It's a tough time to be a state worker

Union rally, originally uploaded by beancounter.

Pity the state workers. Sacramento's biggest employer is going through a bit of a rough patch.

You see, the State of California has not yet passed a budget for the year - and they're supposed to start working on the next one on January 1. (Ha!) It's been California's own special political opera since the summer. The outline:
  • The budget hole's been a problem for a while, but it went from being a hurdle to a massive, immovable political Sphinx as the recession's gotten worse. By most measurements, it now can't be closed even if every spending cut and tax increase suggested were used.
  • Legislative Democrats have the majority in both chambers. The unions, particularly those representing various public employees, have a lot of cachet with them. This is not shocking, but it means they can't cut the budget without feeling the wrath of the unions.
  • Legislative Republicans are anti-tax mavens who have circled the wagons and refused to countenance any tax increase whatsoever, no matter how small, no matter the consequences. (These are not Nevada Republicans.)
  • Governor Schwarzenegger was not elected out of the California GOP establishment. He's a moderate who's become more moderate during his tenure. He's been burned by the unions before and there is little love lost between him and his Republican colleagues. His political popularity, however, is based on his image of a get-stuff-done reformer.
Were staring down Christmas and still no budget. The last move was made by Senate President Darrel Steinberg (D-Sacramento) who tried an end-run around the Republicans by raising "fees" rather than "taxes." Schwarzenegger knocked it down though and he's started calling for furloughs and layoffs of state workers.

As usual, the comment section is where the real magic happens.
statewrkr95630 wrote on 12/19/2008 02:04:09 PM:

a recent study said the state could layoff HALF of its state workers and not be impacted. i knew things were bloated, but that's wild !!!

Care to share your source, "statewrkr"? Probably not. Unironically, this story comes just as Sacramento's unemployment situation is getting worse.

State workers are the political football of the year. (The illegal immigrants of 2009?) They get manhandled on the comment boards and even by the editorial boards. This post on the Fresno Bee's editorial blog by Lisa Maria Boyles, though, takes the cake.
After reading the latest on the California Legislature's budget maneuverings -- Democrats pass a budget that Republicans say is illegal, governor vows not to sign it, and that's it, we're going home for Christmas -- I'm ready to disband the entire bunch, recall them, vote them out, whatever it takes to get some new people in there who actually give a damn about solving our state's problems.

*deep breath* There was this thing a few weeks ago, early November I believe, where the people were polled - everyone over the age of 18 has the right to participate - about their representation in the California Legislature. NOT ONE SINGLE INCUMBENT LOST. So, if they're doing such a lousy job, Ms. Boyles, why did the voters see fit to return them all to Sacramento?

Jim Newell is my hero!

You should just read Newell's whole post on your own and absorb the awesome. I would like to, however, re-post a small kernel of the angry-truth that he does so well on Wonkette.

A major problem with current “political analysis” is that there’s no need to analyze something that’s obvious to everyone. American national politics is a vulgar, transparent, and stupid drama. You can read a few news wires regularly and understand every major politician’s short- and long-term intentions. This is why most of our Wonkette posts are composed of bad/filthy jokes, because it’s the only way to write about this shit secondhand without coming off as utterly patronizing to you, the reader. It would be insulting to you for us to legitimize the horror that is American politics under the guise of “expert analysis” [...]

He goes off like this about once a week. And here's a little poorly-kept secret: most of DC agrees with him.

Also, Jim, if you comment on this, I will buy you one pint of Yuengling or its equivalent of equal or lesser value. That's all I can afford.

Winning the Gay Marriage Debate

Here’s the video from Mike Huckabee’s appearance on the Daily Show last week. The conversation along with my weekend of progressive networking at the DemocraticGAIN job fair got me thinking about the gay marriage debate and how proponents can win it.

(Okay, the Tubes are not cooperating. Here's the link.)

The core of the gay marriage debate revolves around Huckabee’s argument that marriage’s definition stems from its purpose. Those who anatomically cannot procreate therefore cannot be married. The implication of this argument (which Stewart fails to pick up on) is that a child reared by anyone other than their biological mother and father is inferior.

A brief detour: Liberals and conservatives disagree over society’s and government’s role in perfecting the welfare of the people. Liberals often argue that government’s job is not to judge people morally, but ensure a bare minimum of human dignity. Sometimes that means giving needles to drug addicts, but if it saves lives, it’s worthwhile. Conservatives, however, argue that government must represent the highest ideals of society. Its job is to lead men to their better selves, not support them in perpetual meanness. Taxpayer funds should to be spent to mitigate the hazards of drug use.

Progressives seem to miss that gay marriage opponents are actually asking them to provide their own definition of marriage. Any definition of gay marriage devalues the role of procreation. While proponents may be afraid of the backlash from such a definition, I don’t believe it’s far off from society’s expectations. Americans marry much later in life than they once did and the old maid stereotype sets in later, too. We tend to marry for love and decline the option in its absence. To win support for gay marriage, proponents must in fact agree with conservatives that they wish marriage to move beyond being an institution for the creation of offspring.

What, of course, is the purpose of marriage then? Gay marriage proponents must answer that question as confidently as Mike Huckabee does on the Daily Show.

Silly Hippies

I just wanted to share this most delicious link to SFist. Teh libruls have been making a hit-list of businesses they want to see fail in the upcoming economic catastrophe. They are curiously ambivalent about Taco Bell - I smell a business school thesis!

Yes, the Bay Area's been pretty badly walloped by America's economic oopsies. But you live in San Francisco, you hippies! Quit complaining. At least the Governator's not takin' away your paid holidays...

Independent Voters Mistrust Politicians

It will be key to any statewide initiative strategy to predict when independent voters will side with liberals or conservatives. Using data gathered by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) on the last election, it is possible to design a rubric that measures independents’ fidelity with Democratic or liberal positions. The results show that they side with Democrats and liberals in most cases, but do not trust the Legislature and elected officials.

Methodology: Determining Which Way a Population Breaks

Assuming that independent voters perfectly represent the center of rest of the population's political make up, independents' responses to questions should reflect those of partisans. In California, according to the PPIC survey, Democrats enjoy a 13% advantage in self-identification. Indeed, when asked which party independents self-identify an affinity towards, Democrats enjoy a 14% advantage. Independents’ self-identities do correlate with the self-identities of their milieu. When asked to describe their political views, however, independents prove to be almost evenly divided between conservative and liberal views (‘conservative’ actually enjoys an overall 2% advantage).

[W]ould you consider yourself to be politically…?
  • 12% very liberal
  • 21% somewhat liberal
  • 29% middle of the road
  • 21% somewhat conservative
  • 15% very conservative
  • 2% don’t know

The implication here is that independents either believe California’s Democratic establishment to be more conservative than it is, or the Republican establishment to be too conservative for mainstream views. Whatever the situation, independents’ self-identified party affinity does not correlate to their self-identified political views. It can therefore be assumed that party affinity does not fully predict independent voters' preference on issues. That is to say, they break for the Democrats sometimes, but break for Republicans other times.

To measure when they break one way or the other, independents’ responses on various initiatives and to questions are compared to those of self-identified Democrats and Republicans. Their party self-identity is the same as the rest of the population, and they should therefore respond exactly in the middle of Democratic and Republican results. Where they do not, demonstrates where their political views override their party affinity.

Independents’ ratings of Governor Schwarzenegger’s job will serve as an example and a baseline for other comparisons.

Governor Schwarzenegger’s job performance:


The difference between the Democratic and Republican responses is 19% in both cases, and the median is 9.5%. For both responses, the independents’ position places them 2.5% to the ‘left’ of the median, thus breaking in favor of the Democratic position on the question. As explained above, since independents self-identify themselves by party at almost the same rate as the rest of the population, this move away from a predicted response suggests that independents side with the Democrats when considering Governor Schwarzenegger's performance.

This 2.5% break towards the Democrats repeats in independents’ votes both for and against Proposition 1A. Interestingly, independents broke in favor of the Democratic position on Proposition 8 by 4% in voting yes and 6% in voting no. On Proposition 4, another socially contentious initiative, independents actually broke in favor of Republicans by 0.5%. On Propositions 8 and 4, independent voters swam against the stream.

Independents broke in favor of Republican positions also on Proposition 11, which seems contrary to their position on the Governor’s performance. Their break regarding the Legislature’s performance was mixed, with a 0.5% break towards the Democrats in approval, but a 3.5% break towards the Democrats in their disapproval. While Democrats were more supportive of the Legislature than Republicans, the difference in breaks shows that independents lean towards disapproval of the Legislature, just not to the degree that Republicans do, generally. More telling, is their 5.5% break in favor of the Republican position when asked whether they trust elected officials to write public policy, rather that the voters through initiatives. Republicans strongly distrust elected officials, and independents lean that way, too.

Conclusion: Trust is the Key to Independents’ Votes

Independent voters in California seem perfectly inclined to vote with Democrats in favor of public expenditures and even in defense of civil rights for homosexuals. When asked to trust elected representatives, they lean in disapproval of the Legislature, buck the Democrats’ faith in public officials, and even vote against their own dissatisfaction with Governor Schwarzenegger.

Going forward, the findings advise the strategist, especially those campaigning for liberal positions, to avoid the endorsement of elected personalities and promote liberal ideals. An independent voter likes liberal policies, but not policymakers.

The Job Hunt

I guess there's something worse than not finding the right job for you via joblists: finding a job posting caused by your own incompetence!

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen's (presumably) former Communications Director misspelled both Barack Obama's and Rahm Emanuel's names in a press release about the Congresswoman accidentally hanging up on both.

The lesson is this: Don't screw up trying to explain away your boss's screw ups.

A Sunday kind of love

My first day back in DC has been a rousing success!

I woke at 11:30; went for a jog; drank some coffee and read the Hill Rag; and season three of The Wire has finished downloading. Huzzah!

And all this on a THURSDAY, when most able-minded folks are, y'know, workin'.

The Winter of My Discontent

I heart DC, originally uploaded by sbma44.

It seems that I will have at least a month to consider my future, from my room in DC.

What should I do with my time? Suggestions?