Thursday, January 06, 2005

“Kahl-ee-foe-nya” Here We Come

Arnold Goes Nuclear

If you thought all the action was occurring in the Indian Ocean and the coast of Sumatra, you might have missed the explosion that went off in Sacramento last night.

Arnold Schwarzenegger dropped a 20-megaton cluster bomb on the California legislature during his State of the State address, and after the next general election there might not be many survivors: "A year ago, I told you I wanted to blow up the boxes,'' the governor said. "Well, we have lit the fuse.''

From the San Jose Mercury:

In his second State of the State speech since taking office, the Republican former actor said the state's legislative districts should be redrawn to "make elections democratic once again.'' In November, not one of the state's 153 legislative or congressional seats changed party hands.
Schwarzenegger suggested the districts, approved four years ago by the Legislature, be set by an independent panel of retired judges.
The governor said he would seek to broadly reorganize and streamline state government. He wants to wipe out 100 boards and commissions and more than 1,000 politically appointed positions.

In addition to the radioactivity of playing with the legislature’s safe districts, Schwarzenegger proposed 1) radically reforming the massive state employee pension fund from a traditional pension plan into an employee-directed program similar to a 401K where employees contribute out of their paychecks, 2) changing the state constitution to trigger automatic spending cuts if state spending outpaced revenues, and 3) instituting a merit-based performance pay for teachers.

Given the perpetual sclerosis of the California legislature, these proposals are beyond bold, and define Schwarzenegger as one of the most audacious reformers of the modern political era.

"If we here in this chamber don't work together to reform the government, the people will rise up and reform it themselves. And I will join them.''

Bush has been accused of one-upping the world with the U.S.’ pledges of tsunami disaster relief, but it is Schwarzenegger who has one-upped Bush in the audaciousness of his reform agenda. This man is the real deal, and the contrast with Gray Davis, the ousted former Governor, is more striking than Arnold's portrayal of Danny DeVito's brother in Twins. He may not be able to run for President given his foreign-born status, but Schwarzenegger just might become one of the most consequential politicians in our lifetime.

“Kahl-ee-foe-nya” may never be or sound the same again.