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Arnold Schwarzenegger: The Bad Record of a Bad Governor

Arnold one year later: though Arnold Schwarzenegger gained public office
through a popular appeal labeling him as frugal and moderate, his first year in
office shows that he is neither,
New American, The / Jan 10, 2005 [He got no better therafter]

by Roger Canfield

In the fall of 2003, Californians cast an historic vote. In a special recall election, they
removed their governor, Gray Davis, who now holds the distinction of being only
the second governor in American history to be recalled from office. In that
same special election, Californians voted to replace Gray Davis with Hollywood
mega-star Arnold Schwarzenegger, a naturalized citizen who had never held an
elective office.

A year later, Operation Arnold launched a petition campaign to amend the U.S. Constitution so
that Schwarzenegger can run for president. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) introduced the amendment in the last Congress.
Arnold’s supporters are running ads on cable television.

Is Schwarzenegger in favor of amending the Constitution so that he can be
president? “Yes. Absolutely,” said the governator during an interview
at the Republican National Convention. “I think, you know, because why
not?” he continued. “Like with my way of thinking, you always shoot
for the top. But it’s not something that I am preoccupied with…. Because
there’s so many things I have to do in California, and my promise was to
straighten out the mess in California.”

Sweeping Out Davis

So how about the mess in California?

Former Governor Gray Davis had fiddled until the lights went out–literally.

Davis had continued the policies of his predecessors, using environmental excuses to prevent the
construction of any new energy plants, even as population and energy use
soared, energy prices skyrocketed, and rolling blackouts contributed to the
Golden State’s economic implosion.

Davis and the Legislature continued a
state-spending binge of windfall revenues from the dotcom bubble. His policy
decisions seemed driven by a Clinton-style “pay to play” fundraising
that amounted to nothing less than political extortion and selling government
service to the highest bidder.

Despite such malfeasance in office, as late as
the summer of 2003 the California media found car chases and celebrity murder
cases more interesting. California’s government sank invisibly and silently
into a dark, deep ooze of incompetence and public indifference. The governor
and the Legislature worked in obscurity. No media covered their chicanery.

Ted Costa, executive director of People’s Advocates, led a grass-roots effort to gather
enough signatures to force a recall of Davis. Leaders of both parties opposed
him, but after a financial boost by California businessman/congressman Daryl
Issa (who had his own designs on the governorship), signatures flooded in. A
successful recall of Davis required a parallel election for his successor. The
governor’s race turned into a circus as over a hundred candidates jumped into
the fray, including a Sumo wrestler, a comedian, a stripper, a porn star, and
various socialists and environmental extremists.

Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy on the Jay Leno show. At his Sacramento
campaign launch, he said, “Please bring me the broom…. We are here to
clean house, to sweep out the special interests, and we are here, number one,
to sweep out Gray Davis.” Schwarzenegger’s celebrity immediately brought worldwide
attention to California.

California’s Republican leaders, who were positively giddy over Arnold’s star power, did
everything possible to undermine support for state Senator Tom McClintock, the
Republican front-runner. McClintock had established a strong pro-life,
pro-family, pro-business, pro-gun record in the Legislature and was especially
noted for his grasp of budgetary matters and his campaigns to drastically cut
government spending. Schwarzenegger co-opted most of McClintock’s economic
program, and the Republican leadership pushed the line that Arnold was a
McClintock who could win, a bigger-than-life movie action hero who could slay
the state’s economic demons as easily as he did the bad guys in his pulp
fiction films. In the end Davis was gone, and the two Republican front-runners,
Schwarzenegger and conservative Tom McClintock, together won over 60 percent of
the vote.

Leftward, Ho!

On day one, Schwarzenegger took over Sacramento lock, stock, and barrel. His State of the
State speech, a media event of the first magnitude, was relocated to a large
public auditorium outside of the Capitol crowded with reporters, dozens of
camera crews from around the world, and network news teams providing live
national TV coverage. Schwarzenegger delivered a speech written with the
rhetoric, if not the substance, of conservative Tom McClintock. Adding
Terminator, Conan, and Predator flourishes, the new governor pledged to throw
out the “special interests” and “blow up” the government
bureaucracy. He promised to reduce California’s high tax and regulatory
burdens. His speech was a big hit. Barbara O’Connor, director of the Institute
for the Study of Politics and Media at Cal State Sacramento, commented:
“The enthusiasm is infectious. The content is almost immaterial.”

Unfortunately, O’Connor’s observation has proven to be all too accurate. Schwarzenegger’s
politics confound just about everyone. Conservatives have found something to
like in the governor’s economic rhetoric, but his environmental policies
conflict with his commitment to a better business climate. Similarly, his
social policies–pro-abortion, prohomosexual, anti-gun–are harmful to life and
liberty.

Arnold loves the limelight and loves to wheel and deal. He knows his movie superstar status
charms, mesmerizes, and melts even many of the toughest opponents. He slaps
backs and offers cigars and deals to everyone in sight. He is the consummate
actor constantly seeking and getting adoration. That appears to be his criteria
of success. He loves the camaraderie of making a deal, but backs off from tough
fights. Here are a few examples:

* Car tax: One of the key issues that had
galvanized the recall election was an illegal $4 billion tripling of the car
tax, passed by Governor Davis and the Democrat-controlled Legislature.
Motorists were furious. Tom McClintock led a popular, bipartisan, state-wide
initiative effort to eliminate the car tax completely. Schwarzenegger seized
the issue and pledged to terminate the tax. After the election, McClintock
dropped his car tax initiative because of promises by Arnold’s advisers that
the new governor would support McClintock’s proposals. Once sworn in, Arnold
seemed to fulfill his promise to voters and McClintock. He rescinded the car
tax increase, but left the tax itself intact. He thus left open the possibility
of a doubling or tripling of the car tax at a future date–something the
Legislature has shown in the past it is very willing to do.

* Workmen’s compensation: California’s
workers compensation system for injured workers has long been infamous for the
highest premiums and the lowest benefits in the nation. Some premiums reached
50 percent of a company’s payroll. The system played a major role in 3.3
million people fleeing California between the 1990 and 2000 censuses. Along
with that exodus went thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of
jobs. At Governor Schwarzenegger’s urging, the California Chamber of Commerce
paid $5 million to gather the one million signatures required to qualify an
initiative to comprehensively reform Workmen’s Compensation. But, instead of
following through on that effort, Arnold cut a deal with Democrat leaders in
the Legislature and declared a victory over the workers’ comp crisis. The
Chamber of Commerce dropped its initiative, but Arnold’s deal did not fix this
disaster. It is a fig leaf that will have minuscule impact, perhaps reducing
premiums by 5 percent. But if you’re drowning with a 100-pound anchor tied
around your neck and someone takes off five pounds, are you going to declare
that a victory?

* Illegal aliens: Another catalyzing issue in the recall was Governor Davis’ signing of legislation
granting California driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. Stung by the voter
backlash, the Legislature reversed course and repealed the law. Schwarzenegger
signed the repeal as one of his first acts in office. However, he called a
special session of the Legislature to negotiate a deal for an alternative
version of an alien driver’s license legislation. But when a conservative
grass-roots citizens’ effort qualified a ballot initiative to ban the idea he
was forced to back off.

* Homosexual “marriage”: In 2000, California voters overwhelmingly
approved Proposition 22, defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
While San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom issued marriage licenses to homosexuals,
in public defiance of the law, Schwarzenegger did nothing. He verbally
condemned the mayor, but did not enforce state law. In fact, Schwarzenegger
signed a law requiring insurance companies to provide health insurance policies
to same-sex domestic partners. On CNN’s Larry King Live, Schwarzenegger was
asked, “Where do you stand on gay marriage?” The governor responded:
“Well, exactly what we have now as a law in this state. That everyone has
equal rights and the same rights as a married couple has. I believe in that
very strongly…. [A]nything that makes the relationship, you know, strong and
also gives them the same rights that a married couple has…. I think our law
in California already says we have moved really far along in that area.”

Continuing Budget Fiasco

One of the best measures of Governor Schwarzenegger’s actual accomplishments is the state budget. For his
budget director, he picked Donna Arduin, who had cut state budgets in Florida,
New York, and Michigan. The governor and Arduin began with a bold budget plan
proposing to hold spending at a fixed $72 billion and to cut 16 percent from
state programs and bureaucracies. But time and again Arnold retreated before
opposition from Democrats, public employee unions, and recipient groups.

In a much-ballyhooed deal with the California Teachers Association Arnold advertised a $2 billion cut in the
education budget. In fact, the budget increased by $2 billion. He claimed to
reach a deal to stop long-standing state thefts of local government revenues to
feed bloated state bureaucracies. Liberal Democrats protested. Arnold caved and
“stole” revenues, designated by law for local governments, to use in
his state budget. Locals qualified a ballot measure to fix the problem,
Proposition 65. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger campaigned instead for
Proposition 1A, a weaker version of his reneged deal with local governments.

Seeking to save hundreds of millions, Arnold Schwarzenegger had promised to
renegotiate overly generous labor contracts with a dozen public employee
unions. Particularly egregious was a 37 percent pay increase Governor Davis had
granted to the prison guards union (the California Correctional Peace Officers
Association). In the end the governor only delayed these outrageous increases
for a year.

While Arnold was entertaining liberals and dismaying conservatives, the Democrat party leaders mobilized
public employee unions, people in wheelchairs, sick children, trial lawyers,
and others to oppose his proposed budget cuts.

Arnold backed off nearly $3 billion on measures that he had originally proposed as spending cuts. He folded
before bureaucrats claiming an interest in protecting women and children. He
restored funds for child welfare and child-abuse programs. He signed a bill
raising fees for marriage, birth, and death records to fund domestic and family
violence programs. He gave up on hundreds of millions in savings in health and welfare.

The budget was very familiar–the usual accounting tricks, gimmicks, and book cooking used by recent California
governors and legislators. It understated spending and overstated revenues. It
reached into every cookie jar: sales taxes, property taxes, and vehicle license
fees were taken from local agencies. Tens of billions were stolen from fuel
taxes set aside to build highways and bridges. The theft extended to funds set
aside for airports, marinas, off-road facilities, and 911 telephone equipment.

Having stolen everything in sight and hidden everything else, Schwarzenegger and the Legislature proposed
borrowing heavily to balance the budget, calling for $15 billion in bonds
compared with Davis’s $13 billion. In March 2004, voters approved the
Schwarzenegger plan for $15 billion in bonds to pay off current spending
excesses. To save face, the governor also backed a phony balanced budget amendment,
Proposition 58, that in fact further weakened a relentlessly eroding
constitutional limit on spending and taxes.

By July the Legislature voted for a $105.3 billion budget with no declared tax increases and only $1 billion in
increased “fees.” The first Arnold budget ended with a $17 billion
budget deficit for the current year and deficits projected to be $8 billion in 2005 and $10 billion in 2006.

Just like Gray Davis before him, Arnold Schwarzenegger has failed either to defend his initial budget or to use
his line item veto power to cut the Legislature’s budget.

More Liberal Than Gray Davis? On a wide range of issues Schwarzenegger is
considerably more liberal than Gray Davis:

*Unlike Gray Davis, Schwarzenegger has refused to overturn the state parole
board when it recommends releasing convicted murderers who have served their
minimum sentences. Over five years Davis agreed to release only six. In one
year Republican Schwarzenegger has approved 60 parole recommendations,
including 48 murderers.

* While a federal “assault weapons” ban expired and Congress refused to renew it, Schwarzenegger
signed a state law outlawing .50-caliber single-shot and bolt-action rifles as
“assault weapons.” Gray Davis had vetoed a similar measure.

* He signed a bill by Senator Sheila Kuehl, a militant lesbian activist, that extends hate-crimes to include
“transgender people”–cross-dressers and transsexuals. Davis did not support this idea.

* Schwarzenegger signed a bill granting food stamps to some convicted felons. Davis had vetoed such a measure.

* He signed a law giving up to ten needles to anyone–junkies, diabetics, and anyone else–without a
prescription. Davis vetoed a similar measure.

* Schwarzenegger broke new ground in his active support of a $3 billion proposition for California
taxpayer-funded research upon embryonic stem cells.

* He pushed through state funding for a hydrogen fuel boondoggle costing $75
million to construct 200 government-run filling stations, rather than allowing
the market to decide which technologies would advance.

* Schwarzenegger signed about two dozen so-called environmental bills into law, which include creating a Sierra
Nevada Conservancy to provide bond funds to buy private property; establishing
a five-member Ocean Protection Council to coordinate California’s coastal
regulation: requiring every California resident to have a water meter;
requiring smog checks for all vehicles built since 1976; and regulating cruise
ship pollution of coastal waters.

During a swing through Germany in
December 2004, Schwarzenegger revealed his secret desire for the GOR In an
interview with the German daily, Sueddeutsche
Zeitung
, he complained that “the Republican Party currently covers
only the spectrum from the right wing to the middle.” “I would like the
Republican Party to cross this line, move a little further left,” he said.
Further left? That’s precisely the direction the party leaders have been taking
the GOP for 50 years, ratifying and expanding all the revolutionary Democrat
programs of FDR, Truman, JFK, LBJ, Carter, and Clinton.

Can Arnold sell more leftward slide to the party faithful? “I am a salesman by nature,”
Schwarzenegger said at his inauguration, “If I can sell tickets to my
movies like Red Sonja or Last Action Hero [both were huge box-office failures],
you know I can sell just about anything.” His first year in office proved
that was not an empty boast. But if Arnold represents the future of the
Republican Party, will it be that much different from a Democrat Party
represented by Hillary Clinton?

Roger Canfield worked nearly 20 years at the California State Legislature, was a political columnist for the Sacramento Union, and worked on the
campaign of Tom McClintock for governor in 2003.

 

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