California legislators have recently reached an agreement with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on a tentative plan to close the state's $26 billion budget gap. Schwarzenegger's massive financial overhaul contains no broad-based taxation, instead opting for extensive budget cuts for social services such as children's healthcare, local government, the welfare program, public education and universities. In total, the new budget contains $15.6 billion in cuts. Also included in the cuts are large cutbacks for the prison system, reducing the number of inmates and laying off prison guards.
When do we get to say enough is enough to fiscal conservatism? Can we really expect to have a fair and just society, when the burden of budget cuts fall squarely on those who need it most? Year after year, Schwarzenegger has consistently cut funding for education and just about every other public service, yet he has also been unwilling to raise taxes in any significant way. The reduction of prison spending, including the early release of some prisoners is probably a positive (given the absurd statistics of incarceration in California) but the facts of other crucial cuts in spending are still troubling, to say the least. If this plan gains enough support, it will cut billions in spending for public schools and healthcare and shut down over two dozen state parks.
Don't get me wrong. Balancing the budget is no easy feat, and $26 billion is a lot of money (try this). But there seems to be a fundamental problem with the theory that cutting social services will be economically beneficial to the state: it lacks foresight. A healthy state economy is built upon healthy infrastructure, including good schools, hospitals and transportation. Depriving people of their equal opportunity to the tools necessary for success only serves to preserve the current economic hierarchy, causing economy to stagnate instead of growing. Is it unreasonable to consider significant tax increases in place of drastic cuts that undermine our potential for economic growth and cause such widespread suffering? Just a thought. Read up on the buget plan here.