I can still hear the cheers and occasional jeers from the uproarious crowd at the tiny mall praising the man who would save our state from debt and promote unity in Sacramento.
Yes, Arnold did come to my small town this past summer to speak about the upcoming budget plans, and since I had only seen him stating now famous catchphrases like “Who is your daddy and what does he do?” on the big screen, I decided to attend the speech and see what he was like in person. Now don’t get me wrong, I agree that “Terminator 2” was one of the best action movies in the last 10-or-so years, but I’m still coming to terms with the fact that our governor is also known as “Mr. Universe,” and thus I’m still skeptical of his place in the political arena.
As he rose to the dais and began his speech, Arnold roused us with his powerful words such as “unity” and “compassion” and even threw in a couple of jokes about Democrats. I didn’t really care about his insults and neither did most of the pro-Republican crowd, but when he began to talk about cutting funding for “special interest groups” I began to listen carefully. He proclaimed that Sacramento was doling out too much money for unnecessary groups. Yet recently, reports have shown that Arnold has been increasing corporate tax credits and proposing legislation that would ensure protection of real estate property taxes and roll back prices to 1978 levels. The hypocrisy of targeting overspending on certain interest groups and then giving in to corporate greed must be questioned, even if the figure in charge is able to demolish machines, disembowel predators and tame a class of kindergarteners.
Our state debt has increased 40 percent to an astronomical $26 billion since the Governator took office. This doesn’t look good – especially for college students who are already strapped for cash when trying to pay for education. Education fees have risen 50 percent, and if the current trend continues, next year’s deficit will reach $8.1 billon, which is comparable to the total spent on California’s community, state and university schools. How do we expect students to receive the education they deserve when our state government can’t afford to finance the institutions? I guess the only thing Arnold has “pumped up” so far is the debt, and now people are letting him know about it.
A recent poll showed Arnie’s popularity dropping among some of the Democrats and liberals in the legislature and state in general. Now, I know that some of you are saying that polls don’t mean anything, but the reality is that Arnold will need bipartisan support in this great progressive-thinking state of ours if in fact he intends to push his reforms. Teachers deserve to be paid accordingly for the work they do in molding the minds of future leaders, and until the budget crisis is straightened out, educators must grin and bear the current conditions, which include a proposal to slash the California State Teachers’ Retirement System by $469 billion, or 49.4 percent. Something is indeed wrong when the largest percentage of the budget cut comes in the realm of education. Surely Arnold can empathize with teachers; after all, he did manage to turn a raucous band of kindergarteners into a respectable bunch that would make any drill sergeant proud.
Looking back to that day at the mall when Arnold announced his plan to fix the state budget, I realize that even a man with that much star power has to endure the often caustic world of politics. When asked by a local reporter what I thought of the speech, I responded that he is a very charismatic man but I was disappointed that he didn’t discuss the state of education. The reporter looked at me blankly and said this event was a chance for Arnold to speak of the budget in general terms. As she told me this, I had to ask myself whether educational issues constituted an important part of the budget plan.
Today, as students, we must all ask ourselves what education means to us and make our voices heard before Arnold has a chance to pull the plug on educational funding with a simple “hasta la vista, baby.”
Spencer Erickson is a sophomore communication major.