Archive for Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cost of government sinking California

January 10, 2010


— Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976) was a hero to the American left, partly because of his 1939 anti-war novel “Johnny Got His Gun.” Trumbo’s title modified the lyric “Johnny get your gun” from the World War I song “Over There.” Trumbo’s “Johnny” is horribly maimed in that war. Now we need a novel titled “Berkeley Got Its Liberalism.” Pending that, we have Tad Friend’s report, in the Jan. 4 New Yorker, on maimed Berkeley.

California, a laboratory of liberalism, is spiraling downward, driven by a huge budget deficit. So the University of California system’s budget was cut 20 percent. Then the system increased in-state student fees 32 percent to ... $10,302. But that is still 70 percent below student costs at Stanford and other private institutions in California that Berkeley considers no better than it is.

Last September, Friend reports, 5,000 Berkeley employees and students rallied in Sproul Plaza, scene of protests that ignited the 1960s and helped make Ronald Reagan governor. Some protesters, says Friend, were “naked except for signs that read ‘BUDGET TRANSPARENCY.’” At an indoor meeting, a “student facilitator” used a projection screen to summarize proposals, which included: “rolling strikes”; “nationalize all universities”; “socialist revolution”; “a tent city in Sacramento”; “create a shadow Board of Regents”; “occupy Wells Fargo Bank in downtown Oakland”; “worker-student control of the university”; “strike in March”; “act now, f—- March”; “capitalism is bad.” Toward the end of the seven-hour meeting, participants shouted “General strike! General strike!”

In its impact on the institution, and on students trying to grip the lower rungs of the ladder of social mobility, the UC system’s crisis is sad. This academic year, only one-sixth of the normal number of new faculty have been hired at Berkeley. The Cal State system — a cut below the UC campuses — will enroll 40,000 fewer students this year than last. But because the professoriate is overwhelmingly liberal, there is rough justice in its having to live with liberalism’s consequences, which include this:

Kevin Starr, author of an eight-volume — so far — history of the (formerly) Golden State, says California is “on the verge” of becoming something without an American precedent — “a failed state.” William Voegeli, writing in the Claremont Review of Books, tartly says that “Rome wasn’t sacked in a day, and California didn’t become Argentina overnight.”


It took years for liberalism’s redistributive itch to create an income tax so steeply progressive that it prompts the flight from the state of wealth-creators: “Between 1990 and 2007,” Voegeli writes, “some 3.4 million more Americans moved from California to one of the other 49 states than moved to California from another state.”

And the state’s income tax — liberalism codified — intensifies the effects of business cycles on the state’s revenue stream: During booms, the stream surges and stimulates government spending; during contractions, revenues dwindle but the new government spending continues. Voegeli says that if California’s spending had grown no faster than population growth and inflation from 1992 to 2006, it would have been $65 billion less in 2006, and per capita government outlays then would have equaled not those of Somalia or Mississippi but of Oregon, which is hardly “a hellish paradigm of Social Darwinism.”

It took years for liberalism’s mania for micromanaging life with entangling regulations to make California’s once creative economy resemble Gulliver immobilized by the Lilliputians’ many threads. The state, which between 1990 and 2007 lost 26 percent of its factory jobs and 35 percent of its high-tech manufacturing jobs, ranks behind only New York, another of liberalism’s laboratories, in the number of outward-bound moving vans.

It took years for compassionate liberalism to make California’s welfare menu contribute to the state becoming an importer of Mexico’s poverty. It took years for servile liberalism to turn the state into what Voegeli calls a “unionocracy,” run by and for unionized public employees, such as public safety employees who can retire at 50 and receive 90 percent of the final year’s pay for life.

Friend reports that when the seven-hour meeting ended, the protest moved to the UC president’s house. Two buses carried “some hundred Berkeley students and members of AFSCME.” Perfect.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is one reason why California’s government employees — their numbers grew 24 percent between 1997 and 2007 — are the nation’s most highly compensated. And why California’s economy is being suffocated by the weight of government. And why the state’s budget has little left over for Berkeley.


anon1958 7 years, 1 month ago

This article by George Will is perfect for every neo-con reader. Oversimplification of a complex situation + blame the boogeyman. This mess of an opinion piece is so incoherent and detached from reality that it is not worth the trouble of meaningful criticism.

That crazy old George Curley with the homespun BS has produced opinion pieces more interesting and accurate than this drivel by George Will.

leedavid 7 years, 1 month ago

Hydra (Anonymous) says…

Maybe George Wills should check out Kansas, a hotbed of Republicanism. Looks like have the same problem.

Why would he do that? California is 5.6 Billion in debt we are 436 million


A quick review shows big states with high tax policies are doing horrible. Looks like another reason for not spending more than the revenues.

Anon: So what is your reason for California doing so badly compared to the rest of the nation? (Almost twice as bad as New York)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

"Why would he do that? California is 5.6 Billion in debt we are 436 million"

Well, as with most quick calculations, yours is pretty much useless.

If you equalize for the difference in populations, Kansas debt would be $5.7 billion.

leedavid 7 years, 1 month ago

And Bozo speaking of useless calculations....why would you do that? Which would you rather have you, 5.6 billion or or 436 million? Would it matter how many people were in your family to you?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

Jeez, leedavid, are you really that clueless? Of course it matters how many people there are. The per capita debt is virtually identical, and it's the individual taxpayers who will eventually have to cover this debt.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

One more little consideration-- Median household income in California is about $61,000, while in Kansas it's about $50,000. So, as a percentage of income, state debt in Kansas is 20% higher than California's.

weeslicket 7 years, 1 month ago

george will: "Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976) was a hero to the American left, partly because of his 1939 anti-war novel “Johnny Got His Gun." a bit too simplistic.

george will: "Trumbo’s “Johnny” is horribly maimed in that war." a bit of an understatement. Johnny Got His Gun is one of the most distrubing books i've ever read.
that george will would reference it in his lead, as an over-arching example of 'what's wrong with california' is just kooky. makes me wonder if mr. will has even read the book.

ASBESTOS 7 years, 1 month ago

"Why would he do that? California is 5.6 Billion in debt we are 436 million"

IF you do the math it states that Kansas is exactly 155 dollars per person in debt and that so are Californians.

$5.6 Billion divided by the Cali population of 36 million, and the Kansas debt of $436 million divided by 2.8 million population.

States are just spending money on too many programs.

keith manies 7 years, 1 month ago

George Will, like most right wing commentators, has little knowledge of recent history. He disregards the current economic crisis brought on by Republican policies of the past 30 years that rewarded corporations and the rich with huge tax cuts, while screwing the rest of the population. Their laissez-faire economic policies lead to the disaster on Wall Street that has severely effected the American economy and therefore the economy of California. Will has also forgotten about Proposition 13, which was part of the so-called Reagan Revolution, which capped property taxes in the Golden State. This lead to California being deprived of billiions of dollars of tax revenues that has lead to the current crisis in that state's budget. None of the current problems were created by Pelosi, Reid, Dalton Trumbo, or "liberal" policies that Will points to as the source of the Californian state budget crisis. Will's perspective is limited in scope and historical input, a hallmark of right wing thinking.

beatrice 7 years, 1 month ago

Arizona is in as bad an economic situation as California, if not worse, yet it is run by Republican majorities across the board. How would Will explain Arizona, a laboratory of conservativism if there ever was one, and its downward economic spiral?

I think we all agree that Senator John McCain, had he won the election, would have saved the country from any of the economic hardships we've experienced under Obama and that unemployment would be back at around 4% now. Yes, we all see that now. Heck, McCain probably would have personally stopped the XMas bomber before he boarded the plane, too.

So as its Senator, along with Republican Jon Kyl, why hasn't John McCain done anything to help just a small portion of the country by saving the state of Arizona?

Tom McCune 7 years, 1 month ago

I do consulting work in Silicon Valley some of the time, and I have quite a few friends there. Prop 13 is a big part of the problem, but certainly not all of it. Basically it says that when you buy a house, the tax appraisal never goes up. I know one person who bought their house in 1966. They pay about $300 per year in property tax. The person across the street, with a very similar house bought in 2007, pays about $20,000 per year in property tax.

The same law applies to commercial property, so General Motors, which owns a manufacturing plant acquired in the 1920s pays very little property tax.

This is an example of why direct democracy and referendums don't work very well.

The state employee unions also have too much money and power. When you watch TV in California during election times, most of the ads are paid for by the state prison guards union and many other state employee unions.... The prison guards union seems more powerful than any political party in California...

bendover61 7 years, 1 month ago

As California goes so goes the country. Stop spending money.

ASBESTOS 7 years, 1 month ago

"Bozo thanks for doing the research and math. I could have done it but I don't really have time today."

That made me snort my drink through my nose!

Bozo does not do research and probably cannot handle simple math. Support of the Health Care Reform bill contradicts having done research and the ability to do math.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

"Bozo does not do research and probably cannot handle simple math."

A quick review of this thread would show you that I was well ahead of you on the math on tax deficits, Cali vs KS.

"Support of the Health Care Reform bill contradicts having done research and the ability to do math."

Anyone with minimal reading comprehension would know that I've done anything but support the bill that's about to pass. At best, it's a 50-50 bill, with as much (or more) corrupt payoffs as actual reform.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 1 month ago

So, California's crisis is on a par with the rest of the states of the union. Strange the "liberal" mainstream media chooses to trumpet the California crisis above all others. Is there, perhaps, another agenda afoot?

jonas_opines 7 years, 1 month ago

"And Bozo speaking of useless calculations….why would you do that? Which would you rather have you, 5.6 billion or or 436 million? Would it matter how many people were in your family to you?"

You honestly don't understand the point of per-capita breakdown for aggregate numbers? Wowzers.

leedavid 7 years, 1 month ago

Jonas you can't seriously be saying the high tax rate coupled with the outrageous spending is running the State of California into bankrupcy.

Kansas is well on its way, but California is leading the way.

leedavid 7 years, 1 month ago

Jonas sorry for the should be changed to "isn't running'. I apologize.

jonas_opines 7 years, 1 month ago

No, I don't believe I said or implied that at all. I was only interested in the single point that I quoted, the rest has no bearing on me other than being part of the reason I don't want to move to Cali.

chipmunk 7 years, 1 month ago

Not all government spending is bad, not al tax cuts are bad, not all liberal ideas are bad not all conservative ideas are bad. Instead of calling each other names and trying to show who is smarter and who is an evil moron, why not come together to fix this horrendous mess we are in? Where is the leadership? Where is the vision? More sniping and B.S. and fiddling while Rome burns.

Brent Garner 7 years, 1 month ago

One thing governments, particularly it appears democracies though it isn't limited to them, seem unable to comprehend is living within a budget. That is the weakness of democracies and it is driven by a simple fact. When politicians or the populace begin to think they can vote themselves increasing largesse from the public funds then propsperity is threatened, progress will slow, and democracy will fail. But it will require a disciplined public who is willing to do with less to solve this problem and in many parts of this country, if not all, there is no stomach for that.

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