Well, that was quick. Quick . . . and wrong.
FOR THE RECORD: Michael Hiltzik’s Tuesday column on the California budget cited an incorrect estimate of 30% for state population growth from 1998 through 2009. The correct figure, based on population estimates from the state Department of Finance, is about 15%. But the finding by the legislative analyst’s office that the state budget remained in line with population growth and inflation during that period, on which the column was based, relied on the correct multiplier of population growth.
Uh, it was his Thursday column, not his “Tuesday column.” Time to correct the correction!
In any event, the little defensive-sounding statement that ends the “correction” is still misleading, as is Hiltzik’s entire column. Matt Welch notes the problem: in attacking as incorrect the “infectious” and “deeply cherished talking point” that we are overspending, Hiltzik doesn’t count bond spending as part of California’s spending. This very fact renders Hiltzik’s entire column utterly stupid and pointless — and it’s not saved by the fact that Hiltzik whispers this fact as one of several “caveats” he mentions only in passing. This is hardly a peripheral point, as Hiltzik pretends it is. Instead, it devastates Hiltzik’s central point. As Welch says:
In what universe does “bond spending” not count as “spending”? Does this mean I am not technically spending when I buy stuff with my credit card? If a “deeply cherished talking point” turns out to be true, can it still be “infectious”?
In other words, Hiltzik is saying, California’s spending isn’t that bad if you don’t count the billions and billions we are borrowing against our children’s futures.
What a very wise and perspicacious point that is! Ignore the borrowing and we’re doing great! Aren’t you thrilled that you have this guy as a business columnist?! Let me make an equally inane and pointless observation: the current state budget isn’t really in bad shape . . . if you don’t count the deficit!
Welch notes that an honest accounting of California’s spending — i.e. an accounting that doesn’t emply Hiltzik’s “caveats” that render his whole column a mass of horseshit — reveals quite plainly that the problem is not lack of revenue. The problem is spending — pure and simple.
Regarding the population and inflation multiplier, the Reason study cited by Welch shows that California’s rate of spending increases significantly exceeds the rate of population growth plus inflation.
The combined total of 4.3811 percent a year is easily outpaced by the 5.37 percent average annual increase in General Fund spending. . . . Over the entire 18-year period, state spending grew at an average annual rate of 5.91 percent, while population plus inflation grew only 4.38 percent a year, on average (see Figure 3).
But of course, this analysis doesn’t have the phony-baloney “let’s pretend bond spending doesn’t cost us anything” type of “caveats” featured in Hiltzik’s crappy column.
Marc Danziger is fed up. He says Hiltzik should be fired. Me, I think that he should be kept on the payroll. Hear me out! I need to add a couple of “caveats.” First, Hiltzik’s paycheck should be paid in Monopoly money. And his columns should be printed in invisible ink.
No need to fire him. This ship is sinking anyway. Let him go down with the rest of them.