Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Ides of May

From the California Professor (via dettman):
Governor Brown will release his revised budget on Monday the 16th, just after the Ides of May (May is one of those months -- including March -- when the Ides fall on the 15th as opposed to the 13th). That is when we'll know if the University will bear the full brunt of the "all-cuts" budget, i.e., $1 billion, or whether it will be cut "only" $500 million.  It's a sad testimony to the state of UC that we are all sitting here hoping for a $500 million cut.

Some have surmised that the Governor is pursuing a "reverse Norquist." The Norquist doctrine contemplates implementing popular tax cuts in order to shrink the government, to the point where you can "drown it in the bathtub." A reverse Norquist, supposedly, pursues ruthless cuts to build up support for necessary tax collection. Both doctrines are, of course, flawed. The Norquist doctrine ignores that big corporations and the financial oligarchy have way too much to gain from their control of our supposedly democratic government to actually want to drown in the bathtub. It will never happen. Government might well get meaner towards the poor and the middle class, but it's way too useful to the oligarchy to disappear. And Brown's supposed reverse Norquist presupposes that people still value the services they are receiving -- including the affordable quality education traditionally provided at UC. But California is no longer willing to pay for it. UC is not necessary for the upbringing of our very own jeunesse dorée (never was), and it no longer affords the middle class the means for upwards mobility, simply because social mobility increasingly works only one way in this country, i.e., down. So there you have it.
We agree. Here's what we wrote yesterday regarding Mark Yudof's testimony to the California senate budget committee:
[T]his isn't about speaking out against cuts. It's about positioning. Yudof testified to the state senate's budget committee that "the system can absorb the initial $500 million cut" -- the one that has already been programmed into the UC budget for this year -- "but if the state increases the size of the cuts the university will have little choice but to raise tuition 'geometrically' and cut services." . . . In addition to erasing the violence of austerity ("Don't worry about it, we'll be fine... as long as you only cut $500 million" Um, really?), this strategy charts a path of rhetorical retreat. Obviously this isn't a rousing defense of public education. But it leads to another danger: every time the budget is cut, it's a "disaster"... until the cuts go through. At that point it becomes the new normal. In effect, it represents an attempt to limit political struggle to a relatively minor question about what's currently on the table -- everything else simply disappears.

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