Schwarzenegger's administration troubling to the left

    In the wake of the Oct. 7 recall, an election that has Republicans shouting “”Finally!”” and Democrats shaking their heads in utter bafflement, a refrain from both sides has been the subconscious comparisons between Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger and former governor Ronald Reagan.

    Both were actors, both are conservative and both are marked by financial policy that had a lot of hype and a lot of myths.

    Of course Reagan actually had a political career to back his rise to governor status while all Schwarzenegger has is the astonishing ability to swindle his way into power. But that’s another issue.

    The real danger of these comparisons would be to idealize Reagan’s time in office as something Californians should hope to repeat. If anything, Reagan’s economic policies on both the state and federal level were misguided and misapplied, and once the myths are separated from the reality, it becomes clear that the last person who should be serving as a gubernatorial precedent is Ronald Reagan.

    Schwarzenegger spoke glowingly about the wonderful days of the 1960s, when, in Schwarzenegger’s words, “”this great state said to the people everywhere: Come here, work hard, play by the rules and your dreams can come true.””

    In 1968, California was a high-tax state ‹ among the top 10 in the country. The previous year, California’s newly-instated Republican governor, Ronald Reagan, had just called for and signed the biggest tax increase in the history of any state.

    Throughout the recall, taxation was an issue. Republican candidates Schwarzenegger and State Sen. Tom McClintock repeated time and time again that they would work to lower taxes in the great tradition of conservative economics. But after looking at what those kind of policies have done in the past, that strategy should be a concern for citizens across the political spectrum ‹ not just in California.

    The total federal tax burden increased during the Reagan years, and most Americans paid more in taxes after Reagan than before. The “”Reagan Recovery”” was unremarkable. It looks great only contrasted against the dismal Reagan recession ‹ but it had nothing to do with supply side shenanigans.

    With a red ink explosion ‹ $300 billion deficits looming as far as the eye could see ‹ GOP Senators, notably including Bob Dole, led the way on tax hikes. The economy enjoyed its recovery only after tax increases larger than the total tax cuts were implemented. Perhaps most importantly, in terms of an administration-by- administration analysis, average annual gross domestic product growth during the Reagan ’80s was lower than during the Clinton administration.

    The only argument that should rally the fiscally conservative is the possibility of wanting to generate huge deficits as a mechanism for ensuring small governments. It was Reagan who cried, “”Get the government off our backs!”” To that end, the far right could encourage restricted budgets because it means that there is no possibility of creating social programs and no possibility of financing a big government. If this seems extreme or alarming, that’s because guaranteeing one’s aims through an economic stronghold is not a justifiable method. If social programs are to be cut, it should be done through the will of the people, not through manipulation of taxation that indirectly assures an extremist agenda.

    Perhaps it seems ridiculous to compare fiscal policy then with fiscal policy now. Perhaps it seems silly to look at the federal level in the context of a state position. But it is most certainly relevant to consider trends that have been made apparent within the presidential agenda and apply them to a more local context.

    California has grown increasingly conservative over the past decade, despite its image as a state filled with progressive left-wing liberals. So perhaps it isn’t entirely astonishing to see a Republican come to power in the recall election, although it was certainly a rude awakening for liberals.

    It would be not only astonishing but extremely disquieting to see his office repeat the mistakes of the past. With the comparisons to a predecessor whose legacy is anything but admirable, concern over history repeating itself could very well constitute the only humor that liberals will be able to find in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 election.

    Hopefully, their previous occupations as actors is all that Reagan and Schwarzenegger will have in common.

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