California Slowly Strangled
Although never a deep admirer of Bill Clinton—besides leaving an empirical record as a moderate Republican his endless genuflections to any conservative whim only delivered a stolen election—one of the reasons I still deeply respect the man was his devotion and recognition of California as a special place worth constant laser attention, he was always coming out here. Clinton very much helped flip California the deepest of blue—Reagan and Nixon come from here, remember—yet since the reign of Worst George a scathing Federal contempt and non-attention has been held the for great California republic, much to the detriment of the country.
Usually I write this work as a Letter from California, only to have it instantly slotted to oblivion by anyone who doesn’t live here, which cannot be the case today. California singularly is a great society of incredible wealth and resources, yet still of course intimately part of the United States, it will serve no one at all to see us go down.
Right now the Legislature is an emergency special session to pass a budget, another ridiculous imbroglio of futility that has literally gone on for ten years. California has a profound revenue issue as the result of Proposition 13, it busted our finances and budget 30 years ago and ever since has been patched and stitched together in increasingly laughable legislative desperation to keep a high-service state running. That’s precisely what happened last week, the Legislature punted with another “workaround” budget but for whatever reason Governor Tricep vetoed it, a stupid silly gesture that will eventually lead to just another workaround.
Should Schwarzenegger really force the issue to the wall California would start shutting down public schools for part of the week next year. There isn’t a politician alive remotely brave enough to face the absolutely irate horde of California motherhood that would rightly go berserk at the thought their kids’ lives being messed with like that, so a punt we will get out of this special session, know it.
California Democrats are three votes short of the necessary super-majority required to pass sane progressive income taxes, and Governor Tricep would veto anything that didn’t screw the little people—currently Schwarzenegger is desperately lunging at the most regressive revenue he can find, the car and sales tax—so we are as resolutely stuck in fiscal crisis as we were ten years ago.
If the reckoning will not come this New Year’s the cliff-diving economy is rapidly forcing the issue into a wall of total resolution one way or another, either real revenue gets raised fast or elements of society really will start to shut down, schools and parks first, but in widening circles of dysfunction that will quickly lead to a disaster for the US economy. Even with a fresh workaround that day is actually coming sometime next Spring if things don’t change here.
That could come in two forms: a plain cash bailout from the Feds, or a huge real fight in the Legislature to bake in Democratic progressive taxation once and for all. Can liberals win a fight like that—assuming they have the leadership to do it, which they don’t—with Governor Tricep there? Doubtful.
So what we will get is what came before, a pathetic shell of a high-service state where “school clubs” routinely coax $700 checks from parent for school supplies and the fees have been jacked on so many “public” services they aren’t public at all anymore, it even costs freaking $20 to pitch a tent in campground these days, Jesus. Eventually to teeter into a full-scale disaster, for Republican obtuseness and stubbornness will finally one day not be escaped in any sense, and California will crash.
The great hope from seasoned minds at Calitics is for a federal bailout, eventually to somehow lead to the real necessary fight to finally get our revenue stream straight. 1 The issue is that Federal comprehension of the issue may come far too late with so many other urgent issues and expenditures going on, and California could spin out of control before Federal help sets in.
That will be a our great hope forward, that the Obama Administration soon recognizes that California is in dire straits right this second with profound implications for the rest of the country, and that with Bush finally gone a President who pays a lot of attention to California is doing a lot to help the country too.
 As far as I know Calitics is the only progressive site seriously, daily devoted to the California budget process, and they will get a PayPal hit of support from me this morning for it. If you even have a few dollars to spare, do consider dropping by their place and leaving it. California desperately needs an educated populace for this process, and Calitics has done enormous public good for such a tiny time in the ether.