Would California have been this messed up if Schwarzenegger tryst had come out in 2003?

All right, just for argument's sake: Let's say California voters had learned about this Love Child business prior to the special election (keeping in mind that he was supposed to have fathered the kid nearly a decade ago). Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum considers the possibilities:

it's almost a dead certainty that the recall would have failed and Gray Davis would have remained governor. The car tax would have stayed in place, no bonds would have been issued to make up for it, and California's deficit problems would have been less than half as bad as they turned out to be under Schwarzenegger. That's what comes of running a politically motivated snap election with weird rules in six weeks: you don't really know what you're getting.

Well, maybe. But don't minimize the role of anti-tax whack jobs like Ted Costa and Sal Russo (unofficial founder of the Tea Party) who managed to convince a majority of California voters that the car tax had to go (the recall effort won by a comfortable margin). Also don't minimize the damage that the mortgage meltdown had on the overall California economy, leading to lower tax revenues and higher deficits (that would have happened no matter who was running the show). And let's be honest: state government had been on a dysfunctional course well before Schwarzenegger even considered a run for governor. Why? In a nutshell, blame term limits, the outrageous initiative process, and older-skewing Proposition 13 voters who were unwilling to pay their fair share, no matter the consequences down the line. So while Arnold is a tempting target this morning, there was a lot more to the story.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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