California Budget Blues: Jerry Brown’s May Revise

It’s hard to believe what’s going on in Sacramento.

  • More Revenue. We just got more revenue than the state of California expected – this should lighten up the austerity plans, no?
  • More Billionaires. The economy must be improving. We have more billionaires than ever in California. Forbes came out with their annual list and California has 96 billionaires, up from 94 last year, and 85 the year before that. The billionaires’ total wealth is $360 billion, up 16% from last year. A small portion of that could make up for past budget cuts that affected everyone in one way or another. For years taxes on the wealthy have been lowered, and their wealth has gone up – that’s how it works. (See
  • More Taxes from the Rich? Maybe revenue increased because the super-rich paid a bit more in taxes, eh? Could have been even more if Jerry Brown had gone with the real Millionaires Tax, before he watered it down for Prop 30, and added regressive sales tax. People preferred the real Millionaires Tax. (See the behind-the-scenes story in
  • More Prisoners. By a lot, we have more people incarcerated in California than in any country in the world. Many should be in treatment, not jail, and many are in private out-of-state prisons. Jerry Brown recently filed a last minute, court-ordered plan to reduce the state’s prison population, and did not include a single sentencing reform.
  • Less Healthcare; More Health Insurance. Why did Sacramento pass single-payer healthcare when Republican Schwarzenegger was Governor and not pass it now, when Democrat Jerry Brown is Governor? Obamacare will not provide the kind of healthcare provided by all other wealthy, industrialized countries, but it will subsidize health insurance corporations.

Why is all this – and more – happening when the Democratic Party holds every single statewide office and now has 2/3 majorities in both houses of the legislature? Isn’t it the political party that is supposed to be the “people’s party”?

Worse than I Thought

I have to confess, it’s worse than I thought it would be, and I of all people should have known better. After all, I ran against Jerry Brown in 2010, as the Green Party candidate for Governor.

In the race for Governor in 2010, I decided to focus on two signature economic proposals rather than focus on a “laundry list” – a list that includes such vital issues as education, environment, health, housing, jobs, justice, and peace. I made that decision because I expected the huge, corporate-controlled media would give very little attention to candidates who are not from the huge, corporate-controlled political parties. (I admit that at times I refer to them as Titanic Parties. Let’s face it, they’re huge; they’re heading straight for the iceberg; their captains are not turning aside; and passengers came on board because they thought the Titanic would take them where they wanted to go, and on the way they could party!)

I focused primarily on two proposals because I wanted to draw as much attention as I could to the California economy and budget. If the money’s off, it’s all off. The budget needs to be handled well if we are to have hope for all the other areas of life that matter to us.

Two Signature Economic Proposals

My first proposal was and still is to create a State Bank for California that will partner with community banks and credit unions; ensure good loans for residents, small business, and students; and enable us to stop throwing public money away in interest. The State Bank and other public banks will invest in California, not Wall Street. (See also my blog and see

My second proposal is summarized in my valentine to Prop 13, “Honey, I love you, but you’ve got to change!” I proposed that we keep the good (keep people in their homes, including our seniors) and fix the bad. The bad has two parts: the property tax imbalance, that now favors huge corporations, and the 2/3 super-majority required to raise revenue, that now favors the richest of the rich individuals and corporations. That last bad part – about the super-majorities – was where I was naïve.

Toward Solutions: Champions in the Halls of Government

I am no longer focused on Prop 13’s super-majority rules. Even with 2/3 majorities politicians in Sacramento are bent on developing excuses rather than solutions. We are focused on replacing our elected officials.

We have all seen candidates who say one thing and then get into office and do something else altogether. Then they run again – and expect our votes – on the grounds that at least they’re better than the candidate from the other huge political party.

Corporate money is a way to distinguish between those candidates who will be on the side of the 1% and candidates who will champion the causes of the 99% that elected them. The No Corporate Money Campaign is strategizing to show how candidates and voters – who are not controlled by corporations – can win.

We are aligned with efforts to change the laws governing our democracy, but not waiting for that. We need champions in Sacramento and in other halls of our government in order to change the laws. Champions of people’s causes have been elected with great results as to the environment, banking, education, equality and so on, in places as diverse as Iceland, Germany, Quebec, many Latin American countries, and Richmond, California. We can continue that trend.

There are solutions. When we use our individual efforts and social movements to promote solutions, we need to elect people into the government who will help us move them forward, not stand in our way and block our solutions.

That’s why a group of community and political activists are focusing our efforts on creating a powerful No Corporate Money Campaign. The Campaign consists of two simple but powerful elements that work together. Candidates sign a pledge to take no corporate money, and voters declare our intention to vote for candidates who take no corporate money.

And now, I’m going to post this blog and get back to work on one piece of that campaign, a book with the newly revised working title, Signs of Hope: You, Corporations and Government. 

Thanks for all you do, and for staying with it!

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