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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Who killed California?

Arnold Schwarzenegger did not destroy California, although a lot of people now blame him. In truth, he has handled the state's crisis more-or-less responsibly.

This piece in the Guardian attempts to address the question: What happened to California? I advise you to skim the article and focus on the bizarre responses from alleged Californians. Examples:
You trace all Californias problems to liberal ideas and socail programs, high taxation and tree huggers activity. even bad law foisted on Americans can trace its roots to The Golden state.
Contrary to the author's opinion, it is precisely liberalism that has destroyed California. As a Californian who has lived here for nearly my entire life, I remember the great days of California. Once the liberals and hippies took over in the early 80s and implemented their nonsensical environmental and liberal policies, we started our steady dive to the bottom.
"Liberals and hippies" took over in the 1980s? The decade when Californians voted for Ronald Reagan for president?

This state -- an alleged bastion of liberalism -- has had a Democratic governor for only four of the past 26 years. Back in the 1970s, under Jerry Brown, California was incredibly prosperous; recessions that flattened the rest of the nation barely touched us. (Incidentally, Jerry Brown (now 72) is currently favored to regain his job.)

The afore-linked Guardian piece evinced a number of other comments which hit the same absurd right-wing talking points in exactly the same language. I find it difficult to believe that so many raging reactionaries read The Guardian.

If you want to know what really happened to this state, see this piece from last June in the New Republic. "Supermajority" requirements prevent the majority of legislators from accomplishing anything, because budget resolutions and tax increases require an impossible two-thirds majority.
The system, in a way, is rigged against the party that wants government to do things. If the legislature can't agree on a balanced budget, the state effectively comes to a standstill: it can't pay its bills, can't provide social services, can't really do anything (except, of course, issue IOUs). Now, nobody is particularly fond of this situation, but it's far less objectionable to Republicans than it is to Democrats. If you don't want government to do very much, you're not going to be that devastated when fiscal paralysis prevents the state from doing anything. It's sort of like the old saying about mud wrestling with pigs--you should try to avoid it because all that happens is you both get dirty and the pig likes it.
Even as one-fifth of Los Angeles county falls below the poverty line, even as the tent cities increase, even as poor children have health care yanked away from them, even as our colleges shed working class students, even as Californians discover that they can't walk from car to shop anywhere without encountering homeless panhandlers, Republican legislators maintain that the state is too generous to the less fortunate. Those Republicans are intractable. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger can't reach them.

Those who would blame an imaginary liberal conspiracy never talk about Bush's ruination of our economy. This state's woes were created not be a fantasized cabal of Hollywood liberals but by Republican deregulators in Washington. They authored the current banking crisis, which resulted in a wave of foreclosures that hit California especially hard.

If TARP funds had gone toward Hillary's proposed new HOLC -- a federal agency devoted to helping people stay in their homes -- there would have been fewer evictions and fewer homes selling for reduced prices. More happy homeowners would have meant more people paying their property taxes, resulting in state solvency.

The solutions?

Well, in the short-to-medium term, we need more federal aid. The federal government can print money; the state cannot. (Inflation is not a problem right now.) So far, the Obama administration has spat in Schwarzenegger's face. How about a federal jobs program devoted to fixing California's crumbling infrastructure?

More importantly, we need to reform the way things get done in Sacramento -- and that means changing our state constitution via a constitutional convention. That's a risky move, but we must take it. We must get rid of the supermajority requirements. Let a simple majority rule. If the politicians screw up, if they overtax or otherwise annoy the citizenry, they will be tossed out at the next election.

We need to put a cap on the initiative process. We need to put an end to gerrymandering, which makes the "red" districts into extremely red places where only the most extreme, barking mad Republicans are voted into office. Finally, we need to rid ourselves of term limits. Our legislators now spend most of their time preparing for post-legislature gigs as lobbyists.

Would legalizing and taxing marijuana help solve our problems? Yes, but not to the degree that many suppose. Such a move would bring in a billion dollars in tax revenues. Freeing those imprisoned on pot charges would save two or three billion. Those numbers are nothing to cough at. But don't kid yourselves -- Californians can't smoke their way out of this one.
Do you think if Gov. Schwarzeneggar's four initiatives on the ballot in 2005 had passed, the state would be in better shape today?
I live far from the state in the back woods but even I know the Guardian is way off base on its "liberals are at fault" premise.
That wasn't the Guardian's premise. That's how most of the Guardian's reader commentary went. I was a little surprised to see that so many liberal-bashers in California read the Guardian.
This article has been featured at as Best Opinion - Check it out! -
Wow. Does ENRON/rolling blackouts ring a bell? Arnold sat in on those "secret" Enron meetings. How soon we forget. They released the tapes of them openly laughing at Californians.

Ken Lay and Arnie were a part of those meetings. I also remember Cheney going to court so he didn't have to release any Energy Policy paperwork.

Why aren't we RECALLING Arnold yet?

Anon: Jeez, I never said I LIKED Schwarznegger, although I kind of dig his movies. Haven't you followed what I've said about him over the years? I've done nothing but rake him over the coals. And I've talked about the Enron tapes lots of times.

Why the hell are you talking as though you can take me to school on this? I was there way ahead of you.

You seem to have read things into this post that I did not write. Read it again. Calm yourself, try to be objective, and read the actual words, without paying attention to the voices buzzing in your head.

What I said was this:

"Arnold Schwarzenegger did not destroy California, although a lot of people now blame him. In truth, he has handled the state's crisis more-or-less responsibly."

If you can mount a comprehensible argument that he DID destroy California, let's hear it.

What killed us, in my view, was the collapse in property values, which led to a collapse in property tax income. That was caused, ultimately, by banking deregulation on the federal level.

I make that point very clear in my piece.

And yes, he HAS handled the crisis as well as it can be handled. Surprised the hell out of me. I expected him to act differently. I expected him to side with the obstructionist Republicans. But he has not.

This is not a game of shirts versus skins (if I may steal Bob Somerby's term).

And by the way -- don't post anonymously.
I tend to think of Enron as the beginning of the end for California. They never fully recovered from that financial blow .

The CA legislature has been controlled by Democrats since the 1970s, with the exception of two years. It was that gerrymandering which prompted the passage of Prop. 11 in 2008. (You should see the odd shape of my district!) The Bay Area has hundreds of thousands of Republicans but, in fact, NOT ONE SINGLE representative in the CA legislature. And you expect this to break up Republican control? WHAT REPUBLICAN CONTROL??? There isn't any. As far as I'm concerned, it's taxation without representation. They've made sure my vote will never count.

The governorship of California is much less responsible for California's fiscal mess than is the legislature. In CA, the budget is written by the legislature, which can ignore any and all of the Governor's budget suggestions.

This mess is complicated by CA voters who have voted for nearly every bond initiative that's ever been on the ballot - with very few exceptions - and who are absolutely oblivious to the fact that bond = tax. (It's just not as direct.)

One of your solutions is to print money because there's no inflation right now? Printing money CAUSES inflation (amongst other things).

I tend to agree with you about putting some limits on the initiative process, especially when it comes to bond measures. That said, we'll just end up with the same problems we had before the initiative process was instituted - unaccountable legislators who don't have to worry about reelection because of gerrymandered districts.

If we can't trust legislators to run the state's finances and we can't trust the voters who appear not to understand the problem, I don't see how this is going to help because either way, there's no one to trust.

I remain skeptical whether Prop. 11 will accomplish any real reform in this regard - who will control the commission? Independent? That's doubtful at best.

As for federal bail outs, the Feds didn't create the problem, so why should they fix it? I know we've had bailout mania lately, but I'm completely opposed to ANY bailouts. They make matters worse, not better because there are no consequences (failure) for stupidity. The money is usually ill spent. ($529 million in bailout monies to Al Gore's car company that produces luxury hybrids - in Finland - that sell for $89K each? Are you kidding me?! Who can spend $89K on a car (other than Al Gore's buddies)??? Where are the American jobs?

One last thing: I'm old enough to remember Governor Moonbeam, though I didn't vote for him. (I was in high school.) I seriously doubt he will regain the Governor's office for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is the perception that he does his own thing and not only refuses to enforce the laws that the people have voted for but actively works against them.
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