kerry went down. Someone earlier mentioned the common good. If something is important enough, we should all have to pay for it. The Democrats need to have the guts to say so.

Posted by: The Fifer on June 12, 2006 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

I voted against 82, not for any of Kevin's reasons, but because A) while I think the rich need to be taxed more, I prefer it done in a sensible organized tax schedule, not random addons A) I think inititive earmarks are a very questionable idea B) preschool's nice, but turning it into a constitutional imperative? Not so much.

Posted by: tavella on June 12, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

There was a public perception that was created during the California fiscal "crisis" that a chief cause was earmarked mandatory spending. I believe that was one of the major reasons (if not the major reason) for this initiative to go down. i loved the idea of bringing more progressivity to the tax system.

I personally voted against it because:

--I think the initiative process is a terrible way to make legislation. I have been supporting fewer and fewer initiatives over the years. Call it initiative fatigue.
--The earmarked spending issue.
--I believe the perception that there are great glories in pre-school education is overstated. The research finds the benefits are primarily in lower income households. The effect of the initiative could be to instill guilt in parents who are providing an excellent environment for their kids under 5 without pre-school. If you can do that, pre-school offers no added benefits. There is a rush to introduce kids to academics too early that many in childhood education disagree with.

I'm all for increasing spending on pre-school and making it accessible for all. Why do we have do it in this state with the same method that gave us Prop. 13? The old saying is that you shouldn't watch sausages or legislation being made. The initiative process is hard to stomach as well. Can the legislators go back to doing their job?

Posted by: HL Mungo on June 12, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

"But I thought the market was king? If granny is living in 2000 square feet, and can't afford to pay for it, then isn't the market telling her to move someplace more sensible, so that those 2000 square feet can be used more efficiently?"

Taxes aren't a market. And granny already paid for it.

Any substantive criticism?

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw on June 12, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know about other people, but I voted against it because the credentialing requirements would cost most of my son's best teachers their careers.

I might have gone for it otherwise. Universal preschool isn't a bad thing. But requiring a preschool teacher to have a bachelor's degree and a teaching credential was a dealbreaker.

Posted by: Evan on June 12, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK
First, California's fiscal problems are truly gargantuan, and everyone in the state understands this deep in their guts. This problem won't last forever (I hope), but for now any major spending proposal faces even higher than usual skepticism.

Well, no, they're not. But California politicians -- mostly Republicans -- have been very good at pretending that the problems are truly gargantuan, which has made this one of those things that "everyone knows" even though its not even remotely true. Though significant in absolute terms among states, this is mostly a result of California's shear size; looked at in context of either the size of the economy or the size of the overall budget, the fiscal challenges in California aren't unusually large.

Second, Californians are really, really suffering from initiative fatigue. I've routinely voted against ballot initiatives for years, and it looks like my view is finally becoming much more mainstream. As near as I can tell, it's almost flatly impossible to pass a major initiative these days if there's any kind of serious opposition.

I don't think there is a lot of evidence that this is the case; it seems to me its grasping to find a general explanation, regardless of the lack of support for its generality, because its easier than looking at the specific failures of particular initiatives.

Third, the opposition to Prop 82 didn't really revolve around demonizing of higher taxes. Rather, the television ads and flyers pounded relentlessly on the idea of creating a "new preschool bureaucracy." I suspect that this resonated pretty strongly with voters, who have practically given up on the ability of state government to tackle even modest problems these days.

That's true; California is, in many ways, Grover Norquist's wet dream, where the attitude toward government that far-right nutballs try desperate to sell nationally have been adopted as universal wisdom across the political spectrum.

Believe me, the gridlock in Sacramento makes Washington DC look like a model of Swiss efficiency.

When the single most important thing the political branches of state government do is the annual budget, and its got a large supermajority requirement to pass even with the Governor's signature, well, gridlock and dysfunction are the guaranteed result.

Fourth and this is strictly anecdotal I ran into a fair number of people who were convinced that the whole thing was just a giant pander to the teachers union (Prop 82 required preschool instructors to be credentialed and paid at the same level as K-12 teachers). I may be off base on this, but I have a feeling that this might have been an underlying cause for a substantial part of the opposition.

This was a major point argued by opponents (if not in the ads, at least in editorials and other venues).


Posted by: cmdicely on June 12, 2006 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

If Californians are dealing with fiscal irresponsibility (and they are), it is tough to blame on Republicans.

California requires a 60% majority to pass any tax bill. (Thanks to another stupid initiative.)

So even though the Democrats are in the majority, the Republicans can stop any budget bill they don't like. Hence, gridlock.

Posted by: ferg on June 12, 2006 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

The main reason that I voted against it (and I don't know how widespread this view was) is that I don't like adding to the complexity of the tax code, especially with earmarked taxes for specific purposes, such as Prop 63, which I also voted against. I am in favor of universal pre-school and expanded access to mental health care, but I believe we simply have to factor those into our budget, then collect enough taxes to pay for them.

Posted by: Rick on June 12, 2006 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

At my grocery store, whenever someone has a clipboard soliciting signatures for a referendum, my response is "unless it's for abolishing referenda, I'll pass."

Having said that, expect that within the next decade - maybe even five years - for a legalization of gay civil marriage initiative to be on the ballot, and pass here in California.

Posted by: hopeless pedant on June 12, 2006 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

"...there remains a deep skepticism about government spending, even for the best purposes."

Yes, but if the gov't just wants to appropriate the money to fund the murder of thousands of citizens of other countries, as well as the killing and maiming of our own youth, that is even worth mentioning.

Health care? Pre-school? Why, they might end up wasting some of our precious money.

Posted by: Kenji on June 12, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Any substantive criticism?

I guess this is what comes of viewing taxes as some kind of alien force, imposed by beings from outer space, instead of what they are, which is the cost of holding together the common good.

My point is simple: if granny can't afford to support the services that her neighbors have all (presumably) voted for, then she should move. She shouldn't lobby for the right not to pay the running costs of the services.

If she doesn't want the services, she can vote against them. If she loses, she can pay up or move.

Prop 13 says "I demand to be billed in 1976 prices." Strangely, it doesn't mandate wages be held to 1976 levels. So when granny needs a new roof, does she say "sorry, I bought this house in 1972, so I will only pay you what a new roof would have cost in 1972"? Somehow, I doubt it.

Sorry to sound so Republican, but this is the logic of capitalism, is it not? Money matters most. The market is never wrong. Etc.

Posted by: craigie on June 12, 2006 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

"the preschool teachers we sent them to were dedicated and compassionate, and worked for peanuts, compared to public school teachers."

That comment says it all. People want dedicated and compassionate teachers who are willing to work for "peanuts." We pay people more to haul away our garbage than to nurture our own kids. I don't know the merits of the particular California initiative in question, but I do know that as long as this mindset prevails we will never have a decent educational system in this country.

Posted by: zeke on June 12, 2006 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with Rick. (Didn't vote the primary, though - shame on me.)

I approve of being taxed to pay for roads; I'm not qualified to say where those roads should go.

I don't know nearly enough about the budget to be able to determine what the earmarks should be. I'm not a budget analyst, and I don't have one on staff.

The function of a Republic is to hire people to make these decisions on our behalf. We then provide them with the resources they need to make informed decisions. If we don't like it, we send them packing. So any way in which that process is strengthened would be a very good thing. Assessing the vote tallies themselves is problematic, and doesn't yield any information on my preferences as a voter.

Posted by: Saam Barrager on June 12, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

I voted no on 82 because of the "soak the rich" means of financing the program. I'm not rich, but it is ridiculous to have a program where 100% of the financing comes from a single group -- even if the group is the very rich. I would have voted yes if the tax burden were distributed over the entire population (including me).

Posted by: nonplussed on June 12, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Double their salary in exchange for the ability to fire bad teachers

Increase the entire state budget by about 15%? If you say so American Hawk. It would certainly help recruit better teachers. An honest application of market forces: spend more --> get better service. Sure beats the concept: "cut taxes of wealthy and do bidding of corporate monopolists-->talk loudly about benefits of competition, free markets, and profit motivation-->money falls from sky into coffers of IRS and pockets of the working class." I never did get that.

What other New Deal type programs might you be in support of?

What if we fund healthcare in exchange for stiff penalties on lawyers who file bogus malpractice suits?

What if we fund Medicaid in exchange for tight rules keeping Medicaid queens from blowing the money on cadillacs, yachts, and Cristal.

What if we reinstate the estate tax at 2000 levels and place an exemption on small businesses and farms?

Posted by: B on June 12, 2006 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

B: ncrease the entire state budget by about 15%? If you say so American Hawk. It would certainly help recruit better teachers.

Source?

An honest application of market forces: spend more --> get better service.

Which also includes competition in the form of school vouchers.

Sure beats the concept: "cut taxes of wealthy and do bidding of corporate monopolists-->talk loudly about benefits of competition, free markets, and profit motivation-->money falls from sky into coffers of IRS and pockets of the working class." I never did get that.

More money in the hands of corporations and the rich allows them to create more jobs. Have you ever worked for a poor man?

What if we fund healthcare in exchange for stiff penalties on lawyers who file bogus malpractice suits?

Socialized education is what got us in the current school quagmire. Why would we repeat the same mistake? Get the government out of healthcare; it's a quagmire.

What if we fund Medicaid in exchange for tight rules keeping Medicaid queens from blowing the money on cadillacs, yachts, and Cristal.

Same argument as above.

What if we reinstate the estate tax at 2000 levels and place an exemption on small businesses and farms?

No. Graverobbing is an absolute wrong, regardless of who the victim is.


Posted by: American Hawk on June 12, 2006 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Doesn't this all show the wisdom of restraining the growth of government programs by tying them to tax increases? If a government program is really that important, people will be willing to raise their own taxes to pay for it. It's a far better method of checking the reach of government than by electing Republicans, who will just borrow to high heaven to bribe interest groups.

That said, the concept that everyone is supposed to vote in statewide referenda to determine the state's tax policies is completely ridiculous.

Posted by: Constantine on June 12, 2006 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Graverobbing is an absolute wrong, regardless of who the victim is.

You've already demonstrated that you have no concept how the estate tax works. I suggest you refrain from commenting on it. Also, the official republican "scare moniker" for the estate tax is "death tax," not "graverobbing[sic]" (since no one's grave is being robbed, it makes you look more ignorant than you already are).

Posted by: Constantine on June 12, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Doesn't this all show the wisdom of restraining the growth of government programs by tying them to tax increases?

This thread is interesting because it certainly kills the conservative idea that only conservatives understand money.

Posted by: craigie on June 12, 2006 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

I grew up in CA and it was wonderful in the 60's and 70's. I go back there and hardly recognize the place. The middle class in CA is on life support and can't see their way to pay anymore taxes for anything. My brother, sister, and I all left CA for more affordable places. The one brother who stayed wants to leave because of the burden of housing, taxes, etc.

I think that this also plays into the immigration debate. A lot of benefits from this program will go to non citizens (don't tell me that they won't) who I have a hard time believing pay as many taxes as citizens do. There comes a point where you have to decide who obtains benefits from your social programs. Otherwise you end up with no programs. The Reps are well aware of this and use it to maximum advantage. I just wish that the Dems were as canny at politics are the Reps are. Let's stop trying to save the world and take care of our own backyard, eh?

Posted by: la on June 12, 2006 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Doctor Jay and the Fifer above are correct, of course: if something needs to be funded out of the public purse for the common good, taxes should be raised (progressively) across the board.

Still, I can't escape the irony: look how willing Bush and the Republicans have been to cut taxes for the rich, pretty much exclusively for them, so that public resources are less available for funding public goods.

Posted by: Wonderin on June 12, 2006 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

A source for simple math?

Let's see 300,000 teachers getting an average 55,000 dollars per year additional equals 16.5 billion dollars added to a current budget of 111 billion. Works out to a 15% increase.

Another way to calculate it would be to remember that education is about 40% of the state budget and about 40% of that is teacher salaries. Works out to a 16% increase.

And BTW, just how in hell are private schools (vouchers or no) going to compete with state schools which under your mandate have competitively hired teachers averaging salaries of 110,000 dollars. Public schools would rock! I'd never pull my son and put him in a crappy private school.

Posted by: B on June 12, 2006 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

"I guess this is what comes of viewing taxes as some kind of alien force, imposed by beings from outer space, instead of what they are, which is the cost of holding together the common good.

My point is simple: if granny can't afford to support the services that her neighbors have all (presumably) voted for, then she should move. She shouldn't lobby for the right not to pay the running costs of the services."

I don't understand your objection. Maybe you aren't from California so you don't understand what Prop 13 is about. It limits the basis of the value of your property to a small increase per year. It did that because housing prices can go up dramatically in a year causing a huge burden on people who have already purchased their homes by causing an unexpected and large increase in tax. It would be as if your mortgage lender could tack on $200 per month on your payment just because the value of your house went up. It isn't at all clear that a personal property owner could make that up if it happened all the time unless they moved out of California entirely. Commercial property owners have more ability to raise rents or prices to cover the taxes. Prop 13 is flawed in that it should have only applied to residential housing (it should remedy only the problem not make some universal exemption for all properties).

One complaint about Prop 13 and government interaction however: the amount of the increase has been known since it passed decades ago. The fact that the California state government can't plan around that is a serious failure on their part.

Posted by: Sebastian holsclaw on June 12, 2006 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand your objection. Maybe you aren't from California so you don't understand what Prop 13 is about.

Bzzzt! Wrong.

Look, I was born in Los Angeles, I went to public school here, I live here now, and my daughter goes to public school. I own a house, I pay property taxes. I get it.

Here's the issue. By "solving" a non-problem, you have capped the state's income at an arbitrary level. Meanwhile, most of that money went to pay for services, notably education. Services require people, and people require pay increases.

The net result is that education has to get more "efficient" - but that's impossible. Kids can't learn any faster, and so the only thing you can do is put more of them into a single classroom.

Except parents don't want that, and rightly so. So what has happened is that all of the things that I had when I went to school in the 60s - music, arts programs, driver's ed, phys-ed and sports - all of that is gone. Because teachers are so unreasonable as to not want to see their salaries stalled at 1976 levels, the only way to spend less money on education is to provide less of it.

So at my daughter's school, they ask parents to volunteer about $1000 per student per year, which goes to paying for the music teacher and the art teacher and some other stuff. About 80% of the parents do this, but you can certainly understand why the rest do not.

And by the way, if you think the private sector has some magic solution to this, you are nuts. We have friends with kids in private schools - these are $18,000 per kid per year minimum, and then they ask you for fundraising money just the same as the public schools. If you want grownups to teach children in small groups, it costs money. There's no getting around it.

Posted by: craigie on June 12, 2006 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Prop. 82 was well intentioned, but poorly written. There were some prominent progressives who were opposed to 82 so it's not necessarily accurate to call it a failure of progressivism.

I voted for it because I knew it would fail and wanted a symbolic gesture. If it were close, I would have had to think about it much, much more.

One last thing, this wasn't a pander to teachers unions. Reiner has been trying for something like this for some time now. The proposal seemed to try to professionalize pre-K. If you talk to teachers, one of the biggest reasons (beyond pay) for leaving is the lack of respect and professionalism in teaching. Credentialling is a way to acheive this. It's an active discussions amongst researchers in education and shouldn't be blown off so easily.

Posted by: gq on June 12, 2006 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

I have a simple solution to California's financial problems. Pay people to leave. Legal, illegal - don't matter. Give 'em each $6000 to leave California and never come back.

Every kid in a California school costs taxpayers about that much every year, so a one time expenditure would save a bunch of money in the long run. People who would most appreciate the payment are probably the ones who use most of the taxpayer-funded services in California, so there would most likely be a long-term cost saving there. And many of the remaining people would be of higher income, thus more able to afford the tax burden.

Yeah, yeah, I know it sounds elitist, but hell, I'm not running for office. Just a native Californian trying to solve the state's problems. Plus, we'd get a bunch of people off the freeways!

Posted by: gab on June 12, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

On the point about voter fatigue...

Voter initiatives are a good idea in principle but are poorly developed in practice. Go to the people and get them to decide! Go to the people and confuse the hell out of them! It seems like there are specific examples in just about any election.

Prop 55 - Save our Schools!
Prop 58 - The School Savings Act!

Under the hood one completely neuters the other or creates gastly side effects.

This is not dumb or even bad politics - this is the initiative equivalent of attaching riders to a bill in the Senate to get it killed in committee. The problem is that Joe and Jane Regular Voter cannot tell what is going on without doing a ton of research.

So blah blah blah good voters should do research and pay attention to the minutae of what is going on. Right... that will ever happen... now back to the real world.

My complaint is not at the non-researching voters but at the people we hire to handle these problems. The politicians. Is a good politician supposed to realize that his big issue is getting killed in committee and will he find a way to act? I hope so. Or I am voting the bum out party be damned. Politicians have staffs and conduct studies and receive expert opinion on what is the proper way to proceed. I hire them so THEY can get things done. I do not hire them so they can abdicate their core responsibilities and avoid taking a stand.

The initiative system exists as an end-around, allowing voters to act directly outside of the senate/assembly/executive loop. Instead it is the politicians who are taking advantage of the end-around. I think if nothing else voters see that and hence their fatigue (and disgust, and most recent meal) arises.

Posted by: RR on June 12, 2006 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

From what I could tell, the initiative seem to greatly underestimate the cost of the program, and I suspect the voters of California knew it.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on June 12, 2006 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Talk of "fairness" in this context pathetic. This country is run pretty much exclusively for the benefit of the rich, there's nothing unfair about targeting just the rich with taxation. Income disparity is the worst it's ever been, the middle class is shrinking, the myth of a shareholder nation is just that, a myth, it's the wealthy who control all the individualally-owned securities out there, taxation is nearly flat, real wages for the poor and middle class have been stagnant to declining for over 30 years, there is no decent healthcare options for the poor, schools are chronically underfunded, etc., etc., etc.

The dumb fucking trolls of this world have bought the rationale because, I suspect, they're all black inside, so they'll tell you over and over again how "fair" only means one thing- pay to play- because pay to play is a utopian level playing field. Their dumb-as-fucking-rocks-ness aside, the reality of the situation is that's a rationale power-hungry plutocrats came up with to feed to the plebes that sounds a lot better than the truth: they want to rule the US as an aristocracy would.

And they are. The US is as bad as Europe was when we fled it.

Don't spill any tears over the rich. Even if they're not in on the scam, they're being taken well care of and don't need any help or sympathy from anyone making under $100,000 a year. This whole freaking country is being ruled for the benefit of wealthy, and all us plebes have no choice but to keep paying our taxes and support it (as long people are still stupid in Peoria). So you ask me, there's nothing more sick, and pathetic, and masochistic than someone who isn't rich talking about what's fair for the rich. Worry about being an insignificant cog in a vast machine designed to maintain the plutocracy that disenfranchises you, you chumps.

Posted by: The Tim on June 12, 2006 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

I'm kind of glad I live in MN. Voter initiative in MN are illegal. The only way to pass things is for the legislature to do it. Sure you have gridlock in the legislature, but the state gets far less fucked up on account of it.

Posted by: MNPundit on June 12, 2006 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

"State government needs to work tolerably well in order for people to support funding more of it."
And without funding there is no way it can work.
To me it semms, Californians have decideded to do without governement.

Posted by: Jrgen in Germany on June 12, 2006 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe some California voters just don't see the value of universal preschool. Setting aside evidence that a small minority of children who are subject to social, emotional, and economic deprivation at home do benefit from high quality programs, most daycares and preschools are unkind to most children. The great majority of American children are not deprived, and most child care programs are anything but high quality. The National Institute of Child Health and Development found that 56% of childcare settings are of poor quality. Tests show that children in extended nonparental care have high levels of the hormone cortisol, which is indicative of chronic stress. These children are far more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections. The NICHD found that children who spend a portion of time in center-based, non-maternal care during the first 4.5 years of life are prone to problem behaviors, disobedience, aggression, and child-adult conflict. This is not worth anyone's taxes.

Posted by: rainer on June 12, 2006 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

No one wants to say it aloud, but white, suburban weanies (Kevin excluded; he is white, and suburban but not a weanie) don't want to pay for pre-school for "Mexicans." In fact they don't want to pay for just about anything for "Mexicans" (unless it's to have them weed the flower beds and wash the car, and then - you know - not very much). They won't tell pollsters, but America's emerging multiculturalism has been a chief reason d'etre for the tax revolts of the past three decades.

And there is the related contempt of religious conservatives about abortion rights and gay rights and the alleged indoctrination of their children with wild ideas about how they may have evolved from apes and that homos might be people too.

What is needed today is not less multiculturalism but more, especially of the sort evangelicals want: school choice, faith based funding. And we need campaign finance reform that reduces the influence of both corporations and public employee unions, as well as a governor who will get serious about reducing the size of the state bureaucracy. Kevin is right: voters fear a bureaucratic boondoggle.

Liberals don't realize it (yet) but their demands for increased public spending and more progressive taxation aren't serious or realistic until they meet suburban voters halfway on reducing bureaucracy and limiting the influence of the public employee unions (especially), and religious conservatives halfway on their own multicultural agenda, namely school choice and faith-based funding for social services.

Posted by: Linus on June 12, 2006 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

The real issue is that the public is losing faith in government at all levels to effectively and efficiently spend the public's money. It's an issue of competence, not ideology.

Between endless tales of money being wasted in DC on pork and bureaucracy, to local financial mismanagement (here in Seattle our public school system lost about $30 million a couple of years ago and we've seen hundreds of millions of dollars wasted trying to develop and effective public transit infrastructure), people are becoming less and less confident in the ability of governments at all levels to manage tax dollars.

Posted by: mfw13 on June 12, 2006 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Cognitive psychology and developmental neuroscience are showing repeatedly and beyond doubt that early mental stimulation in complex (rich) environments leads to optimal cognitive development. The results of early intervention are cumulative and geometric and have consequences for other aspects of behavior beyond cognitive performance. This is the scientific rationale for professionalizing and mandating preschool education.

There is a real body of knowledge related to effectively improving cognition in young children. The effects will be greatest for children who come from impoverished environments, children with parents who lack the time or knowledge to interact effectively with kids, and children with disabilities or deficits due to health and nutrition, toxic living conditions or neglect.

Early intervention would reduce dropout rates, reduce remediation and misbehavior in lower grades, require fewer special education resources (which are very costly), and result in greater benefit from in-class time for all children (because kids are taught in groups). Coupled with English language exposure, preschool would address the extra strain placed on teachers by non-native speaking students by helping them learn when they are most receptive to acquiring language. Preschool is needed because school (even K) is too late a start for many kids. We know this by examining current performance in our schools.

The cost equation must include the offsetting benefits of reduced expenditures down the road. I have seen no one here mention that. Something must be done to enable an overburdened school system to deal with ALL students who must be educated (if we are to remain a functioning democracy). Addressing educational problems early, when they can be greatly helped, is a better idea than continuing to address them later when there is minimal return for more bucks.

Here it is in simple language. You make kids smarter when you send them to a properly constituted preschool (not a playgroup, not a babysitter, not a trendy edu-fad sop to parents). When kids are smarter, they benefit more from less instruction. When kids do better in school, they create fewer behavior problems for teachers and each other, requiring fewer alternative schools, fewer cops, fewer counseling sessions, less vandalism repair, etc. Kids who do better in school and have fewer behavioral problems don't drop out. That creates a better workforce for business and less crime, leading to a better living environment for all.

We have it within our means to accomplish this. Why would people be so shortsighted to forgo this because of childish pique over unions or initiative fatigue? The equation is pay less now or pay more later. There is no choice that permits one to escape paying for social problems. Like most problems, social problems become harder and more expensive to fix, the longer you ignore them.

It takes a professional to get professional results. The kindly preschool teacher at your local Church may be well-meaning and the kids may love the time they spend with her, but that doesn't mean there is anything beneficial going on in terms of cognitive development. Parents aren't equipped to evaluate preschools or their children's learning. Requiring credentialling is a way to address this -- if you are going to mandate preschool and pay for it, you'd better be getting what you pay for.

Why has educational quality declined? Teachers used to be women with college degrees who could find little other professional level employment. In the 70s, when other fields opened to them, intelligent women went into better paying fields, leaving behind those with a calling (a minority) and those without the grades to get into grad schools in law or medicine. The average GRE scores for teachers are abysmal and the CBEST is a joke. If you want to have intelligent, well-educated people teaching children again, you have to pay enough to attract them to the field. It is that simple. In the meantime, how can you expect first-rate education from second-rate practitioners?

We have all pretended that education doesn't require the kind of intellect other fields demand, just a kind heart, patience, and an extroverted personality. This is idiotic. As teaching conditions have become more difficult, real knowledge and training are needed to cope with the challenge. Today's teachers are doing a better job than we have any right to expect. You can't shortchange education while simultaneously complaining about the lack of results. Well-equipped kids succeed despite poor conditions but those who start out already disadvantaged are harmed by them. We are willing to tolerate the casualties of our educational system because they are predominantly poor and minority. They are easy to blame for their failure, and they do not have activist parents looking out for them. This stinks.

You can't call yourself a progressive and vote against a remedy to this situation, no matter how high you think your property taxes are. Do you know how stingy you sound?

Posted by: Nancy on June 12, 2006 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

"Liberals don't realize it (yet) but their demands for increased public spending and more progressive taxation aren't serious or realistic until they meet suburban voters halfway on reducing bureaucracy and limiting the influence of the public employee unions (especially), and religious conservatives halfway on their own multicultural agenda, namely school choice and faith-based funding for social services."

You're so utterly and completely wrong. "Suburban weanies", the kind of person who votes for something based upon some idea they came up with about who is going to get their money via some law are better described as "stupid assholes" because that's what they are. These are the people who demanded and voted for term limits around the time of the Contract on America because clearly, all the problems in congress are due to imcumbants. These are the kind of people who make 80k a year and think they're rich. These are the folks who do not understand, on a fundemental level, the role of government, what government does, or how it works. You ask a stupid asshole what their taxes pay for and they'll come up with "roads" and that's about it. Suburban voters who vote according to the "why should I pay for your...?" mantra are essentially libertarian- because they're stupid assholes- and therefore there is no meeting them "half way". There is no half way with a class of people who vote Republican thinking Republicans are for less government and less spending.

And of course, not everyone in the suburbs is a stupid asshole, but the sort of person who would vote against that prop because they don't want to pay for mexicans to go to preschool (even though they wouldn't pay themsevles, it's the principal and the mexican of the thing), and I know exactly what sort of person you're talking about, they're too far gone to appeal to. The next republican talking point, repeated ad-nasuem on Fox news and their radio would just scuttle any deal anyway.

Posted by: The Tim on June 12, 2006 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

"You can't call yourself a progressive and vote against a remedy to this situation, no matter how high you think your property taxes are. Do you know how stingy you sound?"

Don't be so high-and-mighty. There's good ideas and then there's political reality. We live in deteriorating nation, from infrastructure to education to politics to presence on the world stage. This prop was something brand new- something good, but brand new nonetheless. There were a lot of good reasons to vote against it. Mine for instance- you only get so many chances to pass a bill specifically targeting the rich. A new program within a larger failing school system didn't seem like the right thing to blow it on.

Posted by: The Tim on June 12, 2006 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

I'd like to follow up on RR's post. Not only is expecting everyone to take hours of time to research each proposition unlikely at best, but even for those of us willing to invest the time it's not possible to fully understand what the side effects might be.

I'm involved and educated. I read more of the voter info than anyone I know. But I'm not a legislator, and I'm not trained to understand all the economic and social implications of legislation -- especially when it's deliberately written to be deceptive. (Not to mention great ideas sunk by Trojan horses.)

The libertarian idea of non-professional politicians sounds good on paper, as do term limits and direct democracy. But the complex world and government we have demand representatives who know more and have more experience than the average citizen does.

Posted by: snarktini on June 12, 2006 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Cognitive psychology and developmental neuroscience are showing repeatedly and beyond doubt that early mental stimulation in complex (rich) environments leads to optimal cognitive development. The results of early intervention are cumulative and geometric and have consequences for other aspects of behavior beyond cognitive performance. This is the scientific rationale for professionalizing and mandating preschool education.


maybe, but:

1. do the tax-funded, mostly left-liberal, mostly non-entrepreneurial, mostly unionized, bureacratized educational professionals actually provide mental stimulation in rich environments?

2. do education majors understand any of what the cognitive scientists and neuroscientists discover?

3. does the curriculum for the credentialing even include any of that at a non-trivial level?

I think the answers to all three questions are "NO." The curriculum for the credentialing is narrowing and suffocating. The unionization guarantees that, over time, none of the incompetent teachers in any level are ever removed. Most public school teachers couldn't tell you the difference between operant and respondant conditionig, much less any of the properties of developing neural networks -- or realize the value of memorizing poems and songs, learning phonics, and learning to disassemble and assemble things.

My criticisms do not apply to all such people and curricula, but do apply to the medians, and probably to three quartiles.

Posted by: republicrat on June 12, 2006 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

"Hey, Al got an intern. I shall now refer to American Hawk exclusively as "Monica"."

Okay, Trixie.

Posted by: Sammy on June 12, 2006 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian Holsclaw: Taxes aren't a market. And granny already paid for it.

You missed the main point. Granny is paying a way below average tax for an appreciating asset; it's functionally equivalent to paying a way below average income tax for the income. There is no good reason why Granny's neighbors, raising kids, paying a mortgage, paying taxes and social security should be paying a higher property tax for a house of the same vintage and quality.

You could make a case that people with children should pay a higher property tax to fund their children's schooling, but that isn't the way the property tax works, and it turns public schools into the equivalent of private schools.

Posted by: republicrat on June 12, 2006 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK
But I'm not a legislator, and I'm not trained to understand all the economic and social implications of legislation -- especially when it's deliberately written to be deceptive.

If you are a citizen of the state of California eligible to vote, you are, ipso facto, a legislator.

And the people who have official offices besides "citizen" that let them get paid to be state legislators aren't especially trained to understand all the economic and social impacts of legislation, and in many cases they don't personally employ people who are, either.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 12, 2006 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

Well, no, they're not. But California politicians -- mostly Republicans -- have been very good at pretending that the problems are truly gargantuan, which has made this one of those things that "everyone knows" even though its not even remotely true. Though significant in absolute terms among states, this is mostly a result of California's shear size; looked at in context of either the size of the economy or the size of the overall budget, the fiscal challenges in California aren't unusually large.

Here is the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' projection of state budget deficits for 2005. The projected deficit for California is 21% of the general fund. Only two other states, New Jersey and Alaska, have deficits that large. Only eight states have projected deficits larger than 10% of their budgets. Unless the actual deficits are significantly different from these projections, it appears that your claim that "the fiscal challenges in California aren't unusually large" is false.

Posted by: GOP on June 12, 2006 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK
Here is the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' projection of state budget deficits for 2005.

Well, yes, that's an interesting February 2004 projection of what the 2005 situation would be like.


Unless the actual deficits are significantly different from these projections, it appears that your claim that "the fiscal challenges in California aren't unusually large" is false.

The projected general fund shortfall in the FY 2005-06 budget when it was signed was 6.1% ($5.5 billion in a $90.0 billion general fund budget), that envisioned in the proposed FY 2006-07 budget is 6.4% ($6.5 billion in a $101.0 bilion general fund budget), either of which, indeed, is vastly better than the 2004 CBPP projection of a 21% general fund shortfall for 2005.

See, for 2005-2006 here, and for 2006-2007, here.

The timing (Feb 2004) of your projection suggests that the data was taken from right around the worst point the California fiscal situation reached -- the renegotiation of energy contracts was still going on, settlements for several billion dollars in refunds from energy companies had not been reached and were not included, the VLF had been cancelled and a temporary backfill measure implemented, but the spending cuts and restructuring of the local agency backfill into a loan (passed in March 04) hadn't happened, etc.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 12, 2006 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, a big part of the reason why California's government works even worse than the Federal one is that California's voters -- in their infinite wisdom -- passed in the early 1930s, and reaffirmed by a landslide two years ago, a state initiative requiring a 2/3 Legislature vote to pass ANY state budget, balanced or otherwise. But of course they will never, ever, blame themselves for the resultant mess. To steal from Yogi Berra: if people don't want to learn or think enough to have a government that actually works, nobody's stopping them. Meanwhile, any new democracy should take a lesson from California and never allow any popular referenda for anything other than setting campaign and electoral rules for the legislators, who should decide all other issues themselves.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on June 12, 2006 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

The projected general fund shortfall in the FY 2005-06 budget when it was signed was 6.1% ($5.5 billion in a $90.0 billion general fund budget), that envisioned in the proposed FY 2006-07 budget is 6.4% ($6.5 billion in a $101.0 bilion general fund budget), either of which, indeed, is vastly better than the 2004 CBPP projection of a 21% general fund shortfall for 2005. See, for 2005-2006 here, and for 2006-2007, here.

What was the actual deficit for FY 2005? How close was it to the CBPP's projection, and how did it compare to the actual deficits for other states? And how do the projected California deficits for FY 2006 and beyond compare to those of other states? California has been running large deficits for many years, so even though its financial condition has improved somewhat in recent months due to an unexpected growth in revenues, it's still in very bad shape. For the past three years, California has also had the lowest Standard & Poor credit rating of all the fifty states, which is also inconsistent with your claim that "the fiscal challenges in California aren't unusually large."

Posted by: GOP on June 12, 2006 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

"Suburban weanies", the kind of person who votes for something based upon some idea they came up with about who is going to get their money via some law are better described as "stupid assholes" because that's what they are."

I was trying to be polite.

"You ask a stupid asshole what their taxes pay for and they'll come up with "roads" and that's about it. Suburban voters who vote according to the "why should I pay for your...?" mantra are essentially libertarian- because they're stupid assholes- and therefore there is no meeting them "half way"."

I don't think so. If suburbanites were really libertarians there wouldn't be nearly two million people in prisons being routinely beaten and ass raped while the MSM and blogs twiddle their thumbs. If suburbanites were really libertarians there wouldn't be routine panders from Democrats in Sacramento over the Biblical scourge of fatty foods and smoking and cell-phone using drivers, or routine panders from Republicans in Washington over television "indecency" or for that matter the Great Mexican Peril. Granted there would also not be Social Security, or national parks, and I'd probably get to keep a Howitzer on my front lawn, but libertarians - in any pure sense - these people are not.

Posted by: Linus on June 12, 2006 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK
What was the actual deficit for FY 2005?

The latest information I can find for FY 2005 (2004-05) general fund revenue and expenditure data are the figures (still estimates -- but from just before the fiscal year ended instead of several months before it began) in the Governor's 2005-06 May Revise budget proposal,with $79.495 billion in revenue and $81.993 billion in expenditures, or a 3.0% deficit, though there is a confusing footnote about the handling of the Economic Recovery Bonds ($2.012 billion) in the expenditure data ("For purposes of this chart, the use of Economic Recovery Bonds ($2.012 billion) is included in resources to provide better comparability. It was budgeted as a reduction in expenditures in the 2004 Budget Act."), which depending on exactly what is intended to mean could mean, worst-case, the real deficit was nearly double that 3.0%.


How close was it to the CBPP's projection,

Somewhere between about 1/7 and 1/3 the CBPP projection; IOW, between much and vastly better.

and how did it compare to the actual deficits for other states?

Hey, you want to claim the CBPP projection of the 2005 performance from early 2004 is somehow relevant to the actual condition today, in relative or absolute terms, you go right ahead and dig up your own evidence to justify that.

California has been running large deficits for many years, so even though its financial condition has improved somewhat in recent months due to an unexpected growth in revenues, it's still in very bad shape.

Or, more accurately I suspect you'll find, California has been running absolutely large but relatively modest deficits for many years, except for a brief period during and immediately following the energy crises.

For the past three years, California has also had the lowest Standard & Poor credit rating of all the fifty states, which is also inconsistent with your claim that "the fiscal challenges in California aren't unusually large."

Its not at all inconsistent with it, as the magnitude of the present fiscal challenge isn't the only (or even the greatest) component of credit rating -- the worst recent fiscal situation [credit rating agencies, for major institutions as for individuals, being unforgiving about the past] is, of course, as is the perception of things like (in the case of a government borrower) perception of political will, among other factors.


Posted by: cmdicely on June 12, 2006 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

Nancy's post awhile back is really interesting. The opening up of many fields to women has certainly not panned out exactly as hoped, really. You could add to the drain on historic "women's professions" the fact that we're dicussing universal pre-school at all, as well as after school child care. You could also add the cost of housing, as home sellers have no rational reason to price a home so that such a home could be afforded on one income when there are plenty of couples with two incomes who could buy it.

Posted by: hank on June 12, 2006 at 8:44 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

The latest information I can find for FY 2005 (2004-05) ... still estimates

So in other words, you don't know the size of the actual deficit for FY2005. I'm not interested in your obviously unqualified attempts to guess it from other numbers. Even the 6+% deficit projection you cite in your post of 6:31pm is worse than the CBPP projected 2005 deficits for a majority of the states.

Its not at all inconsistent with it, as the magnitude of the present fiscal challenge isn't the only (or even the greatest) component of credit rating

A state's credit rating is the single best indicator of its financial condition. State credit ratings indicate the confidence of the financial community in the ability of a state to pay its debts. California's S&P credit rating has been the worst of all the 50 states for the last three years, and even now is the second-worst. Only Katrina-ravaged Louisiana has a lower credit score. This means that in the opinion of the financial community, California is the second-most-likely state to default on its debt. California's rating was raised a notch last month because of an unexpected recent increase in tax revenues, but even when they raised the rating (from worst to second-worst in the nation) Standard & Poor also said that much of the recent tax revenue increase in California seems to have come from one-time gains from the stock market and housing boom, and that the structural problems causing California's huge deficits have not been solved. So as far as I can see, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever for your claim that "the fiscal challenges in California aren't unusually large." You appear to have manufactured this "fact" out of thin air.


Posted by: GOP on June 12, 2006 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

Um, let's get something straight. Taxpayer-funded universal preschool, much like longer school days (which has been proposed here in Massachusetts), is nothing more than a ruse to turn public schools into taxpayer-funded day-care centers, with some education.

The proposals probably have little if anything to do with teachers' unions, and more to do with the fact that taxpayers don't want to fund day-care centers.

Posted by: raj on June 12, 2006 at 10:02 PM | PERMALINK

Fourth and this is strictly anecdotal I ran into a fair number of people who were convinced that the whole thing was just a giant pander to the teachers union (Prop 82 required preschool instructors to be credentialed and paid at the same level as K-12 teachers). I may be off base on this, but I have a feeling that this might have been an underlying cause for a substantial part of the opposition.

That would be the height of dumbassery, wouldn't it?

What were they thinking? "I'm not entrusting my most precious thing to someone making more than $8.25/hr?"

Next thing you know they'll be demanding health care and a 401K, too.

Ingrates.

Posted by: Lettuce on June 13, 2006 at 12:25 AM | PERMALINK

Private schools are superior because parents can choose different schools which teach the best

Assuming you have kids, Al, you're welcome to come to Milwaukee (I'll even help you find a house) and you can test out this theory of yours.

I can recall the days when conservatives went on about liberals and their social engineering based on "theories" as if that was a bad thing.

But not anymore.

Now there's a gravy train to skim the fat off and conservatives are firing up the choo-choos.

Come on over, Al.

Maybe you'd like a cold shot of reality. (And a call in the middle of the day when your kid's "school" takes a runner and can't be found.)

Posted by: Lettuce on June 13, 2006 at 12:28 AM | PERMALINK

And finally, you know

This is one of the more confounding topics I"ve ever read here. Congratulations all you west coast "liberals". You'd think there wasn't anywhere in America they had public education starting at age four.

You'd think it was from the goddamned moon.

What a crackpot idea, why can't we just let children be children?

Naturally the people least likely to be able to afford to do this are the people most likely to be teaching in preschools for "peanuts compared to what the teachers make."

Or working at the Jamba Juice.

Or the Baja Fresh (doesn't that mean "below fresh"? Someone could have used a little more education.)

I agree, why blow your tax the rich wad on something as idiotic as early childhood education, THAT has to be a boondoggle.

Man, you people are thick.

Posted by: Lettuce on June 13, 2006 at 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

I'm definitely a liberal and I voted against it for several reasons. First, I object to government by initiative in general. (I think I am on the same side with Kevin here.) In particular, the use of initiatives to earmark parts of the budget has caused endless trouble. Second, I noticed what another person here pointed out -- that if we are going to raise taxes on the rich, we should pick our targets carefully. Third, I was not convinced that preschool is such an important issue; granted, I had the equivalent of preschool, but it was mom, who was better educated than most preschool teachers are likely to be. Last, the no on 82 groups were pretty convincing that most parents who would use the preschool money are already paying for it out of their own pockets, making the proposal one of the least efficient uses of tax dollars one could imagine.

In other words, people who only know California from the front seat of a rental car (stole the line from Daily Breeze columnist John Bogert) shouldn't overinterpret something as complex as this very flawed ballot measure. Every other poll and various other election results suggest that Californians are more than willing to pay taxes for something we have confidence in.

Posted by: Bob G on June 13, 2006 at 2:28 AM | PERMALINK

I'm a liberal who voted against it on strict initiative fatigue. But there's a flip side to your "teacher's union" argument--my CTA member wife and I also voted against it because we saw it as a way to suck money away from K-12 and give it to this new wild west of pre-schools.

So the union thing cut both ways.

Posted by: Jack on June 13, 2006 at 2:34 AM | PERMALINK

The indictment has been sealed for roughly five weeks, an unusually long time

Posted by: Sergio on June 13, 2006 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Nancy says:

Why has educational quality declined? Teachers used to be women with college degrees who could find little other professional level employment.

Just for the record, Kevin's mom is one of those women, and so was mine. She herself will say exactly the same thing about the decline in teaching quality.

Kevin's mom is brilliant and interesting and ... very liberal. After she officially retired from classroom teaching, she designed and ran an early-intervention program in her district for non-English speaking preschool-aged children and their mothers. The children -- mostly Vietnamese and Mexican -- almost all had older siblings who tested out as gifted but struggled with language issues. The program was quite successful in getting the little brothers and sisters ready for school. (She's moved on to teaching adult ESL classes...)

But this program was small, and designed specifically for the needs of the district. I'm no longer in California, so I don't know much about the defeated proposition, but I suspect it would not have allowed for the sort of flexibility that is needed to bring the best results.

I know a lot of teachers, and with a few exceptions, they are no longer brilliant. Oddly enough, the ones closest to brilliant tend to be the most liberal...

(friend of the family here; dated Kevin's brother many many years ago...)

Posted by: quietann on June 13, 2006 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

I am a mother of 2 kids in preschool, who would have directly benefitted from this program if it had passed. I didn't vote for it -- it seemed like a boondogle from start to finish, with no ideas about where all these credentialed teachers would come from, or where these facilities to house them would be located. A bigger concern to all my mommy friends is K-12. If Reiner had proposed the tax to fix K-12 public education, he'd have stood a better chance. But for those asking why we need Preschool, a brief thought: Because of NCLB testing, academics are being introduced in Kindergarten, which is now what first grade used to be when we were growing up. Kids who have had no preparation whatsoever are being thrown into K already behind, and many more resources are being consumed to get them caught up. PreK is valuable, but it would be a lot easier to restore Kindergarten as traditional Kindergarten, and push the academics back into first grade, where they should be.

Posted by: Garbo on June 13, 2006 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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