Golden State Gloom

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For a number of years, California has maintained its reputation as a “cutting edge” state, the incubator of grandiose ideas that eventually find their way to the more “benighted” regions of the country. California is indeed ahead of the curve in that it offers a compelling look at where unfettered progressivism in all its destructive glory eventually leads. It is a destructiveness the Obama administration aims to impose on the rest of the nation should the president win re-election in 2012.

The 2010 election was essentially a repudiation of Democrats and the Obama administration in virtually every state across the nation–save California. While 63 seats in the House of Representatives changed hands from Democrats to Republicans, not even one Democrat incumbent from California lost a seat. Democrat Jerry Brown was elected Governor and Sen. Barbara Boxer was re-elected to the Senate. Leftists were ecstatic. “California held on last night against the Republican rager that swept the nation,” wrote Mother Jones’ Josh Harkinson. Huffington Post’s Phil Trounstine and Jerry Roberts noted that the “raging red wave that swept across the country” didn’t reach the Golden State.

Jennifer Jones was far less optimistic–and far more accurate. “California seems determined to pursue liberal statism to its logical conclusion (bankruptcy),” she wrote for Commentary Magazine.

Technically speaking states cannot go bankrupt. But they can run out of money, precisely like California is–again. In 2009, facing a staggering budget shortfall of $26 billion, the state was forced to issue IOUs to many of its creditors and furlough state employees. Last month, CA state Controller John Chiang notified the legislature that the state will run out of money sometime in March, unless $3 billion in cuts or revenues can be found to keep the state solvent for fiscal year that ends in June. Next year looks even worse, with the state facing a deficit of $6.6 billion.

Cities are a different story. They can go bankrupt, and Stockton, CA is on the brink. Mayor Ann Johnston expresses the essence of progressive “logic” that brought this city of nearly 300,00 people to its knees. “When we went on a real spending spree and built the arena, the ballpark, a lot of community infrastructure–did a whole lot of things to improve the community that were bonded,” she says. “I mean, these were all financed through municipal bonds.” That would be $300 million worth of bonds fueled by a real estate boom “city leaders thought…was going to continue forever,” Johnston added.

As for public service employees, Stockton is a microcosm. Pay raises and enhanced benefit packages for police and firemen became the order of the day. City Manager Bob Deis says Stockton is currently facing a $20 million deficit in a $160 million budget. Yet those numbers pale in comparison to the far bigger problem “Right now, we have an unfunded liability in the retiree health program around $450 million,” said Deis. Stockton would be the largest city in America to go bankrupt. Yet they are not alone. The northern California cities of Hercules and Lincoln, are attempting to restructure their debt and cut employee costs to forestall insolvency, and municipal finances in San Jose and San Diego are also reaching unsustainable levels, driven by the same public employee pension debt and healthcare costs strangling municipalities across the entire state.

Yet progressive arrogance and denial run deep. Even modest pension reforms proposed by Gov. Brown are going nowhere in the Democratically-dominated state legislature, and Democratic Sacramento Assemblyman Roger Dickinson has actually introduced a Public Employees Bill of Rights protecting the status quo of union largess. How tough it is for public employees? 15,000 California government retirees have pensions greater than $100,000 per year, and 1332 public sector employees currently make over $150,000 per year. And lest anyone think Gov. Jerry Brown is the voice of reason, think again: he and his fellow Democrats in the state legislature continue to support a high-speed rail project connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco whose cost estimates have exploded from between $40-$45 billion two years ago to $98.5-$117.6 billion–before the first piece of track has been laid down.

California’s solutions? Like all good progressives, Brown has proposed “tax the rich” increases in California’s seven income tax brackets that currently begin at 9.3 percent for people making $47,056 a year, up to 10.3 percent for people with incomes over a million dollars. Brown wants to raise the latter figure to 12.3 percent on everyone making $250,000 or more. The governor insists on these increases even though the top one percent of California earners currently pay 50 percent of the state’s income tax. He also wants to raise state sales taxes (which vary by county) up to a range of 7.75 percent to 10 percent. All of these proposals will be on the 2012 ballot.

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  • Ken

    Hopefully, I will not be living here in California when it implodes!!

    • EKP

      It won't matter.

      "As goes California, so goes the rest of the nation."

      You can't escape it. It will just happen to California first and then sweep north, south and east, like a virus. We are all genuinely screwed. Moving to another state will only spare you the pain and suffering temporarily.

  • tagalog

    Jennifer Jones said California is headed for bankruptcy? I LOVED her in Song of Bernadette!

  • Voslucky

    California is the prime example of what will happen on a national level when the entitlement generation is in full control.

  • M.Archer

    The comments to this story tell the story! With freinds like these who needs progressives? Are you kidding. STAND UP AMERICA. Are we men or mice? The progressives are in the minority; but because we want our overinflated retirement and subsidies and to feel the warm fuzzy of subsidizing the illegal alien pouring accross their border- we will ride our societal mental illness right into the ocean. But don't worry once California goes belly up we can start over the right way by putting the entire state on the welfair dole of the USSA! Great job people.

  • kentatwater

    You are really neck deep in Skittles, when someone like Moonbeam has to tell folks to dial back the socialism just a touch.

  • rbla

    Actually California is the prime example of what happens when we displace the American population with masses of cheap labor immigrants from the Third World thereby permanently altering the demographic and electoral balance. And nitwit Republicans have joined Democrats in enabling this.

  • fiddler

    "Pay raises and enhanced benefit packages for police and firemen became the order of the day".

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    Everyone needs to support the "re-election" of Gov Scott Walker in WI. Brain-dead people in OH bought the lie that people would lose their Fire-Department and Police Force. That was a ploy to defeat Gov Kasich, and emboldened unions to take down Walker. These are the most selfish, self-serving, narcissists on the planet. They catch this "neurosis of entitlement" and feel that their union dues ought to buy them the world. People ought to get off the couch and realize that these people (the politically charged ones) are a threat to the economy. They do NOT deserve special treatment, but they are coddled because they are boots on the ground for the left. California is drowning in its own ideology and refuses to wise up. It's no wonder people are leaving in droves.

  • AntiSharia

    I wonder if there is any way to kick a state out of the country?

  • http://www.calreview.com Dave

    Yes, California is the canary in the coal mine. Nations are organisms that are born, grow, thrive, decline and die. It's been a nice ride for many decades, but now we're in decline. The most we can hope for is to slow the decline before we sink into that good night.

  • george

    it is the whole country boys and girls and there is nothing going to stop it !!!!!!!

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Yes Jerry Brown is leading his state into a hole so large it will bottom out where only Jules Verne sent
    Capt. Nemo……….why do leftists do this to California knowing economic destruction is eminent by
    continuing irresponsible fiscal practices? The answer is that leftists want to destroy America and
    the leftists of California are mostly ahead of everyone else in the process of ruination. When there
    is zero accountability required in our educational system and irresponsible dolts are the graduates
    it follows that they will be making the decisions affecting everyone's life. The absence of self control
    and the desire to subvert America to lower it's standing in the World and kick it's prosperity down
    the hole is something the leftists do not recognize as self destruction. Who will they whine to when
    there is no life left to destroy, what will necessity call for amidst the chaos, we are in for quite a
    show………………………………………………William

  • Raymond in DC

    "Unsurprisingly, all of the above has contributed to an exodus of businesses leaving the state. Since 2007, more than 2,500 employers have left, taking approximately 109,000 jobs with them."

    Though "mugged by reality", many (maybe most) of these transplants haven't taken the lesson to heart. Setting up new homes in Texas or Colorado they remain "true believers", intent on promoting their progressive ideas. They just think this time they'll "do it right".

  • Maxie

    The Left has had a chokehold on California's Legislature for decades. In that time they've gerrymandered voting districts to assure perpetual political hegemony. By controlling the Legislature they've "bought" the public sector unions by granting high wages and super-cushy retirement benefits. This is the definition of Fascism as devised by Mussolini. Italy collapsed and California is collapsing. The nail in the coffin has been California's feckless GOP which, like the national GOP, is dominated by RINO's who "go along to get along". California's Central Valley is the only conservative entity in the state but its' relatively sparse population gets swamped by LA and SF. The state also has dozens of universities which pump-out thousands of brainwashed lefty's each year to keep the disease thriving. The high schools are a hundred times worse.Take note elsewhere; the plague is coming to your state as we speak.

  • outofthere

    I got out of California "Greece part 2" 3 months ago and will never go back.