California

Was the Austrian Oak Cut Down To Size?

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Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pico Rivera mayor Pete Ramirez speak out against crude ethnic stereotypes.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger won't leave office for another five months, and I've already got breakup remorse.

Time and again, Reason has criticized the Gubernator. Time and again, I have criticized the Gubernator. But as he closes out his time in office with yet another budget cage match against the Democrats and their union backers, I feel honor-bound to present the case for Gov. Schwarzenegger. Here are some details I collected while working on an upcoming print column:

While government grew under Arnold, it didn't grow quite as fast as usual. According to the state controller's office, the total number of state employees under the discretion of the governor (i.e., not including legislative aids, University of California system employees, prison guards, etc.) is 237,654 right now, up from 222,866 in 2004, the first full year of Schwarzenegger's administration. That's about a 6 percent increase over six years.

Similarly, general fund spending, which was $71 billion in 2003, was is now around $86 billion — a relatively modest 21 percent increase over seven years. Considering net population growth that's still around 400,000 people a year, you might even make the case that general fund spending is about where it was when he took office. In keeping spending down, the governor has been a major beneficiary of the recession, which allowed him to make actual reductions in 2008 ($11.4 billion), 2009 ($31 billion) and probably 2010 (a projected $12.4 billion).

"If I were making the limited-government case for the governor, I'd probably brag about the spending," says Joe Mathews, author of California Crack-Up. "I just don't think that's a case he wants to make. I don't think there was some grand plan in the way he kept spending increases down. As a governor he's got a better record than Jeb Bush or Sarah Palin, but he doesn't want to talk about that."

In politics, the discretionary stuff is always the easy part, but Schwarzenegger also tried—and spectacularly failed—to challenge the power of public sector unions and roll back the crushing entitlements they have locked in. His 2005 slate of ballot initiatives—which I found underwhelming at the time—nevertheless threw a lot of light on the outsized political power of government employees.

On this and other battles with the unions, Schwarzenegger generally got his ass handed to him. But as Conan would say, all that matters is that two stood against many. David Crane, Schwarzenegger's advisor for "Jobs & Economic Growth," has made serious efforts to push back against the power of public employees—or at least give future Republicans and Democrats the opening to stand up.

"Once you get the voice to say no, it becomes easier the second time," says Marcia Fritz, president of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility. "He's giving the Democrats the chance to say no to the unions."

Fritz sees good things coming in Schwarzenegger's likely veto of Assembly Bill 1987—the anti-pension-spiking bill that has now become a pro-pension spiking bill—and in the governor's refusal to strike a deal on this year's budget unless it includes permanent changes to public sector pension structures.

"What happens in California is going to emanate throughout the country," says Fritz, who has been a pension hawk for many years and is optimistic that the depth of the crisis creates room for change. "We've got the worst combination of everything. It's not like Illinois where they mismanaged and overspent. We tried to manage and we still can't make it."

I will have more on all this in the upcoming print column. For now,  while I can no longer say I'm a Schwarzenegger admirer, I'm still a fan. I have endured plenty of meetings with governors, generals, CEOs, senators and the current president of the United States, and by far the most engaging of them all—the only one of whom I can say "I'd still buy a ticket to see this guy"—was Arnold Schwarzenegger. In retrospect it's stunning how little his charisma helped in his fights against the state's political Integral. But I wish him luck in his last battle with the unions. It's the right fight against the right enemy, and it may yet turn out to be happening at the right time.

And finally, the ramping up of the Jerry Brown-Meg Whitman campaign makes one thing clear: No matter how bad Schwarzenegger was, his successor will be worse.

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64 responses to “Was the Austrian Oak Cut Down To Size?

  1. He gave it a real shot two election-cycles ago; he got beat by the unions.
    He had two options: stick to his guns or admit the unions were too strong. He took the later.
    He can claim he held to his ideals and worked ‘within the system’ to reduce the damage, or he can be accused of giving in.
    Given the last two years of CA’s budget messes, and his responses, I’m gonna go with the first. Imagine if one of Willy Brown’s or Pelosi’s hacks had the office.
    Not good, but the best we’ve seen.

  2. And finally, the ramping up of the Jerry Brown-Meg Whitman campaign makes one thing clear: No matter how bad Schwarzenegger was, his successor will be worse.

    We should also remember how bad Grey Davis was.

    1. The great thing about California’s governors of the past 20 years is no matter how bad Washington State’s governors get we can always count on California to make em look good.

      1. Cause even as doofy as they may be, not even Cali voters believe 7000 something King County voters live at the same one story U-Store-It address.

  3. He could have simply vetoed every single spending bill, no matter how “necessary” it might have seemed, and used every available power he had to restrict or refuse to release funding authorized by the legislature, and fired every single state employee he legally could.

    He didn’t do any of that. He caved to the fucking unions to get reelected.

    So, I’d say good riddance, except for that “both of his potential successors suck much worse” thing.

    I guess he’s about as good as a re-electable Blue State Republican can be, which is to say, the lesser of two significant evils.

  4. It actually makes a lot of sense.

    http://www.privacy-tools.eu.tc

  5. “And finally, the ramping up of the Jerry Brown-Meg Whitman campaign makes one thing clear: No matter how bad Schwarzenegger was, his successor will be worse.”

    Yes, but all bad successors are not created equal. One is clearly a lot worse for the state than the other.

    1. Unfortunately, the Libertarians nominated such a total non-entity for Governor that he will probably get the lowest total of any of the statewide CA LP candidates. Zsa Zsa’s husband had a better chance of winning.

  6. Tim, I couldn’t help but notice that you pretty much give Ahnold a free pass on sipping, no guzzling, the Green Kool-Aid, then cheer leading for the whole AGW scam. . .

    1. No man is on his honor when giving a eulogy. You’re right. Fighting so hard, even right now, to make AB32 the crown jewel of his legacy takes Arnold from mixed-bag to actively bad.

  7. “What happens in California is going to emanate throughout the country,” says Fritz, who has been a pension hawk for many years and is optimistic that the depth of the crisis creates room for change.”

    There’s a couple funny things about that statement.

    One of them is the part about what’s happening in California emanating through the rest of the country; I think that meme’s been bouncing around since I had to read “Megatrends” in high school. Anyway, I think he means here that good things are gonna happen, but there isn’t anything unusual or special about California’s bloat–or ability to deal with it. Anything that emanates out of California in response to this upcoming showdown should be flushed.

    And pu-lease!… There isn’t anything that doesn’t scare a recalcitrant class of unionized government employees like a defiant outgoing governor.

    Oh, the other funny thing? I’m always making fun of Obama around here for his lack of change… Saying that although he hasn’t really delivered any change, he has delivered a lot of hope for change!

    …it’s funny because of how ridiculous that is–but this guy seems to be making that care seriously. Optimistic that the depths of hell may make room for change possible?!

    Hell? Oh yeah, it sucks–everything’s gonna be on fire, including us…but just think how much we’ll save on our heating bill!

    WTF?!

    Things are so shitty and slope down from here is so steep. In fact, things are so shitty, they’re bound to get better! That’s gotta create some hope for change!

    There probably won’t be any change at all–but at least there’ll be more room for change?

    *guffaws*

    1. I knew I loved you for reason, ken.

      1. Reason needs a love proxy?

        1. I’m not involved in this.

        2. Oh, the rest of you love me too…

          You know you want it.

          1. Want?

            You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    2. “What happens in California is going to EMANATE throughout the country”

      You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. What happens in Cali may reverberate throughout the country, or maybe cultural/political trendz will emanate from Cali….

      1. He must be talking about the odor.

  8. –“He’s giving the Democrats the chance to say no to the unions.”–

    Finally! And then the Dems can move on to eliminating regulations and lowering and eliminating taxes.

    They’ve just been waiting for this sort of opportunity…

    …for the last 70+ years…

    1. I’d give it more like the last 100+ years. Hasn’t been a small-government Democrat since, oh, Grover Cleveland.

      1. Ahh, Grover Cleveland, the last good president…of either party.

        1. And he had a world-class orchestra.

        2. Beg your pardon, but Silent Cal might have something to say about that.

  9. I’m still a closet fan, if only for the cigar-tent thing got all the right jerks riled up way back when. But you’re absolutely right: he offered modest reform early on, and the machine went into overdrive in order to portray him as the Worstest. Villain. Ever. And they succeeded spectacularly at it. I have no idea why he “caved” – surely it wasn’t out of the usual desire for “power” (doesn’t he has plenty of that already?).

  10. “Once you get the voice to say no, it becomes easier the second time,” says Marcia Fritz, president of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility. “He’s giving the Democrats the chance to say no to the unions.”

    Ah, a chance Team Blue has been waiting for since…never?

  11. Arnold, we’ll always have “Predator”

    1. And Kindergarten Cop.

      1. .. and Junior.

        That movie makes Battlefield Earth look like The Godfather in my opinion.

        1. And Hercules in New York.

            1. Nope, but that is why he will be The Last action Hero!

  12. Scene: Sacramento Mental Hospital June 1985

    Dr. Meyers: This is patient’s name is Tim Cavanaugh. He has an unusual psychosis in which he believes he is a time traveler from the year 2010. The interesting thing is the degree of detail in his hallucinatory future world. He can rattle off a complete history of the world from now till then.

    Dr. Simons: What’s the future supposed to be like?

    Dr. Meyers: Well, the energy crisis is completely gone. In fact, they’re burning so much oil that there is a big movement based around the idea that the CO2 produced will radically heat up the entire planet.

    Dr. Simons: I wish but everybody from the National Academy of Sciences on down says we’ve run out of oil.

    Dr. Meyers: Well then you’ll love it when the Soviet union collapses and the Cold War ends in ’89-’92.

    Dr. Simons: I would like that but its never going to happen.

    Dr. Meyers: In 2001, terrorist ram fully loaded airliners into both towers of the World Trade Center destroying the buildings completely and killing thousands.

    Dr. Simons: Right, as if anyone would be stupid enough to provoke America to that degree.

    Dr. Meyers: Then you’ll love this: Guess who’s the governor of California?

    Dr. Simons: I have no idea.

    Dr. Meyers: Arnold Schwarzenegger!

    Dr. Simons: Hah! Mr. Muscled-bound-I’ll-Be-Back as governor? Can you imagine?

    Dr. Meyers: I know, its funny but it just prove the depths of Mr. Cavanaugh psychosis.

    Dr. Simons: Poor bastard.

    …and that’s why I loved having Arnold as governor of California.

    1. Jesus, that’s awful. Why would you make it available for the whole world to see?

      1. I found it entertaining.

        1. Laugh now, but when this causes an out of control robot to shoot up a cop shop, who’s gonna be laughing then, huh? HUH?

    2. Dr. Myers: You know the best thing I’ve heard the patient say is that some half-black guy who happens to be a hardcore leftist but has never had to run anything before in his life gets elected president claiming to represent “hope and change.”

      1. Well, I’m hoping for a change.

  13. I loved Arnold and Gray Davis in Twins.

    1. That was blago not Davis.

      1. You saying Whitman looks like DeVito?

  14. I hadn’t realized how depressingly skinny Arnold had gotten. I hope he pumps himself back up into proper shape as soon as he’s out of office.

    1. He needs to get real swoll’ and make a couple more movies, like Stallone is doing.

      My biggest disappointment with him was that he went into politics instead of making a few more high-fun, low-brow movies. Any ass can drive California deeper into the ditch, but as the past 10 years have shown, very few can make fun blockbuster movies like T2 and True Lies.

      1. And Twins, truly his greatest accomplishment.

        1. Uh, his greatest accomplishment is The Running Man, bonehead.

          1. Only in a rerun.

          2. Obviously it was Conan the Destroyer, idiot.

            1. When the camel spit on him I was openly weeping. When he gave the camel a what-fer I stood and applauded.

            2. Grace Jones’ description of how to woo men she desires is immortal: “GRAAAAB him and take him!”

  15. This article needs more, “Get to da CHOPPAAAAA!!!”

  16. “He’s giving the Democrats the chance to say no to the unions.”

    *hysterical laughter*

    1. Marcia Fritz clearly needs to be committed for that line. Did Tim include it in the article for comic relief?

  17. it’s stunning how little his charisma helped in his fights against the state’s political Integral. But I wish him luck in his last battle with the unions. It’s the right fight against the right enemy, and it may yet turn out to be happening at the right time.

    Charisma is useless against fanaticism.

  18. I certainly won’t miss the jackass. A guy that punches holes in a road so he can get his picture taken “fixing” them? http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/…..VERNOR.TMP

    Pathetic.

  19. Considering net population growth that’s still around 400,000 people a year,

    That’s a lot of stupid on the move.

  20. the best thing about the upcoming california gov election is it is making the dead kennedys relevant again

  21. “EMANATE throughout the country”

    No wonder they can’t do anything about pensions with morons like this leading the charge.

  22. LOL, now thats pretty funny when you think about it.

    lou
    http://www.privacy-tools.eu.tc

  23. You would think he wants to run from office now. One dopeslap for Aaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrnold!

  24. I don’t follow California politics much at all so I’m at a loss as to what is so bad about Whitman.

    I’d think at the least she’s have the inside track for putting the state up on e-bay to come up with some quick cash.

  25. Matt didn’t even show up in person? No chance he’s going to get hit in the face with a chair. What a gyp.

  26. Someone should write him a script to show him how to be an Austria Economic gladiator. The theories of Mises, Keynes, Rothbard, Rand, Friedman would make a great action movie.
    One lone man named John Galt blockades the road to serfdom and destroys the evil bureaucratic cyborgs and storm troopers by discovering marginal profit opportunities amid the spontaneous order of price signals and temporary maladustments by the serving te wants of the heroic oppressed individual citizenry.

  27. I voted for him the first time, as the best-of-evils, but I’ll never forgive him for signing the .50BMG rifle ban. For someone who made his fortune playing characters wielding heavy firepower, that’s hypocrisy piled upon treason to the 2nd Amendment.

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