California: Jerry Brown lives down to expectations

January 5, 2011

Well, that didn’t take long. Either we do what Jerry says and continue our exorbitant tax rates or the kids get it:

Gov. Jerry Brown will spare K-12 schools from further drastic cuts in his budget – so long as voters extend higher income taxes in a special election, according to sources familiar with his proposal.

The tradeoff wouldn’t cure education ills, and many districts would still face another year of fewer school days and larger class sizes. But it could avert even deeper cuts after years of school rollbacks and help Brown galvanize powerful education support for tax hikes in a June special election.

“If something like that happens, I’m going to be looking for the feet to be kissed,” said Kevin Gordon, a veteran education lobbyist, of the Brown education proposal. “The big question is, what will the voters do, and if voters don’t come through, will we go through incredible anxiety all over again?”

Brown does not plan to suspend Proposition 98, the state’s minimum guarantee for K-12 and community college funding, though he may seek to do so if the tax hike extensions don’t pass.

For those not familiar with our Sacramento-based soap opera, this is a ploy the legislature (and pliant governors like Schwarzenegger) have used in recent years to scare us into voting for new taxes: promise doom and the death of beloved programs unless we agree to give them even more money. And the newspapers act as their shills. It’s emotional blackmail at its worst, a typical liberal-statist ploy to avoid any real cuts to their precious spending by scaring the public.

And it ignores very real areas in which substantive cuts could be made, cuts that should be considered before any tax-hike proposal. Jon Fleischman of Flash Report has listed several in a hard-hitting post:

  • Have we ended collective bargaining for public employees?
  • Have we gone through and eliminated every possible state employee or contractor possible, streamlining our workforce such as in the private sector?
  • Have we privatized anything (roads, prisons, universities)?
  • Have we eliminated some of the vast array of hundreds of state boards and commissions?
  • Have we made permanent changes to social welfare spending to prevent future spending abuse?
  • Have we put forward repealing unspent bonds (especially high speed rail)?
  • Have we eliminated all of those high-paying, cushy commissions that are landing pads for termed-out legislators?
  • How about implementing all of the cost-savings suggested in the comprehensive California Performance Review?
  • How about ending taxpayer-provided cars (two of them) for members of the legislature?
  • Or how about ending the use of legislatures using public funds to mail “push-surveys” to constituents?

I’ll add another: Have we eliminated the subsidies to community colleges, which cost the taxpayers over $4 billion per year? Yes, it will be hard on their students to have to pay market rates, but higher education is a public good, not an unalienable right. In times of hardship with no new revenues coming in, these are the hard choices we have to look at.

And speaking of new revenue, notice there’s no mention of exploiting this state’s vast natural resources to raise money through royalties. Former Assemblyman Chuck DeVore had a very good proposal to develop the vast oil wealth off the California coast by use of safe slant-drilling techniques for an estimated $16 billion a year in new revenue. That would go a long way toward curing our deficit. Why tax us into penury when we have “money in the vault?”

Back to Jerry’s proposal blackmail: the taxes he wants to extend were enacted as “temporary” measures in 2009, and voters defeated a ballot initiative that same year to extend them for two years — an initiative accompanied by similar dire warnings of DOOM! if it did not pass. We turned it down then 2-1 and, if Jerry and the liberal-statists who control the legislature want to have that battle again, bring it on. California has a spending problem, not a tax-revenue problem. Until we see deep cuts in spending to match revenue, new revenues outside of taxes, and changes in the ways the spending of our money takes place, the Mandarins of Green Dome on 10th Street get nothing.

PS. Anyone else note the deep irony of liberal Democrats, who proclaim their concern for the children ad nauseam, trying to get their way by threatening… the children? One could almost drown in the depths of their insincerity.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

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Good news! Another wacko state wants to go nuclear!

January 5, 2011

What could go wrong?

 

Now the military junta that rules Burma wants the Bomb:

But there is near-smoking gun evidence to substantiate reports of a Burmese nuke project. A major in the army, Sai Thein Win, has defected to the Democratic Voice of Burma, delivering into its hands hundreds of secret documents and photos. The materials reveal the construction of a huge network of underground facilities dating back to 1996 and costing at least $3.5 billion since 2001. This evidence is enough to convince Robert Kelley, a former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, that Burma’s junta is working on uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing capabilities with North Korean assistance.

The Strategic and Defence Studies Centre of Australia has published a study reaching the same conclusion. The authors interviewed two defectors who independently confirmed the building of a secret nuclear site, nearby the public site constructed with Russian aid. One defector testified to the presence of about 60 North Koreans at a secret site, which the authors describe as similar in design to the Syrian nuclear reactor destroyed by Israel in 2007.

The materials obtained by the Democratic Voice of Burma also show that a series of meetings took place in North Korea from the 22nd to the 29th of November in 2008 — meetings that included the Burmese military chief. One cable released by Wikileaks notes that a Burmese official mentioned the chief’s 2008 visit to North Korea in a slip of the tongue.

The organization has put together all the intelligence it has on Burma’s secret nuclear weapons program in the form of a documentary available to the public. For now, the junta is able only to mine uranium and produce yellowcake. One defector says that the regime hopes to be nuclear-capable by 2020. But the authors of the Australian study say Burma could go nuclear by 2014 in the absence of major problems. Rudimentary though it may be, the West should not dismiss Burma’s role in the nuclear Axis of Evil. The junta is in a position to fill one of the gaps in Iran’s nuclear effort. According to one defector, in February 2004 he met with an Iranian intelligence officer and nuclear scientist and received a sample of yellowcake. If this testimony is true, then Iran has already turned to Burma to help relieve its critical shortage of raw uranium.

Moreover, the UN has already confirmed that North Korea is shipping nuclear materials to Burma and using “links with overseas criminal networks to carry out these activities.” Next, corrupt Burmese officials might sell nuclear materials to criminals or terrorists. A September 2008 cable describes a Burmese civilian’s threat to U.S. diplomats to sell uranium-238 to Thailand, China, or other countries if the Americans themselves declined to buy. Claiming he already had 50 kg of Burmese uranium in a barrel, the civilian boasted that he could sell up to 2,000 kg. Another cable from January 2007 describes a suspected shipment of 112 metric tons of uranium ore to China by the Burmese government.

So, not only is Rangoon playing patty-(yellow)cake with North Korea and Iran, but private parties are getting involved. And, similar to the danger of a nuclear arms race in the Persian Gulf if (when) Iran gets its Big Firecracker, a Burmese nuclear capability would give incentive to Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia to get their own… “just in case.”

Not to mention making nuclear-armed India feel surrounded.

And, speaking of rational state-actors,  have I mentioned that the rulers of Burma use astrology to make key national decisions?

I think I need a drink.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)