As a lifelong California resident used to living in the fabled - but very real - land of opportunity, the recent hard times in my state almost don’t seem real – and in a lot of ways, they’re not real: they’re thoroughly and completely manmade. State government has grown by leaps and bounds just in the past six years alone, and the lack of wisdom & courage in Sacramento often makes even Washington DC look good. Democrats, their toadies, unions, public employees and a completely pliant media run totally this state from a public-policy point of view, along with an electorate who are easily manipulated by same.
The good news is, that same electorate seems to be able to stir itself out of stupidity every few years as well. Yesterday we defeated an entire raft of bad ideas that would have raised our taxes, perpetuated the spending status quo in Sacramento, and rewarded Governor Schwarzenegger and the Sacramento Democrats for their asinine governance of the state the past few years. Ironically, it was just such a stirring of populist common-sense several years ago that put Schwarzenegger in power. An entire book should be – and no doubt will be – written about this man’s transformation from a Milton Friedman-quoting, near-Libertarian hero to just another Sacramento boob. Yesterday, he & the legislature floated a series of proposals that effectively would have covered years of overspending and bad mistakes by both, and raised taxes on the backs on the already hard-hit electorate, which has seen state and local taxes and hidden fees rise nearly every year since the dot-com bust. I won’t go into details, but these initiatives just didn’t lose – they were totally creamed. All except for the one that punished the lawmakers themselves, and keeps their salaries frozen every year the budget is not in balance. I voted against this gimmicky initiative, but believe me, I share the sentiments behind it.
Naturally the media is absolutely howling. The loss of one public job, let alone thousands, is taken as a deep, terminal wound from which we’ll never recover, forgetting of course that thousands upon thousands of those needless jobs are added to taxpayer-supported roles every year, without a peep of discontent from that same media. I really liked this post by Matt Welch at Reason Online about it. I expect lots of “OK California voters, you asked for it” moralizing this week and next when Schwarzenegger and the legislature start cutting jobs and programs, as they must to keep the state running. And far be it for me to praise the generally feckless California Republicans (at least those not named George Deukmejian or Tom McClintock), but damn, they’ve done a good job at holding the line on more new taxes despite nearly-overwhelming odds.
I don’t have particularly high hopes for California in the near term, but I hope this at least gets things shifting a little bit in the minds of the people elected to spend our tax dollars wisely. Not that I expect any assistance from the media, who have their own dynamic shifts & upheaval to deal with, as they’ll continually blame the voters for their periodic bursts of common sense.