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Yesterday’s front-page story in the SF Chronicle on the California budget crisis was shocking, dishonest and disgraceful.  The piece described Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as a “steely-eyed, sword-wielding strongman” – who will “hold his ground” against Democrats in the state legislature.  Never mind the Terminator has driven the state to bankruptcy – after six years of tax cuts for the rich, fiscal gymnastics and borrowing schemes.  Never mind that Schwarzenegger lied about a voter mandate in the May 19th election – and says he won’t support a “single tax increase whatsoever.”  Never mind that by vetoing last week’s budget stop-gap measure, Arnold forfeited $2 billion that the state can no longer use – and our government now has to pay with I.O.U.’s.  Never mind the Governor told the New York Times that despite the state’s disastrous plight, he will sit down in his Jacuzzi and “lay back with a stogie.”  The Bay Area’s paper of record would rather portray him as a “tough guy.”

Carla Marinucci is the Chronicle’s worst reporter, a point Beyond Chron has written about time and time again.  With all the talented printed journalists who are unemployed or underemployed, Marinucci stays on as their top political writer – with yesterday’s ode to Schwarzenegger being her most recent incarnation (although Matthew Yi co-authored to the piece.)  And it’s hard to see how much lower the Chronicle, which is on the brink of going out of business, can go in its coverage of a serious political issue.

Consider Marinucci’s first paragraph: “Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has played an astonishing range of roles in California's budget dramas - bipartisan peacemaker and people's advocate among them. Now, the governor is reprising a classic familiar to millions: the steely-eyed, sword-wielding strongman.”  Bipartisan peacemaker?  The only thing Arnold ever succeeded in getting Democrats and Republicans in Sacramento to agree on is that they both dislike him – prompting many commentators to label him a “party of one.”  As for a “people’s advocate,” Schwarzenegger twice called a special election to have the voters decide – and in both instances, he was soundly rejected.

And while old movie posters from Conan the Barbarian, Terminator and Total Recall could make him out to be a “steely-eyed, sword-wielding strongman,” it’s hard to see the Governor’s current posture as nothing but the pathetic bluster of a deranged bully.

Here are the facts: declining revenues due to a severe recession have bankrupted California – leaving us with a $26.3 billion deficit.  The state can lay off every employee tomorrow, and it still wouldn’t balance the budget.  On May 19th, the voters rejected a complicated set of ballot measures that Arnold championed – after opponents on the left and the right campaigned against them.  There has been very little analysis about what “the people” were saying, except a poll that found only 36% of voters (and 24% of Californians) want a cuts-only budget.

Nevertheless, Schwarzenegger has made common cause with right-wing extremists at the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers’ Association – and Republican in the state legislature.  He says the voters on May 19th wanted the state to pass an “all-cuts” budget, and that he won’t support “any tax increase whatsoever.”  Arnold has proposed a budget that will shred our social safety net, and up-end the California Constitution by raiding school funding.  He wants to open up the ocean for drilling to get revenue, but opposes a tax on oil companies that would make that profitable – even though Sarah Palin’s Alaska has one at 25% of profits.

As June 30th approached, Democrats in the state legislature proposed using $2 billion in reserves to start plugging the hole – money that must be used before the end of the 2008-2009 fiscal year, or else it’s gone.  They couldn’t pass a comprehensive solution because of the two-thirds rule, but this – along with a few budget savings and closing tax loopholes – would have prevented the state from issuing I.O.U.’s.  How did Arnold respond?  Repeatedly veto the package, and insist we must resolve the “whole problem” all at once.  As the midnight deadline loomed, Schwarzenegger offered no solution besides the veto pen.

Apparently, the Governor is emboldened by his rising poll numbers – from a pitiful 30% to a dismal 43% – which may be attributed to a more aggressive posture with the state legislature.  But no one stops to ask if those 13% are right-wingers who want to shrink the size of government and drown it in a bathtub.  I suspect the legislature’s Republican minority is getting along better with Arnold these days, now that he’s backed off on all tax increases.  For a while, he was persona non grata in the Grover Norquist Fan Club known as the GOP caucus.

But you wouldn’t know any of this by reading yesterday’s Chronicle – although the piece briefly mentioned the state’s bond rating has collapsed, and banks are refusing to cash the state IOU’s.  The article quoted Schwarzenegger’s communications director, who said the Governor has “the luxury” of being near the end of his term – and not having to face the voters again.  Marinucci could have mentioned (but didn’t) that Arnold’s legacy – from slashing the vehicle license fee to solving each budget crisis by borrowing more money – will be driving the state to bankruptcy.  If Gray Davis was still Governor, we might not have a deficit.

In last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, Schwarzenegger said he was not letting California’s fiscal crisis get to him personally.  “I will sit down in my Jacuzzi tonight,” he told reporter Mark Leibovich. “I’m going to lay back with a stogie.”  There are so many analogies that come to mind with the Governor’s quote.  You could say it’s just like “Nero fiddled while Rome burned,” or another “let them eat cake” moment.  A more recent comparison would be George W. Bush, who said he was getting plenty of sleep at night during the Iraq War.

As an R.E.M. fan, however, Arnold’s callous attitude reminds me of the following:

It’s the End of the World As We Know It,
It’s the End of the World As We Know it,
It’s the End of the World As We Know It
And I Feel Fine …

Paul Hogarth is the Managing Editor of Beyond Chron, San Francisco's Alternative Online Daily, where this piece was first published.

Originally posted to Paul Hogarth on Thu Jul 09, 2009 at 08:12 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Someone needs to caption that stogie jacuzzi line (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bubbanomics, NearlyNormal, Femlaw

    ... over a picture of a homeless person bedding down in a doorway for the night.

    "Toads of Glory, slugs of joy... as he trotted down the path before a dragon ate him"-Alex Hall/ Stop McClintock

    by AmericanRiverCanyon on Thu Jul 09, 2009 at 08:32:38 AM PDT

  •  What drugs is she on?! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Paul Hogarth
  •  Idiot! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    esquimaux

    Including the people of California who voted for this asshat!  Six years ago he railed about the "billions of dollars" in waste and mismanagement.  Now he says can save billions more.  Arnold can't lead anything or anyone without a script.  He, like John Wayne and Bonnie Ronnie, could always win a sound stage war.  Real life?  Clueless!  Utterly f---ing clueless!

  •  I skimmed this article... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Paul Hogarth, esquimaux, Femlaw

    ...and it sort of ran together with the other five or six or twenty terrible articles in the Chron yesterday. Really, it's the worst newspaper I've ever felt forced to buy on a nearly-daily basis: provincial, smug, star-addled, and far too self-regarding for any newspaper's  - or city's - own good. (Anyone up for another round of worshipful encomiums to Herb Caen? How about another article on how pretty SF is in the fog?)

    I still remember the day I read in the Chronicle that BART expansions would soon bring all of Northern California within commuting distance of the Financial District. Ahem. As I recall, the wildly hypothetical expansions under consideration at the time wouldn't even have made it to Davis, let alone the 300 or so miles to the actual north in Northern CA.

  •  The Chronicle has become disgraceful (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Caelian, esquimaux, Femlaw

    There's no surprise here.  Back in January, in order to save itself, the Chronicle placed at the helm a triumvirate of conservatives who had formerly worked for the Gannett Company.  This company media holdings include papers from such progressive parts of the company as Arizona, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee.  As a consequence San Franciscans now have a hometown newspaper that barely hides its derision for progressive politics.  If this paper were to fold tomorrow, I would not shed one tear.

    respice adspice prospice

    by Steven Payne on Thu Jul 09, 2009 at 08:48:11 AM PDT

  •  Arnie wants to reform CA welfare. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ctami, slksfca

    Does he know that the most egregious abusers of that system are his own Republican base in Modoc CO?

    http://www.sfgate.com/...

     As for Carla, she writes whatever she thinks will get her the most attention.  Her writing is about as genuine as her gawdawful hair color.  And she's not much better when she appears on KQED's "This Week in No. CA"

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Thu Jul 09, 2009 at 09:07:50 AM PDT

  •  Amen, Paul (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Paul Hogarth, esquimaux

    Letting Arnold be governor of California is like letting a vandal run through a museum smashing things.  He is nothing but an ignorant, elitist, washed-up movie star.

    And his wife ain't much better.  Carla Marinucci did a puff piece with Maria Shriver, too, that is equally disgusting.

    Let's just hope that the Democrats in the Legislature hold firm and don't give in to the Governor's attempt at implementing the Shock Doctrine in California.

  •  Wow. I don't have high expectations (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Paul Hogarth, esquimaux

    for the Chron, but this is shockingly bad reporting.

    The people of CA really need good information to deal with this crisis - guess they will have to look elsewhere.

    (I recommend Calitics of course).

  •  Great Diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Paul Hogarth, esquimaux

    And it's very, very sad how poorly we are served by our media in California.

    Yesterday I listened to Warren Olney on Which Way LA (KCRW) interviewing Susan Kennedy, Schwarzenegger's loathsome chief of staff. Although Olney is generally the best interviewer on radio, he Kennedy was not balanced by anyone to contradict her flat-lies.

    There is a God, but he got an MBA. How else can you explain our world?

    by Aeolus on Thu Jul 09, 2009 at 09:36:54 AM PDT

  •  news business bankrupt will infomercial for $$ (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    esquimaux

    http://www.calitics.com/...

    EXCERPT

    There are 0, count 'em 0, votes for the [Governor's!] plan in the Legislature and there is no actual legislation.

       Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget package, which he has touted as a way to solve the state's entire deficit, has a glitch that may jeopardize $10 billion in federal stimulus funds for California's public schools, colleges and prisons. (SF Chronicle 7/9/09)

    Basically, the stimulus tried to prevent the actions of 50 little Hoovers from counteracting the additional funding by cutting their own spending.  So, they have maintenance of efforts clauses.  Unfortunately, the Governor's cuts slash into those requirements.

    Sen. Steinberg points out the sheer lunacy of the Governor's position: "It just shows that there's rhetoric and reality," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. "He's made these bold pronouncements that even he can't deliver on in many cases, and this is a good example." (SF Chronicle 7/9/09)

    There is only one person not willing to compromise that's Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. - Speaker Karen Bass

    by anyname on Thu Jul 09, 2009 at 09:41:36 AM PDT

  •  eew. I wouldn't touch Arnold's jacuzzi (0+ / 0-)

    with your pole. It's just so pathetic that anyone finds that misogynist, steroid-abusing, Nazi-sympathizin' Austrian lowlife sexy, manly, freakin' anything. NOT attractive! Just CREEPY!

    "The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil." Albert Einstein, "Why Socialism?"

    by Matthew Detroit on Thu Jul 09, 2009 at 09:50:04 AM PDT

  •  Marinucci (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    esquimaux

    is the Chron's Maureen Dowd, without the occasional wit. She always falls back on the conveniently cutesy story line and beats it into the ground, in this case Ahnold as movie star. She's been hacktacular for years.

    Somewhere a senator sits behind a big wooden desk...he took his money just like all the rest- Neil Young

    by ctami on Thu Jul 09, 2009 at 10:10:46 AM PDT

    •  At least Maureen Dowd is a columnist ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ctami

      ... so she's not pretending to be "objective."  Marinucci's stories are constantly on the front page of the Chronicle, which is what makes it so disgraceful.

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