Herald Journal Columns
June 26, 2006, Herald Journal

Are liberals changing their tune?


California has lots of liberals.

One of its Hollywood liberals, Rob Reiner, used his position as head of a state commission to back a universal preschool program. It was to be funded by a tax on people earning $400,000 a year, or couples earning $800,000. What’s not for a liberal to love about this measure? It’s big government paid for by tax dollars from rich people.

On June 6, though, California voters rejected it 61 to 39 percent. Liberals can’t blame this outcome on Republicans because the turnout was disproportionately Democratic. The Democrats had a primary contest for governor and Republicans didn’t.

Are liberals becoming skeptical about big government spending?

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, who also is a liberal, said June 9 he believed voters rejected the preschool measure because Reiner used $23 million of taxpayer money to buy ads promoting preschool education before the election. Dionne also thought voters were turned off that parents who could well afford to pay for preschool for their children themselves will also be able to get free preschool with this measure, he said.

Michael Barone of US News & World Report had a couple more ideas June 9 why liberal voters rejected it. Taxes on the rich make a volatile revenue stream. When the dot coms went bust, California lost a huge amount of tax revenues in 2001-2002. That made it tough to pay for all the big spending programs the liberals wanted, Barone said.

Also, Reiner intended to create a lot of jobs for teachers and aides who would belong to public employee unions. The money would go from the taxpayers to the teachers to the public employees unions and then to the Democratic party, Barone said.

If this is true, I’m surprised liberals rejected such a lucrative revenue stream for their party.

The DFL in Minnesota has a plank in its platform favoring spending more money on early childhood, according to the June 12 Star Tribune. I wonder if the DFL delegates who approved the platform had a Reiner-type of preschool program in mind.

If liberals in Minnesota are changing their tune too, maybe the DFL should rethink that plank.

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