California, in Context


Last week, I pointed readers to a risibly rose-colored analysis of California courtesy of the New York Times‘ Timothy Egan. In a passage I didn’t quote in that post, Egan wrote:

All of [California’s efforts] together — the rerouted rivers, the train moving at the speed of Superman, taxing the rich and welcoming a Latino majority — is a road not taken by any other state. You can laugh at the sunbaked barbarians, even wish them ill. But you should not fail to see in their fledgling renaissance another chapter in the American experiment, no less daring than the Golden Gate Bridge or the castle that Hearst erected at continent’s edge.

Let’s put that “experiment” in slightly more prosaic terms. From the Sacramento Bee’s Capitol Alert blog:

Were California’s state government a business, it would be a candidate for insolvency with a negative net worth of $127.2 billion, according to an annual financial report issued by State Auditor Elaine Howle and the Bureau of State Audits.

… The report listed the state’s long-term obligations at $167.9 billion, nearly half of which ($79.9 billion) were in general obligation bonds, with another $30.8 billion in revenue bonds, many of which were issued to build state prisons, whose “revenue” is lease payments from the state general fund.

The list of long-term obligations did not include the much-disputed unfunded liabilities for state employees’ future pensions, nor the $60-plus billion in unfunded liabilities for retiree health care. The Governmental Accounting Standards Board and Moody’s, a major bond credit rating house, have been pushing states and localities to include unfunded retiree obligations in their balance sheets and were they to be added to California’s, it could push its negative net worth down by several hundred billion dollars.

Enjoy that renaissance, California.

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    I wish my state had California’s real-estate, its ports, its private universities, its coastline, and its technology and entertainment industries. All we’ve got is the Salt River, some farmland, and copper. And yet somehow we manage to balance our books!

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    @CuriousKevmo – I took the same drive the other day. We should have carpooled. It would have been the CA thing to do.

    I didn’t find the roads too bad on the 5, but that stretch of 580 is terrible and has been for years. And just north of the Grapevine, the signs about a “Congress Created Dust Bowl” are frightening.

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    Troy Senik, Ed.: L:

    All of [California’s efforts] together — and welcoming a Latino majority — is a road not taken by any other state.

    Neither is the reality that the one Democrat identity group-blacks- seem to be increasingly displaced, if not murdered by another Democrat identity group;

    “During the last five years, more than 3,000 murders in Los Angeles County have been attributed to gangs. Fifteen or 20 years ago the majority of the murders would have been committed by members of black gangs. Today, most of the murders are committed by Latino gang members, many of them illegal aliens. Latino gangs now outnumber black gangs, 209 to 152, and have more than double the number of gang members.”

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    I heard an interview with Paul Ryan and he relayed a conversation he had recently with Obama. He actually felt that CA is a success story. That the spending & taxing are not only sustainable but are an example for how the nation could get our economic house in order.

    Be afraid, be very afraid.

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    California – boldly going where no accountant has gone before.

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    But Paul Krugman proclaims California on a comeback, from which we can learn valuable lessons. Or is this April Fools?

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    “Rerouted rivers?” California built some levees in the bay delta in the 19th century to create farmland — there’s not a chance in a million that could ever happen today — the state also built a number of magnificent dams in the last century that the pre-columbian purists are thirsting to demolish now.  And, has Egan ever heard of the Salton Sea? That’s one rerouted river, all right.

    “The train moving at the speed of Superman?” From Fresno to Madera, and not a foot of track laid (but billions spent). This Egan fellow must be on drugs.

    Taxing the rich? Hell, they tax everybody, with nothing to show for it. And the Latino majority — undercutting wages and displacing low-skilled citizens while soaking up social services and creating a bifurcated  culture and crime, crime, crime: The Nortenos, Surenos, Mara Salvatruca, Mexican Mafia, etc. Sunbaked barbarians, all right.

    Top it off with an entitled governing class that awards itself hideously lavish salaries and pensions and there you have it — a once-great state poised for a new dark age.

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    Just yesterday I drove from the high desert in southern California to my home here in the bay area and what an adventure.  The roads were atrocious, huge chunks of concrete and asphalt separated from the tarmac.  Every couple miles a giant billboard ranting against the water policies that are starving the world’s most productive farmland of vital resources.  Strip malls that are 50% occupied.  

    Yet on the news last night I hear the beautiful newscaster mocking all the negative press CA is getting.  I guess from her flat atop Russian hill in the city, all is well.

    I really wish I could talk my wife into leaving this mess before it’s too late.

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    Great article in the Atlantic today on this very subject:

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    AZ Dude: Great article in the Atlantic today on this very subject: · 42 minutes ago

    The Atlantic article cites a piece in Reason by Tim Cavanaugh:

    The prison guards union regularly makes seven-figure contributions both to political candidates and to ballot initiative campaigns, nearly all of it with the goal of preventing any decline in the state’s bulging prison population. CCPOA gave $1 million to the successful 2008 campaign against Proposition 5, which would have reduced sentences and parole times for nonviolent drug offenders while emphasizing drug treatment over prison. The initiative failed by nearly 20 percentage points.

    The immorality of this is staggering.  Here are a group of people who profit by keeping their fellow citizens locked up and they have the power, through bribery, to prevent those citizens from being paroled.  How can progressive Californians possibly square this with their professed ideals?

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