Monday, July 23, 2007

Lights Out at the Reptile House

Forget rebuilding the Golden State. California's legislature can't pass a routine budget without stealing wheelchair money from the disabled so they can hand it out to wealthy celebrities. I am not exaggerating. Read Sacramento columnist George Skelton today and weep. Skelton is one of that crew of 50s Pat Brown moderates (Peter Schrag of "Paradise Lost" fame is another) who just can't believe the brainless, selfish dismantling of public California. Today's column is particularly good, and should be read in its entirety for the details of ludicrous, demented venality and plain bad judgment among some of the most powerful people in a huge rich state.

Skelton reports that the state has taken $1 billion from Supplemental Security Income for the disabled in the last few years, and wants another $247 million this year (in the form of delayed or denied - though legally mandated - increases). The leg is considering denying a cost-of-living adjustment to welfare recipients who haven't had an increase in 3 years and now collect a maximum of $723 for a family of 3. The Republicans want the leg to support Gov. Schwarzenegger's call to throw 155,000 children off welfare - mostly the children of single mothers who didn't meet their work requirements.

So what else is new? There's $900 million for Hollywood and other industries - business tax breaks. And thank god more help is on the way for beleaguered dead celebrities. This comes in the form of legislation from State Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), that would "bolster the 'postmortem right of publicity' held by the heirs of famous people to control the use of their images, voices, signatures and likenesses for commercial purposes." Actually we already have a law granting heirs the right to control a celebrity image. But there's a loophole! "A federal judge in California decided in May that the right to control publicity does not apply in cases of celebrities who died before 1985." No time to get a decent budget. Lots of time to protect the celebrity image.

Since Proposition 13 forced the legislature to get a 2/3 majority for all spending increases, the Republican rump can exercise brain-dead minority rule to their hearts content. But who cares! This state isn't about people in wheelchairs and families living on $723 - it's about the celebrity image!

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