I attended a luncheon today for our newest Assemblymember from Southern California, an apparently decent young man by the name of Brian Nestande. I had not met Brian before the election as his District barely touches our 5 city region – but then a free lunch is a free lunch so off I went. (Of course I know there’s no such thing but occasionally I lie to myself).
Anyway, Brian has been a political operative in the area for quite some time. The scion of an old-time California political family, he started his career working in DC for Sonny Bono, stayed on as Mary Bono’s chief of staff and then founded his own advocacy firm before running successfully for office last fall. I first met him back in about 2000 in Bono’s office during NAR hill visits.
Brian opened up with some remarks about the budget process that has frozen our state government since last June. While not naming a date certain, he is confident a compromise will be reached soon. He is equally certain we probably won’t like it and maybe won’t like him when the dust settles. Reason being that ‘everything’ is on the table.
Republicans have stepped up and put as much as $12 – $15 Billion in revenue projects on the table (read: increased taxes). Yeah, that’ll go over well.
And since it is Sacramento, they have already allocated another $12 Billion that is rumored to be in the federal stimulus package for state bail-outs. Yeah, that’s right. They’re balancing our budget with money rumored to be in a plan that may or may not even happen but up to 25% of out projected $42 Billion deficit is riding on that rumor. Is there still any question on the management ethic that lead to our current mess?
Now the only piece of the puzzle missing seems to be Democrats standing up to their union owners and making some meaningful and long-term cuts. Another $12 – $15 Billion of them. That means telling your handlers at the Teachers Union and the Prison Guards Union and the State Employees Union – hey, you’ve sucked us dry. The state is bankrupt. There is no more.
The only problem with that is the unions have promised to target any Democrat who gets out of line on this. Republicans have promised to do the same but we have so few Republican legislators to begin with we can’t really afford to try to kick any of them out.
But enough about that. The highlight of the day was our featured speaker Ed Rollins. Ed is an old time California Pol who worked the hustings 30 – 40 years ago ultimately befriending our one-time governor, a gentleman by the name of Ronald Reagan. The timing was appropriate since today is Ronnie’s birthday and it seemed an auspicious time for Rollins to be making some remarks comparing political realities then and now.
He was quick to give Obama credit for running a finely tuned and extremely effective campaign. He also lauded his charisma and the sense of hope he inspires in people, comparing that in some ways to the effect Reagan had on people. Coming on the heels of several lackluster Presidents, Reagan made the most of his opportunity to right the economy, reinvigorate our military, reestablish our position on the world stage and focus on minimizing the incursions of government into everyday life.
Obama has that same opportunity, coming on the heels of several lackluster Presidents, to right the economy, reestablish our position on the world stage but his main concern with Obama is his propensity to maximize the reach of government into every facet of our system and to saddle us, our children and grandchildren with the bill. He questioned the philosophy that more deficit spending will dig us out of the hole caused by too much deficit spending to begin with. He was also quick to criticize the current stimulus package claiming he is one of only a handful of Washington insiders who have actually read the document cover to cover. He posited that 95% of our legislators had not.
He portrayed the stimulus package as having many good aspects but on the whole characterizing it as a Democrats spending wet dream. He said Pelosi and Reid went through the drawers and drug out every spending bill that had failed over the last decade and loaded them all into the stimulus – citing several specifics. However, he cautioned that the bill is very likely to pass given the current climate of crisis so we’d better all hope and lobby our representatives to eliminate as much of the waste as possible while retaining those elements that will have a genuine stimulus on the economy.
He discussed two specific problems with the bill – one being that as much as 50% of the money must be spent within 30 days of passage to maximize the impact to the economy. He questioned the ability of any one person, committee or legislative body to figure out how to effectively get as much as $400 Billion spent in 30 days. That’s a recipes for waste, fraud and disaster. But the flip side of that problem is that much of the money will not get spent for as much as 18 – 24 months, which hardly exerts any stimulus on todays economy.
He closed with a story about a discussion he had with Reagan just after his re-election with his popularity at its peak, especially among young people, despite Reagan’s age. When he told Reagan that history would be very kind to him. Reagan responded that he didn’t care how history treated him, just so history treated our young country and it’s citizens well as a result of some of the things he was able to do.
We could use a little of that humility and sense of responsibility right about now. Happy Birthday President Reagan.