Tough to argue with 100 economists….

The cyclical, seemingly never-ending state budget grind has Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stuck in a rut, still swinging away with an ax at the safety net — a solution no longer fitting for these grim times.

That’s the basic message that comes through from a report released Tuesday by the California Budget Project.

California has lost 1 million jobs since the start of the recession, the report says. People need help, families need help, whole communities need help as they scramble against the tide of economic devastation. Cuts, the CBP says, will only further weaken the economy and could impede the national recovery.

The CBP report says that 100 prominent economists of all ideologies recently warned that “It is economically preferable to raise taxes on those with high incomes than to cut state expenditures [during a recession]…Steep state budget cuts will exacerbate the economic downturn.”

It’s hard to argue with the conclusion of 100 economists. Especially when you consider that California now has 3.6 million more working-age individuals than it did 10 years ago, but about the same number of jobs as 10 years ago. More than one in five Californians — 21.4 percent — were either unemployed or underemployed in December, 2009. (The calculation includes 354,000 jobless people who wanted or were able to work but were not in the official count because they had not looked for work in the last month.)

As need grew, the Schwarzenegger Administration responded by cutting off programs — suspending enrollments in Healthy Families, for example, even though the number of children whose low-income families bought coverage through the program grew steadily by nearly 100,000 kids from July 2007 to July 2009, the report says. To read it and view charts and graphics, go to www.cbp.org.

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