Thursday, July 23, 2009

Should Angelides Terminate the Governator?

A year ago, the choice between California State Treasurer Phil Angelides and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger hardly would have been a question. Schwarzenegger was a disaster with one of the lowest approval ratings of any California governor in history. Though Californians liked him well enough just after recalling former governor Grey Davis, Schwarzenegger’s overhaul of worker’s compensation, opposition to same-sex marriage, vetoes of a minimum wage increase, lack of success in repaying our deficit, and utter failure to gain popular support for last year’s Special Election made his ratings plummet. His constant cutting of education funds and health care while propping up special interest groups did not help his popularity either. Most Californians thought that we would be better off without him.

However, since then, he has made some improvements. The people’s lack of support for the Special Election hit him hard, hard enough to make him change some of his policies. In the last few months, Governor Schwarzenegger has presented the face of a moderate, supporting measures that have alienated his fellow Republicans to a degree. Schwarzenegger has joined the effort to fight global warming by creating the Climate Action Board, showing a concern for the environment that one would not expect from a Republican. He also nearly abandoned the Republican party when he awarded funding to stem cell research and provided greater funding for primary and secondary education. Based solely on his actions since the Special Election, one might almost mistake him for a Democrat.

But all citizens who intend to vote on November 7 should be asking themselves a very important question: has Schwarzenegger changed his policy permanently or is he simply trying to get himself reelected? After all, when you live in a very Democratic state, you would be silly not to cater to the majority’s desires…at least until the election had passed. The only way to know for sure whether the governor’s change of heart is legitimate would be to reelect him, and I for one am not willing to risk another flip-flop of policy, especially when we have an alternative like Angelides.

Democratic candidate Phil Angelides presents a platform that, if successful, would help most Californians more effectively than Schwarzenegger’s. Sadly, most people do not seem to know much about Angelides. Therefore, I have made it my duty to fill you in.

First, the deficit: it’s big, it’s ugly, and it’s growing. Not long ago, Governor Schwarzenegger admitted that he did not have a plan to repay it. However, Treasurer Phil Angelides has a plan that supposedly will rid California of debt. His main source of funds would be a temporary tax increase (lasting three years) on the wealthiest 1% of Californians (that is, people who make more than $500,000 a year) so that they would pay about the same rate as the wealthiest during Reagan’s governorship. While the tax might not be particularly enjoyable for the elite, the revenue would be enough to pay off the debt while providing pre-Schwarzenegger funding to government programs like education and health care. In other words, Angelides’s plan helps 99% of Californians without being horribly unjust to the rest.

Angelides is very much an advocate of the common people, especially fiscally. He promises to cut taxes for families making $100,000 a year or less, removing quite a burden from low-income households. Also, Angelides would raise the minimum wage and make sure that it increases at the same rate as inflation. Thus, he would create a fair deal for those at the bottom of the financial hierarchy.

To further help Californians, Angelides intends to make health insurance more affordable, especially for children. By requiring corporations with over 200 employees to provide health insurance for their workers, hundreds of thousands of workers and their families would get coverage. He hopes to save people even more money by developing new, efficient technology to increase the quality of health care and by creating a website that allows us to compare drug prices online and pay the cheapest amount possible.

Both Schwarzenegger and Angelides present good plans to improve education, but Angelides’s is more extensive. While both nominees’ plans would improve primary and secondary education, Angelides intends to improve the quality of teachers and make college more affordable as well. He means to raise achievement levels in lower education by giving schools money to develop success strategies. Furthermore, he would give incentives for people to teach in low-income areas to try to improve struggling students’ performance levels. To give each student more attention, he would also decrease class sizes by hiring and training 40,000 new teachers. Angelides would give even more attention to each student by increasing the number of counselors at every high school in the hopes that this will help more students go on to college.
But the biggest education improvement for us at Cal is Angelides’s intention to give more money to state colleges. Anyone attending a University of California or California State University should vote for Angelides because he intends to return tuition and fees to where they were before Schwarzenegger took office, thereby saving us thousands of dollars. However, Angelides is going even farther by expanding state scholarships and creating a new fellowship program for undergrads studying science, math, or engineering. Not only that, but Angelides intends to give research grants to the University of California to expand technological improvement and allow grad students and professors to eat.

With all these programs to help the majority of Californians, we would think that Angelides’s plan has to have a downside, yet my only concern is how Angelides intends to pay for all of this while still getting rid of the deficit. However, he certainly seems confident that he can indeed do it all without raising taxes for anyone but the top one percent of Californians, and since he is the current state treasurer, I have to assume that he knows what he is doing with money and that his knowledge of the state financial situation helps him make educated decisions about our economy.

After looking at what the current governor has done and what the Democratic candidate intends to do, I have to conclude that the world would not come to an end if Schwarzenegger was reelected, but only if he continues to legislate the way he has in the past several months. However, if you want to improve the lives of the majority of Californians, Angelides is the man for the job. Angelides envisions a “…California of limitless possibilities and big dreams.” As long as he works to achieve that goal, he will make an excellent governor who will help California as much as possible.

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