Schwarzenegger Chokes at the Buffet

I wondered what Warren Buffet, who’s supposed to be a smart guy who believes in the right things, thought he was doing endorsing Arnold Schwarzenegger for Governor. Now I really wonder what he thought he was doing.

Buffet told the Wall Street Journal that part of California’s fiscal problem is Proposition 13, which forces it to under-rely on property taxes. That, of course, is correct. (Remember Kinsley’s definition of a political gaffe: It’s when someone in politics accidentally tells the truth.)

If the counties and cities were getting their cut of California’s inflated property values, the state wouldn’t have to send so much of its revenue back down the line. Unlike the businesses and the high earners who can leave California when the tax burden gets too high, the coastline isn’t going anywhere.

Even if the voters insist on giving homeowners a break (and those who bought their houses cheap, plus their descendents, an extra-special break) we could at least start to get something reasonable from the owners of commercial and industrial property. (I speak as the owner of an absurdly overpriced home and therefore as one who would be a big loser, in purely financial terms, if Prop. 13 were replealed.)

That’s one of the advantages of having an occasional fiscal crisis: it forces issues such as this one on to the table.

Naturally, the other candidates, including Simon and Davis, immediately went into full demagogue mode. And naturally, Schwarzenegger’s campaign is backing off. * (Apparently Aaaaaaanuld is just a couturier’s dummy: his job is to shut up and make the clothes look good.)

So now Buffet has an interesting problem. Does he still want to be part of Schwarzenegger’s front?

Update The Field Poll [*], which is the gold standard in California, breaks with other polls and with the conventional wisdom, showing Bustamante ahead of Schwarzenegger, 25-23. Simon and McClintock are taking substantial bites out of Schwarzenegger’s hide, while Huffington and Cornejo are taking only small bites out of Bustamante’s.

This may be another case where the electorate is actually less childish and attention-deficient than the media.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com