Sunday, September 25, 2005

Unmasking whose big lie?

Daniel Weintraub’s using his regular column in the Bee to campaign for Arnold Schwarzenegger is not new, he has done it before. However the column of Sept.25, 2005 moved on to a new level. Now, Weintraub contends that those who disagree with the governor are not only opponents, they are propagandists and they are generating the Big Lie.

Since Weintraub has an important column and a voice at the Sacramento Bee editorial meetings, his new campaign merits some detailed analysis.

First, he states the case the way the Schwarzenegger people see it:

Daniel Weintraub: Unmasking the big lie at schools

Published 2:15 am PDT Sunday, September 25, 2005
“When a couple of dozen students from the leadership class at Sutter Middle School near downtown Sacramento gathered in the library the other day for a glimpse at a grown-up press conference, they probably had no idea they were going to see a modern demonstration of one of the oldest tactics in political propaganda: the big lie.
The occasion was the endorsement of Treasurer Phil Angelides, who is running for governor, by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez. The two Democrats used the moment to bash Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his policies.
"He said he wouldn't cut education," Angelides told the students, "but he did."
The treasurer's statement was the latest attempt by Democratic leaders and their allies in the teachers unions to persuade voters that the budget proposed by Schwarzenegger earlier this year and approved by the Legislature reduced funding for the schools. The governor's opponents think that if they repeat this lie often enough, people will believe it. So far, they have been right.
The truth, however, is that while Schwarzenegger did not give the schools as much as he once promised he would, his budget this year increased funding for education, and not by just a little. It provided $3 billion more for kindergarten through community colleges, including a $2.5 billion increase for K-12 alone. That was a 5 percent boost from the year before, or nearly $400 for every student enrolled in the public schools.”

So far Weintraub is correct about the numbers. But, a fundamental quality for fair reporting or debate is to consider not only the evidence which supports your thesis, but to give a fair hearing to evidence opposing your thesis. ( That Angelides and Nuñez are promoting a Big Lie)

In a feign at balance, Weintraub concedes that " Schwarzenegger did not give as much as he once promised he would," this softens the issue.

You see the $3 billion was not just a promise, it was the amount required to go to the schools by the constitutional provision called Proposition 98.

So, while the budget this year did increase, it did not increase enough to meet the constitutionally required Prop.98 re payment. Arnold took money from the schools and forced a second year of borrowing from the schools.
That is what the Teachers union and the major Democrats are saying. Now, you can agree or disagree, but it not about creating a big lie, as asserted by Weintraub, it is about does the governor fund the schools at the constitutionally mandated levels., Weintraub opposes this constitutional mandate so he dismisses it.

Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub tries to make the issue spending growth.
In this the Governor, and Weintraub, try a bait and switch. Recall that Arnold’s first act was to cut the VLF tax, cutting the money available to government. So, is there a tight budget, you bet. About 3 billion of that was caused by the governor’s actions a fact not mentioned by Weintraub.

Then lets look at this statement,
“Since 2000, the numbers are even more dramatic. State and local funding for the schools has grown by nearly $10 billion in this decade, despite an almost constant budget crunch in Sacramento. Per-student funding, usually considered the best measure of how the schools are doing, has grown from $6,266 in 2000 to $7,402 today, an increase of 18 percent.
The growth in education spending during those years has been worth about $34,000 for every class of 30 students.
So while it is true that California schools get less than the national average, and less than they would like, they have not been cut in recent years and certainly not starved, as some would have you believe.”

Again, the numbers are accurate, but the argument is duplicitous. Schwarzenegger was not governor in 2000- 2003. He was elected in Oct. 2003. He did not write these budgets. The budgets were generous to schools- as mandated by Proposition 98. Actually it is widely acknowledged that his first budget, for the 2004-2005 year, was a virtual mirror image of the budget Gray Davis would have passed- except for the cuts to school funding and the repayments to school funding if cuts were necessary for a crisis period.

This history is all quite urgent since the governor proposes in Prop. 76 to give the governor the right to make just such cuts in times of financial crisis.

Without knowing the inner workings of the Bee, which I don’t,
I cannot tell why this particularly scathing column attacking the integrity of the governor’s opponents appeared this week.
This may be Weintraub's effort to state things his way (partially) in an effort to win the debate at the BEE editorial board for the Bee's endorsement of a No or Yes vote on Prop. 74 and 76. Or, perhaps the board has already decided, but kept it a secret and Weintraub is trying to get his dissent as the predominant theme.

It is worth noting that just a few weeks ago, the Bee praised Arnold for fulfilling the mandates of allocating gasoline tax money to road improvement, citing the Prop. 42 requirement to do so.
They have not explained why fulfilling a constitutional mandate to roads is an honorable policy option, but fulfilling a constitutional mandate to school funding is not worth mentioning.

Then Weintraub continues, “The increase this year is all the more remarkable because it came at a time when the state was facing - and still faces - a $6 billion gap between projected spending and tax revenues. The budget for the schools was almost exactly what was recommended by the state's nonpartisan and widely respected legislative analyst, Elizabeth Hill, and was supported by almost every Democrat in the Legislature, including Núñez.
Projections suggest that school budgets will continue to at least keep pace with enrollment and inflation in the coming years, and probably do better. The real question will be not how much money should the state's taxpayers spend on the schools, but how should that money be spent?”

Well, not quite honest. Has Dan forgotten the bitter budget wars this Spring in which the Democrats and Nunez tried to increase school funding? They were forced to compromise on this budget by the requirement of a 2/3 vote and the threat of the governor’s initiatives (2 out of 3 of which are now lagging in the polls).

Here is how the BEE reported on the compromise on July 8, 2005.
“The spending plan increases education spending by $384 per pupil over last fiscal year but does not include $3 billion more sought by Democrats and education leaders.”

Since Weintraub follows the legislature closely I am confident that he knows that the statement that this budget was supported by almost every Democrat is not accurate.

Now, it is accurate that this budget was supported by Elizabeth Hill, the non elected legislative analysis. But, that still does not deal with the Proposition 98 obligation. Hill, like Wientraub opposes the Prop. 98 obligation.

More to follow on this story.
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