I attended the annual Town Hall meeting the other day on the annual California state budget crisis. The proceedings were tepid until regular people got to speak.
Jean Ross, from the California Budget Project, and two business owners talked, mostly Ross, fortunately. Jean Ross knows the budget and still one of the audience members challenged some of her numbers. That’s the thing about numbers—they can change in an instant. The guy seemed to think his numbers were more recent and therefore better. Neither of them—or the rest of us, for that matter—was in a position to know for sure what the numbers were, like knowing who’s at the end of your arm or how that droopy basil has perked up.
Some numbers changed, and now Pluto’s not a planet. Pluto has done nothing unusual, and yet its membership’s been cancelled, and I bet numbers are to blame. In Galápagos, by Kurt Vonnegut, the monetary system had collapsed, and people realized it was make-believe all along.
Most money is just electronic impulses these days, so to fix the budget, California politicians could just get some extra impulses from the Federal Reserve System. The Fed could press SEND, and everything would be cool in Cali. The Fed would do it if we asked the right way, maybe with our cheeks spread.
One thing I learned at the meeting is that corporate tax breaks are secret, like the Pentagon’s black budget and everything about the Central Intelligence Agency. Even using “intelligence” is a lie, like the department of “defense” or the “justice” system. “Information,” “war,” and “punishment” are waay too frank.
Some of the audience members were actually affected by the budget, unlike the speakers, who were not about to suffer because of the budget. The Medi-Cal people were in the audience.
There was some dissatisfaction with the two-thirds-vote requirement for the legislature to increase taxes, but not much, and that’s as close as anybody got to mentioning structural change, which is the only thing likely to make a lasting difference. Rather than whine and quibble about the legislature, we could eliminate it altogether.
I got the feeling most people at the meeting wanted to preserve the American way of life. One of the business owners who’s also a politician objected to solar and wind power because they don’t lower the price of gasoline. He seemed to think that makes sense.
I think that our way of life has played out. It was quite a ride, yes, and now it’s going the fuck away.