Monday, November 14, 2005

Dropping da Ball ... (listening to Wild Cherry)

Michael Hiltzik from his LA Times Golden State Blog dice que la Califas Chamber of Commerce fregaron a todos ...

The Chamber Drops the Ball

One of the dirty little secrets of the recent special election campaign is the disastrous role played by the California Chamber of Commerce. To its tradition of being utterly useless to the average Californian, this organization has now added the distinction of becoming a dead weight around the neck of its chief spear-carrier, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Anthony York touches briefly on some of this background in his incisive post-mortem today in Capitol Weekly. To flesh it out, the calamitous "Live Within Our Means Act," otherwise known as Proposition 76, was drafted jointly by Chamber President Alan Zaremberg and Bill Hauck, president of the California Business Roundtable. Hauck is a public-spirited man who has served ably on a number of state panels over the years, some of which have made some very sensible recommendations for real reforms. The same can’t be said of Zaremberg, whose organization has had nothing but a noxious influence on the state.

The Chamber’s input is plainly what gave Prop 76 its coloration as an instrument of special interests. This is par for the course. The Chamber has consistently defined the interests of its membership in the narrowest possible terms, boiling them down to little more than lower taxes and less regulation. In so doing, it has come to represent the interests of a narrow spectrum of California businesses—chiefly department stores and fast food restaurants. When it labels a universal health care mandate a "job killer," it’s speaking up for McDonald’s franchisees, not for the responsible corporations that already provide health care for their employers and are losing out to lose out to freeloading competitors, like Wal-Mart, that let Medi-Cal and public hospitals treat their workers—at the expense of the rest of us.

The Chamber loves to attack minimum-wage increases and social spending. It has never offered the people of this state any comprehensive policy proposals on education reform, budget and revenue reform, or medical insurance reform. It just kicks back and says No. I asked Zaremberg during the Chamber’s 2004 campaign against SB2, the health insurance mandate law, when his organization would propose a health insurance policy of its own. He promised me one would be forthcoming as soon as SB2 was killed. It was killed in the November 2004 election. I’m still waiting for him to make good on his pledge.

One other point mentioned by York bears examination. He notes that the Schwarzenegger campaign was barred by law from running the initiative campaigns, which were left to the likes of Zaremberg and Joel Fox of the sham Small Business Action Committee (among its "small" backers are Philip Morris USA and Pacific Gas & Electric) to manage, or, more accurately, mismanage. But Schwarzenegger had to keep hands off only if he wanted to have free rein to raise as much money as he could. If he were willing to stick to the $23,000 per donor contribution limits established by state law, he could have been chairman of the initiative committee, too. His decision to go all-out for cash simply reflects how corporate-friendly an enterprise the special election was.

If there’s any justice, the results of the special election should mark an end to the Chamber of Commerce’s single-minded and narrow-minded influence in Sacramento. Nothing’s wrong with business being at the table when policy is made at the statehouse; the business community has a lot to offer us in skills, knowledge, and vigor. But it needs to take a broader view of its own interests and a longer view of what it takes to rebuild California. That won’t happen until the Chamber leadership is run out of town on a rail.


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