The Times to California Democracy: Drop Dead

The Times is still having difficulty dealing with democracy in California - namely the state's unique ballot initiatives, which sometimes produces results inconvenient to a liberal agenda. First it was last year's surprise passage of Proposition 8, a ban on gay marriage that threw the Times for a loop. This week it was the rejection of five fiscal measures in a special statewide referendum on Tuesday, notably Proposition 1A, pushed by supporters and the Times as a necessary measure of fiscal solvency that would have raised or extended a variety of taxes in return for a vague spending cap.

Thursday's front-page story by Jennifer Steinhauer, "In California, Democracy Doesn't Pay the Bills," came on the heels of her equally insulting Wednesday piece, "Calif. Voters Reject Measures to Keep State Solvent."

(The online headline to Thursday's story was milder: "California, a Broke State, Reels as Voters Rebuff Leaders.")

Even a photo caption showing a glum, bored poll worker echoed the theme that it was California voters who had irresponsibly doomed their state to bankruptcy, not the lawmakers who had made the mess in the first place:

Larry Vida, a poll worker, waited for voters on Tuesday, when Californians rejected measures intended to keep the state solvent.

Steinhauer aimedher firstsneer at California's "direct democracy":

Direct democracy has once again upended California - enough so that the state may finally consider another way by overhauling its Constitution for the first time in 130 years.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger returned home from a White House visit on Wednesday to find the state dangerously broke, his constituents defiant after a special election on Tuesday and calls for a constitutional convention - six months ago little more than a wonkish whisper - a cacophony.

As the notion of California as ungovernable grows stronger than ever, Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has expressed support for a convention to address such things as the state's arcane budget requirements and its process for proliferate ballot initiatives, both of which necessitated Tuesday's statewide vote on budget matters approved months ago by state lawmakers.

Steinhauer characterized the one ballot measure that passed - halting pay hikes for lawmakers - as a temper tantrum that voters would soon come to regret:

The only ballot measure to succeed was one that prevented lawmakers and constitutional officers from getting raises in times of fiscal distress, a sort of chin-out electoral scowl by voters, who will now probably see their health care systems, schools and other services erode. On Friday, the state controller, John Chiang, and the treasurer, Bill Lockyer, are expected to appear before lawmakers and warn them that the state is nearly unable to pay its bills.

Steinhauer's assumption that insufficient taxation is the problem ignores the spending side, although as George Will wrote in a May 3 column, it's spending that is the real problem, not tax rates: "In Schwarzenegger's less than six years as governor, per capita government spending, adjusted for inflation, has increased nearly 20 percent."