By Jack D. Forbes –
The truth is that in seeking to prove his Neandertal GOP credentials he is, in fact, risking another “Great Depression” in our state. We are already at virtually 12% unemployment (not counting those who have given up or who are only working part-time). We are at risk of going much higher if Schwarzenegger’s devastating budget is adopted.
From my experience as a child in the Great Republican Depression of 1929-41, I would say that keeping people employed is the first line of defense against a serious recession and a depression. It is the ordinary people who are the key. The rich and super-rich play very little role, since their spending is but a very small share of basic commodity economics and is not enough to keep commerce flowing.
Governor Schwarzenegger and his GOP “allies” refuse to learn from previous depressions and panics for the simple reason that they represent a very narrow class of voters and work for the well-being of an even narrower group, the wealthy. No matter what the crisis, they must earn their bread and butter it seems, by protecting the bank accounts and assets of the rich, and by seeking to increase the share of communal wealth held by the wealthy. Often the wealthy actually profit from a depression by using their ever-more-valuable money to acquire ownership of property or assets at rock-bottom prices.
Now the governor is threatening to dismantle part of state government rather than seeking new sources of income. But dismantling government, whether at the state or local level means essentially the creation of more unemployed. Thousands of state employees, firemen, peace officers, prison guards, teachers, park rangers, et cetera, will be the actual victims of the governor’s political ambitions.
But the victims will also be grocery stores, appliance shops, restaurants, apparel ships, bookstores, and other businesses that will be forced to lay off still other employees or shutter their windows and lock their doors. Charities and foundations will also suffer, even though they must pick up some of the slack left by a truant government. Children must suffer healthwise and learningwise as libraries cut back on hours, teachers are given heavier loads, and school programs in the arts disappear.
Many proposals have been made of ways to raise revenue to continue state and local programs without in any way harming the vast majority of the state’s taxpayers. Many ideas have been placed before the governor, but now he rejects all of them, in my opinion, simply to enable his continued political life as a Republican. In other words, the right-wing majority in the California Republican Party has him by his huevos as they say in Cucamonga!
Tragically, such political games will soon bring us thousands of more unemployed and countless shuttered businesses.
Jack Forbes is a historian, a former Guggenheim Fellow, winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Before Columbus Foundation, holder of the Tinbergen Professorship in the Erasmus University Rotterdam, and other awards.