Veteran political columnist Dan Walters this morning in his Sacramento Bee column made mention of the “Washington Monument Strategy” — referring to putting forward the most politically unpopular cuts in order to make the case not to make cuts, or to make fewer cuts in spending. This strategy, used by liberals (of both parties, I might add), is nothing new…
During the 2008 budget battle, then Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee (now a State Senator) penned a column for the FlashReport in which he succinctly described the “Washington Monument Strategy” —
When budget times are tough in Washington, D.C., government agencies are asked what they can do to trim spending. In an effort to preserve their existing spending levels, they threaten to close the Washington Monument. They believe that if they can cause enough public outrage they can protect their department from cuts or get lawmakers to raise taxes.
In his 2008 column, Blakeslee was referring to the roll out of high profile closures of state parks resulting in a relatively small amount of savings for the state, but creating great fodder for which the media to write about “draconian cuts” to state spending.
This year we have the Washington Monument Strategy being used by Governor Brown in a most egregious way. While every close observer of California politics knows that he is proposing a budget that increases state spending billions of dollars over last year, he is putting forward a ballot measure to raise taxes, structuring his budget so that the failure of the tax increase doesn’t stop the increase in state spending, but instead causes cuts in popular K-12 spending.
Of course the smoke and mirrors of this strategy, if ultimately present in the final budget, will become clear when voters reject the higher taxes. Then watch as the Governor and legislature manage “somehow” to divert the cuts to other areas, that weren’t as politically “useful” as the K-12 cuts.