Jul 28, 2003
A petition calling for a recall of California Gov. Gray Davis has gathered 1.1 million signatures, well above the number required by state law. The recall election, the first ever in California and the first in any state in the union since 1921, is scheduled for October 7.
The signature drive against Davis was started by a few activists in February, only three months after Davis's reelection for a second term. The activists, no doubt, tapped a widespread sentiment among Californians. And for good reason: working people in California are facing a massive attack. Under the pretext of a budget deficit, the state government has been cutting funding from schools and welfare programs, closing hospitals, and increasing taxes, including a tripling of the car registration fee – and all this at a time when big companies are laying off tens thousands of workers and trying to force concessions on the rest.
Once the petition drive was underway, Republican politicians jumped on the bandwagon. Leading the pack is Darrell Issa, a Congressman and multimillionaire businessman who made his fortune selling car alarm systems. Issa, who spent 1.7 million dollars to finance the recall campaign, is the only Republican who has officially announced his candidacy to replace Davis so far. But others are getting ready to enter the race. The Republicans accuse Davis, who is a Democrat, of ruining the state's finances and lying to voters about the extent of the budget shortfall.
Are these accusations against Davis justified? Absolutely! The record budget deficit is to a large extent a result of the subsidies and tax breaks the state continued to give to big corporations under Davis's governorship. The most striking of these handouts occurred in 2000, under the pretext of the phony "electricity crisis." Davis funneled billions of dollars into the coffers of Enron and other electricity traders, then signed long-term contracts with these companies at far above market rates, making sure that the ripoff of California taxpayers continues for years to come.
Of course, this is not what the Republicans mean when they accuse David of "ruining" the state. In fact, they voted with Davis and the Democrats to give handouts to the corporations and to cut social programs. And the two parties just agreed on the new California budget, which contains even deeper welfare and health care cuts than originally proposed by Davis.
Both of these parties are big, corrupt electoral machines that have always served the interests of big business and will continue to do so. Replacing one lackey of the big bosses with another will not change anything. What can is the mobilization of working people to defend our interests against the bosses' endless attacks.