Jewish World Review May 23, 2005/ 14 Iyar, 5765

Wesley Pruden

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Terminating swag, blighting the lotus | Arnold Schwarzenegger is getting a few insights into the life of George W. Bush. When Democrats get frustrated and desperate, they can be as deadly as the bad guys in a Terminator movie.

The governor is struggling with his budget, the drop-dead deadline is July 1, and the Democrats in his legislature are trying (and succeeding) to be as difficult as possible. They want to raise taxes, the default position of all faulty pols.

The wonderfully named speaker of the General Assembly, Rep. Fabian Nunez, accuses Mr. Schwarzenegger not of differing with him on what to do about a gap of billions of dollars in a $116 billion budget, but of "dishonesty." Just like the desperados in Washington.

A specific item at issue is a ballot proposal to protect union members from the depredations of their leaders by requiring public-employee unions to get written permission from members each year before spending their dues on political campaigns. Since most union bosses are Democrats and a lot of their members are not, this naturally upsets Democrats in the legislature. A lot of swag is at stake.

The speaker says the governor assured him "privately and repeatedly" that he had nothing to do with the so-called "paycheck protection" initiative.

"I just took his word for it. And now we learn that not only is the governor [tied] to it, he has decided that he's going to raise money to get this on the ballot and certainly to get it passed. It really speaks to the type of dishonesty that comes out of the governor's office."

For his part, Mr. Schwarzenegger says he merely assigned aides to research the ballot initiative, as he does all such initiatives, and accuses Democrats of looking for ways to raise taxes to balance the state budget.

"The same people are back at it again, trying to spend more money that we don't have, trying to increase taxes. Spend, spend, spend. It's the same ballgame again." Most Democrats in Sacramento agree that if the governor backs the initiative the voters will approve it; a strategy to keep it off the ballot, and away from the voters, is the only way to keep the swag flowing.

"It's the worst-kept secret in Sacramento that the governor's behind the paycheck-protection initiative," a Democratic consultant tells the Los Angeles Times. "Democrats, Democratic constituencies and labor groups are all fully aware that this is the governor's play."

The paycheck-protection initiative is the brainchild of a Sacramento anti-tax crusader named Lewis K. Uhler, and it's backed by coalitions of small-business owners and other veterans of anti-tax campaigns in the state. California is, of course, where the tax revolt that propelled Ronald Reagan to Washington began a generation ago. Tax-and-spend politicians are rightly terrified of such ballot initiatives. The ghost of Howard Jarvis, who started it all, hovers just above the smog.

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The teachers' union accuses the governor of trying to balance his budget by continuing to withhold $2 billion he took away from the schools last year and promised to put it back this year. Not so, he says: he promised to put it back but didn't say he would do it this year.

But he further angered the education lobby by "raiding" money for schools to avoid a "raid" of $1.3 billion allocated to highways. The numbers crunchers in Sacramento concede that keeping the money for roads — roads are popular with everyone, even Scrooges allergic to children — is smart because the highway allocation is a one-time deal, and anything allotted to schools must be renewed each year because a previously approved voter initiative mandates it. Life is never uncomplicated in the land of the eternal search for the lotus.

The governor stoked a new controversy earlier this week, and heartburn at the White House, with kind words for the Minuteman patrol of the nation's porous southern border, which will soon move from Arizona to a stretch of the boundary south of San Diego. The Minutemen wouldn't be necessary, the governor said pointedly (and logically), if the federal government would do its job of protecting the border from wave after wave of illegal immigrants.

President Bush originally compared the Minutemen to vigilantes, and when there was no catastrophe on the Arizona border the order went out to the Border Patrol to ease up on enforcing the law to avoid making the Minuteman Project look successful. But the Minutemen are hugely popular with the peasants in the grass roots. The Terminator, a legal immigrant himself, offers George W. an insight of his own.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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