A Tale of Two California Governors
Posted by Mary
One of the stories not well told about the California Recall election -- the election that is on the verge of putting Arnold Schwarzenegger into the governor's office even though the majority of Californians would not vote for him in an honest and fair election -- is that on almost every front, this is a story of Pete Wilson screwing his Democratic successor and his efforts to help screw ordinary Californians once again.
Coming back to California after spending time in Oregon, I find that Californians understand their problems by what comes from the Sound Bite machine. Today's sound bite is: "Gray Davis is an incompetent leader of California". Certainly most people have NO idea that Davis is being blamed for the policies of his predecessor.
Gray Davis is not an attractive candidate and he is way too good at extorting campaign funds from people. But, (and this is a VERY BIG BUT), Davis has shown that he is capable of governing a vast and unruly state. He was, after all, able to cut off the worst extortion by the power providers even while being opposed by the Bush administration who refused to act because their friends were getting extremely wealthy ripping off Californians.
The people of California are angry about the current state of affairs and they blame Gray Davis. But on at least two issues which anger people the most, Pete Wilson was the governor when the problem was created. And today it is Pete Wilson advising Arnold about how to stoke up more anger using policies for which Wilson was responsible.
Voters are still angry about the energy crisis a few years ago that arose from the badly designed deregulation scheme. As Paul Krugman showed, the scheme, designed and developed under Pete Wilson's watch following the advice of people like Ken Lay, had a "feature" which allowed energy companies to rip off the California ratepayers royally. The energy providers colluded to keep and raise rates by a number of illegal schemes. As long as there was NO ONE (think Bush's FERC) stopping the worst of the collusion, they just kept raising the ante until billions and billions found their way from Californian ratepayer pockets to the pockets of Enron, PGE, etc. So who signed the law and created the regulations that allowed this scam? HINT: it wasn't Davis.
The second flash point of anger (the one that Arnie is stoking for all his worth) is the car licensing fee. Everyone blames Davis for raising the fees, but was he responsible? In the flush days of 1998, the licensing fee on cars was reduced, with the caveat that if the state budget went badly into deficit, it would automatically revert back to the original fee structure (2% of the vehicle value).
The 1998 budget signed by Republican Gov. Pete Wilson phased in a gradual lowering of the license fee, but it included a provision allowing it to be restored if the state has "insufficient moneys."
Although Californians are angry at Davis, he had nothing to do with the law. If one person was responsible, then it was the previous governor of California who signed the 1998 bill with the clause that is kicking in now.
Timing is everything and this week, in the final week of the recall campaign, the licensing fee went up as was designed by the bill Wilson signed. And now Arnie is using this issue as one of the biggest reasons to slam Davis. Yet, Arnie is in bed with Pete Wilson, and as Greg Palast reported, Arnie has already promised to help rip off Californians once again by stopping the suit that the state of California brought against the energy companies who caused the crisis a few years ago.
Californians are about to screw themselves by removing the hapless fox and installing a big bad wolf to guard their hen house. It is too bad that Californians can't recall the governor that really was responsible for the decisions that so anger them today.