Schwarzenegger loves to exude optimism, and he’s a natural salesman. That’s why he’s gone as far as he has in Hollywood and politics. Even so, it was surprising to hear the governor’s upbeat take on the nation’s economy this week. According to Schwarzenegger, “the worst is over.”
Is it? This week, the Conference Board released its consumer confidence index. It showed an 11 point drop for January. That suggests that people with jobs are worried about keeping them, and the unemployed are skeptical about finding them. Neither outlook translates to increased consumer spending.
Clearly, Schwarzenegger is hoping that an economic rebound will help close the state’s multi-billion-dollar budget gap. It’s nice to dream, but here’s the reality: It could take a long time for California to pull out of this recession. The state faces deficits for years into the future. So we can’t just click our heels and hope the budget will solve itself.
We need state leaders who will make the tough decisions, and stop relying on gimmicks and borrowing. We need to prepare for the worst, while we hope for the best. Wishful thinking is fine, but acting as if wishes were reality is what got us into this mess.
Stuart Leavenworth is editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee.