President Barack Obama headlines a rally for his longtime friend and political ally, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is seeking a second term, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010, at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The California budget deficit is President Obama's fault. That's not my opinion. Its the official view of Gov. Schwarzenegger and 2/3 of the California legislature -- as embodied in the recently passed (and tardy) state budget.
To balance the budget, lawmakers and the governor are counting on $4 billion in federal funds that haven't been approved but that the state believes it's entitled to. This isn't simply phony accounting. It's also blame-shifting. The legislature and governor are saying: if those funds don't show up, the resulting deficit is the federal government's fault, not the state's.
That's unfair. California's budget deficit is largely a product of a broken system that was created by Californians. But it would be nice if the president were forced to answer detailed questions about California and its problems on this trip. In contrast to President Clinton, who seemed deeply engaged in the state's troubles after the early 1990s recession, President Obama has kept his distance. He's shown up to campaign for allies and raise money -- and that's what he'll be doing during this week's visit. That's produced massive traffic tie-ups (my Los Angeles neighborhood is still up in arms about his last visit, for a Democratic fundraiser, which created gridlock for four hours) but not much else for the state.
Obama needs to submit to questions from California voters and reporters. Among the things he should be asked. Is California, with its 12.5 percent unemployment rate, a drag on the recovery? And if so, why don't you have a strategy for bringing jobs back here? And do you think the budget cuts and tax hikes that California has resorted to to balance its budget have been a drag on the national economy? And if so, why haven't you done more to help the state out financially?