Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Arnold Schwarzenegger was sworn in yesterday as California's new Governor. His speech was beautiful, hitting all the right notes. The guest speakers were well chosen, and representative of this great state. It was almost enough to give one hope. It was almost enough to make one say, "Hey, let's give this guy a chance. Maybe he can work a Sacramento Miracle after all."

And then he went to his new office and added another $4 billion to the state's deficit problem. I won't lie: I'll be happy to pay less on my car registration. I won't insist on paying the higher fee, just on principle. But when I have to pay out ten times that amount over the coming years to pay off the debt, I might regret it.

In a day filled with symbolism, repealing the repeal of the VLF cut was right up there. (Yes, "repealing the repeal." The "increase" in the Vehicle license Fee was actually a restoration to its previous level. When it was cut - during good economic times - the mechanism was put in place to return the VLF to the original higher rates in times of economic emergency).

The recall campaign, and the Governor's agenda yesterday, showed how out of touch Californians (Americans?) are with the consequences of their actions. They were simultaneously angry at the politicians for A) putting the state into debt, and B) actually trying to pay off the debt.

Again, I'm not wild about paying the higher VLF. But I'd rather do that than incur more debt that I'll be paying on my income taxes for the next generation.

There's a third element to yesterday's symbolism, and the disconnect between reality and our new prime-time series based in Sacramento. Arnold's third stop yesterday - after announcing that he was "beholden to no one except the people" - was to speak to a business lobbying group... and let them know that he'd require their financial support. It's not all special interests that we're against, after all; it's just other people's "special" interests.

Welcome to Arnold's California. "It's a whole new hideous age."

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