Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California: Canary in the Coal Mine

There are several issues of interest in this article - issues we have touched upon lately right here such as race relations, the fact that people just can't and won't pay any more taxes, and government's debt steamrolling all other considerations. They come together in what I like to call a "claustrophobia of circumstances" in California - and what is happening in California right now on these issues will be happening in the rest of the nation in the not too distant future.

Asia Times Online
California's sweet dream sours
By Julian Delasantellis
May 27, 2009

...after 30 years, California faces a frightening new peril, one at least as potentially disruptive to the existing social order as restaurants serving mashed yeast and brown rice. It's not socialism, the specter now haunting the square dances and hog-calling contests of red state state/backwoods America - it's something that, while once thought to be fairly innocuous, even beneficial, is now proving absolutely lethal to good governance-runaway, unchecked populism.

There's hard times abounding for America's ever-beckoning, blonde, big-titted cheerleader/swimsuit model, otherwise known as California. After an almost constant state of budget crisis for the past two years, a weak compromise was effected in the bitterly divided state legislature during the winter, one that required the voters to vote affirmatively on five tax-raising ballot initiatives for its full implementation...

Last Tuesday, the issue was put to the voters, and...the voters turned down all five by large majorities.

This blew apart the previous agreement, meaning that the state has to come up with at least US$21.3 billion to fill the expected 2009-10 fiscal year state deficit.

Big cuts, in areas such as public instruction, public safety, corrections, parks and just about everything the state government pays for are now considered inevitable. Even this may not be enough...

...On the "East Bay Express" left-wing blog, it was noted that:

Many appeared to welcome another crisis, especially on the left, in apparent hope that it would lead to meaningful government reforms. But count us as skeptical. California Republicans aren't going to just roll over and agree to jettison the two-thirds vote requirement needed to pass a budget, just because liberals want them to. Instead, look for another long summer that ultimately will lead to the devastation of public services, from the closure of parks to the further gutting of education.

Just as fingers were pointed to the right by the left, the right blamed the left, as in this post on the "American Daily Review" blog.

"California is a fiscal failure. The state brags the highest corporate income taxes in the West (and only seven states have higher corporate rates). California ranks at the top of the heap with the most progressive tax scheme in the nation, including the second-highest rate in the nation for those making in excess of $1 million. The sales tax burden in California ranks 13th in the nation. The total tax burden by California ranks 6th highest in the nation ... And California is asking Obama for a bailout...showing that even a liberal state like California has a populace with a limit on how high they are willing to be taxed...

...Perhaps more so than any other place on Earth, the people have ruled, and do rule, California. And what is it that people want? That's easy - they want, and believe it is their right to have, everything: lots of government programs and services, but they don't want to have to pay taxes to get them...

Just in this decade, the voters of California have had to pass judgment on over 100 referendum initiatives and proposed amendments to the state constitution. A close look at just some of them explains a lot of why the state is where it's at today...

In the past few years, the coming due of all the bonding initiatives passed early in this and the previous decades meant that the state was spending up to 40% of ready cash just on debt service, expenditures that could not be cut back without a government default on its obligations. The state has been in a virtually unending budget crisis since the middle part of this decade, and that was even before the global economic crisis hit.

This is particularly true as regards to the massive 100-car freeway smash-up that is modern California demographics. Hispanic-Americans outnumber whites in the state in every age cohort up to 45-54; add in Asian-Americans, and whites are outnumbered until you get way out to the senior citizens.

Political identification in California has become very easy. If you're any type of person of color you vote liberal Democrat as you do if you're white and live in the crunchy granola northern part of the state and West Hollywood. If you're white, and you live in the Caucasian redoubts of Orange County south of Los Angeles down to San Diego, you vote conservative Republican.

In terms of social comity and peaceful co-existence, probably the only existing system that does this worse is the tradition in chauvinistic cultures that allows brothers to murder the family members of one who had insulted their sister. The ethnic minorities, now the collective majority, know full well that the newly installed minority does not care sufficiently about them to tax themselves for their benefit. The now minority thinks that all society's troubles are just a result of the excess utilization of government services by "those people". Right-wing California talk-radio hosts regularly make six- and seven-figure incomes talking from sunup to sundown about how "those people" are the only ones currently to be found in schoolrooms, welfare offices, and hospital emergency rooms...

...At its heart, the political dysfunction that has led to its current economic dysfunction is quintessentially Californian; it's the belief that one can have everything good in the world forever and at no cost. If you're a woman, your plastic surgeon can load you up with so much botox and staples that you'll soon be double-dating at the drive-in with your great-granddaughter; if you're a man, you can ask your urologist to pump you with so much Viagra that you'll be breaking off the plaster at the nursing home on your every visit to the tub room.

There's the American dream, the California dream - everything all the time one wants it. In 1965, the Mamas and the Papas wrote of California dreaming; perhaps it would be better now if the state finally woke up and faced the morning.

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