May 22, 2005
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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Just another pig at the trough
So the governor had national security in mind when fighting for bases? Right.

Chris Reed
Columns editor
The Orange County Register

The announcement last week that the Pentagon essentially gave California a pass in the latest round of proposed base closings was great news for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in two very different ways.

The first was that the governor wouldn't have to waste time and political capital fighting in Washington, D.C., to keep bases open while still having to take on the Democrats and public employee unions in Sacramento who think it's radical and crazy to hold state spending increases to the level of inflation.

The second was that it kept the spotlight off the absurd rationale the Schwarzenegger administration offered for opposing any California base closures.

For months, local pols up and down the state as well as most of our congressional delegation have repeated like a mantra the argument that California "suffered enough" in the first four rounds of military downsizing recommended by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission and agreed to by Congress and the president. In other words, military spending is no different from other government pork, and California deserves its fair share.

But Vince Sollitto, a Schwarzenegger spokesman, told me in a May 2 phone interview that the governor was motivated by a noble concern for national security and the fear the Pentagon didn't appreciate "the unique strategic value of California's military bases."

So you don't acknowledge that this is about keeping military money coming California's way?

"No, I don't acknowledge it," Sollitto said. "The primary reason is national security, not economics."

Oh, come on!

Does the fact that the Pentagon thought almost all of California's military installations worth keeping for now mean that Schwarzenegger really was on the side of the angels in his motives? That argument will be made. But do you really believe that the governor's staff looked at, oh, the Navy's antenna-testing facility in the Etcheron Valley or the Coast Guard's communication center at Port Reyes or the Army's Amadee Airfield in the Sierras or the Air Force's Beale base east of Yuba City, compared those facilities to similar ones around the nation, evaluated the global threat to America and the role that these bases could play in lessening that threat on a cost-efficient basis, then concluded that it was a matter of urgent national interest that they all be kept open? That his staff evaluated all California bases and determined each must be kept open?

It takes a radical suspension of disbelief to swallow a whopper that big.

Of course, in the grand scheme of things, Schwarzenegger's sin here is relatively minor. He remains not just the best but pretty much the only hope for Californians who have seen the Democrats who control the Legislature metastasize into a cancerous force whose top priority is protecting the interests of public employees, whatever the evermore dire consequences for the state.

But the same attitude that led the governor to fight for military spending in California, whether it was warranted or not, iswhat animates the state's Democrats in their push for higher taxes to fund teachers' salaries, bureaucrats' pensions and whatever crumbs they throw the poor's way to maintain the fiction that they are the party of the disadvantaged.

It builds from the notion that the government has a lot of money and that restraint and prudence in spending that money might as well be four-letter words. And it reflects a mind-set that sees the government's bank account as a gigantic slush fund of mysterious origin that can be tapped without consequence to reward select constituencies - not as a pile of money forcibly extracted from tens of millions of taxpayers.

"Nobody spends somebody else's money as carefully as he spends his own," noted Milton Friedman, Arnold Schwarzenegger's favorite economist. The lesson of the governor's phony posturing on base closures is that he may want to spend money collected from state taxpayers carefully, but when it comes to the kitty collected by the IRS, he's just another pig at the trough.

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