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Forget a recall

The prison guards union is out of line. Nothing would be gained by trying to replace the governor.

September 10, 2008

Pick your cliche: What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Turnabout is fair play. Payback's a -- well, you get the idea. The point is that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is facing a nascent recall move, and it may seem that there is some cosmic justice in the prospect. But Californians should see the dump-Schwarzenegger movement for what it is: A tactic by a powerful public employee union to extract higher pay from taxpayers and exacerbate the state's budget dysfunction.

Yes, we can bask in the irony. Californians recalled Gov. Gray Davis because he presided over a disastrous budget shortfall, his record-breaking political fundraising was unseemly, he tried to raise taxes and, frankly, people just didn't like him very much. Schwarzenegger, a widely admired movie hero with a get-tough image, argued that balancing a budget was common-sense stuff and that an outsider untainted by Sacramento could complete the work that a career politician could not.

Doesn't seem so easy now, does it? The state has set a record for budget tardiness, and Schwarzenegger has set records for fundraising. He wants a tax increase of about the same amount as Davis'. So shouldn't Californians do to him what he did to Davis?

Of course not. The present crisis merely demonstrates the shallowness of the anti-politician bromides that accompanied the last recall. Political inbreeding and tax-happy Democrats do not bear all of the blame for Sacramento's mess. The problems are structural and the solutions complex. Although this page has been critical of the governor's plan for midyear cuts and automated reserves, we recognize Schwarzenegger's diligence in trying to move California past its perpetual budget nightmare.

Now let's take a look at who is trying to whip up recall frenzy. The prison guards union -- the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. -- lavished money on Davis, who gave the guards astounding pay raises and virtually turned over to the union the power to manage prisons. That worked out so well that a federal receiver is demanding $8 billion just to make the prisons meet constitutional standards. Now the guards are mad that Schwarzenegger doesn't take their money or give in to their demands.

Thank goodness he doesn't. California hasn't solved many problems since Davis was dumped, but the moderate decrease in the guard union's power is one step in the right direction. The union is fooling no one with this recall distraction, and the state has priorities far more pressing than a self-destructive game of political comeuppance.

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