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Dems need to start a spending diet

Posted: December 21, 2008 8:07 p.m.
Updated: December 22, 2008 4:55 a.m.

When I was in college, I lived in an apartment off campus. My neighbors included a bus driver, an elderly retired couple, some farm workers and a guy who just got out of prison.

Something about armed robbery, as I recall. That dude had a penetrating gaze that said: "They're keeping my cell warm at Tehachapi - give me a reason."

Most of the folks in the apartment had little to no money, including me. One week, it got so bad that I lived off $7.53 in spare change.

Some may think I am kidding, but in 1984, one could still buy vegetables cheap and a box of Mac-n-Cheese could be had for 33 cents.

Kraft Mac-n-Cheese, of course. Nothing but the best for Erlene's little boy.

At the end of the week, after much work and careful purchases, I had not missed a meal and still had a buck left over.

That week, more than any other, taught me how to fend for myself and be smart about how to spend money. I could have gone out and bought a slab of meat, cooked it, and gorged myself on Day 1 - then starved the rest of the week.

But instead, I got the sack of potatoes for a dollar and ate for seven days.

I learned how to be frugal in tough times and cut back. I always pray that my sons will starve - just a little - so that they learn to be wise and clever when it comes to tight finances.

I only wish the Democrats in Sacramento could learn these lessons.

Democratic Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg recently unveiled their "plan" to close the disastrous budget gap looming before the Golden State.

It is an $18 billion package of spending cuts and tax increases with a wicked twist - they are seeking to circumvent the requirement that all tax increases be approved by a "super-majority" of two-thirds.

This requirement has been used effectively by Republicans to try and reign in the massive spending done by Sacramento in recent years.

They plan to do this by playing word games. They will call certain new taxes and tax increases "fees" for which only a simple majority (50 percent) is required.

Funny. I thought that Democrats were all about "playing by the rules" and "sticking up for the little man." Apparently, that only applies if you are in agreement with them.

Assembly Republican Leader Dave Cogdill recently noted that "the only time it's really a compromise with the Majority-Party Democrats is when you give them what they want - otherwise, you're an obstructionist."

Imagine the arrogance of the Sacramento Democrats to think that since they can't bully and threaten Republicans into more overspending and fiscal irresponsibility, they will simply change the rules and disenfranchise those who stand in their way.

Why can't they do what you and I do? When times get tough, we tighten our belts, get creative and do without. We live on our $7.53 and are grateful that we have that.

Sacramento's attitude seems to be "saving money is for the little people. We aren't bound by such pedestrian concepts."

Where are they going to raise taxes? The usual places, of course. According to Jim Sanders in the Sacramento Bee, a half-cent general sales tax will be imposed (because business is bad), an "oil severance" tax on California-produced oil (because drilling for oil is bad), and a personal income tax surcharge (because you are bad).

Part of the scheme does involve cutting some taxes, but this is just a cynical ploy to transfer state transportation funds amounting to $5.7 billion into the general budget. This shortfall will be made up by enacting a 39-cent-per-gallon tax increase.

Republicans have proposed to cut $22 billion from the general budget over the next 18 months. This is the "steak" that will be tossed aside in favor of the bag of potatoes.

It won't be fancy and there will be some pain, but that is far preferable to increasing taxes at a time when the country is in recession.

Unfortunately, neither the Democrats nor Republican-in-name-only Gov. Schwarzenegger will support this logical and straightforward method to addressing this crisis. Instead, they want to cheat and perform an illegal act to get their way.

If you agree that Sacramento should not be raising taxes, please call Speaker Karen Bass at (323) 937-4747 and/or Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg at (916) 651-4006.

Let's stop this insanity and force them to live within their means.

Pass the Mac-n-Cheese. Mmmm.

Steve Lunetta is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Right About Now" runs Mondays in The Signal.


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