A well-delivered speech can give you a gut feeling. Words are emotionally coded. They carry inferences, demands and promises. Coming from the mouth of a masterful politician and/or actor, well-choreographed word combinations can be beautiful to behold. I found myself enthralled by this fact as I sat thoroughly entertained and satisfied by the State of the State address given by our governor on Tuesday night.
I also felt conflicted. It was sort of like the “matrix” was flickering on and off, a “Total Recall”-like experience, if you will. Something just wasn’t right. Under that uplifting rhetoric lay motivations very unlike my own. After the speech was over and the charisma and flawless performance by our governor started to vacate the pleasure sensors in my brain, I took another look at what was said. What was the man trying to say?
He started by saying he wanted to talk about “the progress that we’ve made, the problems we have yet to overcome and the path we will follow to overcome them.” Excellent theme for a State of the State speech. The next two sentences began with “I have no doubt” and “I feel good,” respectively. Repeat after me – “I have no doubt, I feel good.” The two sentences in full read: “I have no doubt that, together, Californians are more than a match for the challenges we face. I feel good because I believe I have made progress in rebuilding the people’s trust in their government.” I wonder when the poll was conducted. I haven’t seen any of the trust-in-government surveys circulating on campus.
What the governor has done – “the progress we have made” – consisted of repealing the car tax and repealing a law that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to get California driver licenses. The list of “the problems we have yet to overcome” is even shorter: The state will not have enough money to fund all of the items in the budget.
The solution, – “the path we will follow to overcome them” – seems so simple. Pass a bond measure and make cuts to services – and whatever you do, don’t raise taxes. That last one made me wince a little bit. Maybe I would look at it differently if I were one of the spectacularly wealthy citizens of our state, such as our illustrious governor. Why should this budget be balanced on the backs of the poor, elderly, disabled and college students? These are the citizens who benefit the least from the vast resources of our state. I know this will sound blasphemous to any laissez-faire economist, but it might not be a terrible moral and fiscal sin to ask more from our wealthy citizens than we do from our poor citizens, particularly in times of financial crisis, i.e. increasing taxation on the wealthy. In the current economic climate, I’m sure I must seem unpatriotic, at the very least, to suggest that America’s wealthy should, in any way, help bail America out. In their defense, I’m sure that their pocketbooks, too, are feeling the strain from the overwhelmingly huge campaign donations they provide their favorite policymakers.
I also winced a little at the following: “Some of the recommended actions I will make by executive order. Some will require legislation and some will need constitutional change.” It just irritates my democratic sensibilities to hear the governor mention each branch of government like that. This statement is followed by: “I want your ideas, and the more radical the better.” So maybe that makes it OK, since he’s going to use our ideas and all.
In any event, when the details of the proposed budget cuts are made public on Friday, the public will see what programs and services will suffer the pain and just how much pain that will be. Optimism flowed freely from this speech, with feel-good words and ideas. Making the practical effects of cuts feel good will be more difficult to achieve.
Tiye Baldwin is a Daily Nexus staff writer.