By Steven Miller
On May 19, California voters rejected four of five
Constitutional Amendments that Gov. Schwarzenegger placed on the ballot
to fix the state’s so called $15 Billion “budget crisis.” If passed,
the measures would have raided money for children and mental health.
Each measure failed by over 60%. A fifth proposition to limit pay
increases for elected state officials when there is a budget deficit
won by 75%.The failure throws California into a $24.2 billion dollar
deficit, or so claims the governor’s office. Proposition 1B would have
restored the $9 Billion that Schwarzenegger illegally appropriated from
the state’s public schools, already at the bottom nationally. This
failed by over 60%.
In the aftermath, things are moving fast, with the “Gobernator”
claiming that voters gave him the support to decimate the state’s
Here we want to focus on the role of the leadership of the California
Teachers Association (CTA). This craven bunch campaigned to support all
the propositions. They claimed that Schwarzenegger’s initial $5 Billion
cut to public schools was a victory for the people! They proclaimed
this after a month of secret dealings with the governor’s office, and
without putting one teacher in the streets in protest.
There are a number of lessons here:
1) Conciliation is not compromise. The CTA could have argued that
teachers and the people of California had no power to do better, given
the situation. Thus a compromise would be necessary. The “budget
crisis” is actually a manufactured crisis to protect and further the
state’s incredibly friendly corporate taxation. This the CTA ignores.
Thus backroom capitulation is declared a victory. This is simply
conceding without a fight.
2) This thinking is the end result of decades of a strategy based
on “supporting our friends in the Democratic Party.” This approach
allowed the CTA to claim that the meager gains granted in exchange for
mobilizing teachers to vote Democratic twice a year were significant
Those days are over. At every level, government is proclaiming the need
to get out of the business of helping people. Social services are
privatized and farmed out to corporations that reduce them to
make a profit. Meanwhile, corporate rights are consecrated in
In this context, the CTA leaders are being the last dinosaur, trying to
succeed in a failed evolutionary trend. When the environment changes,
the organism must change or die. They desperately need a new strategy,
but they are locked into the politics of conciliation, defeat,
passivity and the politics of begging.
They can no longer lead.
So is there really a “budget crisis”? Sure there is! That is, if you
accept the corporate domination of the budget process, including all
the tax subsidies and tax breaks.
Schwarzenegger’s budget scheme increased taxes solely by regressive
taxes on working people (Oakland Tribune, April 2, 2009). It was full
of “corporate tax breaks and credits, including ones for the film
industry and a change in the tax formula that will save businesses
hundreds of millions of dollars,” the Tribune said.
There’s plenty of revenue to be raised. Higher consumer costs for
water are a hidden tax subsidy for corporate water. What about a water
excise tax for corporations, since they consume about 65% of
California’s water? What about taxing them at the same rates as
consumers? What about ending the state’s multi-billion dollar
Criminal-Industrial Complex, that profits from jailing millions
essentially for misdemeanors?
The French Revolution was precipitated by a budget and tax
crisis. Every class, including the king, was in favor of taxation, but
nobody could figure how to raise taxes without trampling on the
hallowed privileges of each estate. The months of stasis lead to
increasing suffering, until women demonstrating at Versailles just
decided to kidnap the king. Then things jumped off. Suddenly the people
decided to resolve the political crisis their way.