Can you balance California’s budget?

June 3, 2009

California's budget is (currently) $24 billion dollars in the hole, and likely to get worse. The Los Angeles TImes has posted an interactive "game" you can play to see what cuts you would make and what new revenues you would raise to balance the budget.

I'll be blunt: I was brutal, and it was still tough to do. I set myself a limit of no new taxes and no borrowing: only savings via cuts and new revenues outside of taxes. In the end, I had to make some hard choices, including closing the community college system, ending welfare aid to legal immigrants, releasing state prisoners early, and killing the Cal-grant program that enables a lot of students to attend college. But, I was able to cut 99% of our deficit without raising taxes or borrowing more money.

You too can take the test. If you do, post your results in the comments section.

Some observations about this test: the LA Times has a decidedly pro-liberal bent to it, so I can't be sure the cuts it offered were all those available, or that the dire consequences they predicted (e.g, the teacher's union would sue) would come to pass. However, I avoided those cuts they listed as probably illegal. Also, the game presents cuts as all or nothing: you either keep community colleges or you get rid of them entirely – there's no middle ground, such as some cuts and some fee increases. Again, this may be trying to scare the public into saying "We just can't do that!" I also think they underplayed potential new revenue sources, such as more extensive offshore drilling.

Also, cutting $24 billion from California's budget leaves over $100 billion to spend in the next proposed budget. (PDF) I have to ask: what is in that remaining amount that makes it untouchable? Are there legally obligated expenditures we cannot touch? The budget proposal makes it unclear, and the Times' game doesn't address it.

Nonetheless, California is facing a fiscal disaster, and the people are taxed to the limits of their patience, as the recent election results show. Severe cuts have to be made, and the Times' article is a useful illustration of how painful they likely will be.

Good question

June 3, 2009

Given my severe skepticism regarding global warming, I’d be interested to know the answer myself:

“At what point do we jail or execute global warming deniers — Shouldn’t we start punishing them now?

Politics as high-school physics?

June 3, 2009

The First Law of Thermodynamics states:

Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only change forms. In any process, the total energy of the universe remains the same.

Timothy Carney at the Washington Examiner has found its corollary in politics, reporting today that General Motors, the formerly private company now owned by the federal government, will use bailout money provided by the federal government to lobby … the federal government:

General Motors will continue its multimillion-dollar lobbying operation in Washington, even after the federal government takes ownership of it. The automaker may even maintain its high-dollar lobbying contracts with some of the wealthiest and most influential K Street firms.

“We believe we have an obligation to remain engaged at the federal and state levels,” General Motors stated in an e-mail after President Barack Obama announced his plan for the federal takeover of the carmaker, “and to have our voice heard in the policymaking process.”

As a result, some of the jobs that the White House will save with this unprecedented nationalization could be on K Street in downtown D.C., rather than in Detroit.

In other words, part of the taxpayer money (and the dosh borrowed from the Chinese…) is being laundered through "Government Motors" to pay for lobbyists who will buy dinners for and contribute to the campaigns of the members who voted to create the bailout program in the first place. It's a closed system, the total energy (money) of which remains the same. The money just changes forms, that's all.

Head spinning yet?

As Ed points out at Hot Air, there's nothing wrong with lobbying per se; it's protected under the 1st amendment right to petition Congress. However, this is more than a bit unseemly: for a company whose only hope of survival was to be taken over by the government at taxpayer expense to then use that same money to lobby its new owners for more money is more than ridiculous. It would have been better to have let GM just go broke and then divvy the bailout money among the workers.

But such is the way of things in Obama's Corporatist States of America. Sigh

UPDATE: As ever, Iowahawk has the humorous take on the new Government Motors. Behold the future!

Do we Laughing or Crying ?