California, the Golden State. Do we need to change the name? Are we now considerably less than Golden? Perhaps the Nickel State. The Tin State? Bronze? Well, anyway, you get the idea. We’ve got no money. Our schools suck, our social services are falling apart, our parks might have to close, our state workers only get to go to their jobs occasionally. It’s a fucking mess. So I figured that since I know EVERYTHING I should probably offer an opinion for the world to ignore.
Let me start by telling you why you should care. If you’re in Ca the answer should be obvious. But frequently I’m surrounded by NYers so I’ll use small words and simple concepts in easy to read list form:
A- California runs your economy. If we fail, you will fail. We’d be the 8th largest economy in the world without the rest of you.
B- California sets the trends for everyone else. What ever we do now, you’ll do in a couple of years. That’s why we seem whacky. We’re leading the charge.
C- There are a lot of us. That’s why we get the biggest congressional delegation. It might be better if we’re educated.
D- We’re smarter than you. We moved OUT of the snow.
So, now to the real problems. To absolutely no thinking person’s surprise making an Austrian action hero the Governor wasn’t such a good idea. However there are three giant flaws in our current system that must be addressed regardless of who holds what office or which dumbass party is in charge. Until we get serious and fix these three things, NOTHING will get better. So pay attention.
Problem One- Prop 13: Prop 13 is killing this state. Our property tax revenue is just too low for the simple things we need to pay for like fire engines, schools, and police officers. It is also inherently unfair. The Getty and Haas families pay less in property taxes than somebody who just bought a three bedroom home in suburbia. As long as they keep those giant estates in the family they’re the only ones who are golden. I understand the principle behind prop 13. It helps keep fixed income residents in their homes. But it also allows home prices to fly all over the place by screwing up supply. It also helps rich older people while screwing young families. It is wrong and needs to go. No politician has the balls to say so even though they KNOW what the reality is.
Problem 2- Jails: We spend a huge percentage of our resources locking people up. Mostly people from the inner city. And this is a double hit. Locked up people cost money and they don’t contribute anything. So we need to lock up a lot fewer people. The easiest and safest way to do this is slowly release and pardon ALL inmates charged with possession. After that we can begin to release, on parole, anyone charged with distribution of narcotics. If they commit some other crime we’ll lock them back up, but we’ll stop arresting people for drugs. We’ll save billions, and make millions more when we tax their use. (More on legalization in a later post.) There’s even an added bonus because the resulting surplus of law enforcement resources will lead to better enforcement of things like rape and child abuse.
Problem 3- The political culture of entitlement. Let’s say I go out and get elected to my local city council. Bingo, I never need to get another job again. After my term I’ll run for DA, or maybe tax assessor or some damn thing. I’ll eventually get to the State Assembly, and once I’m termed out I’ll run for the State Senate. If I lose my buddies will place me on some well funded commission like the Solid Waste Board where I’ll make 130K for doing very little while I raise money to run for assistant insurance commissioner or maybe mayor of Oakland. After that a friend might end up close to the Gov and I’ll get a judgeship or some county job. If things go badly I’ll be stuck as an airport administrator or lobbyist. But I’ll never do another real job again. Why do you think that bills raising the luxury tax on yachts never pass regardless of how badly we need the money? The rich pay for a permanent class of legislators to protect them. This has got to stop.
Do I think any of these three things will happen? NO. But don’t blame me when India steals our jobs because their kids learn science or when your house burns down because the Fire Station on your block was furloughed that week. If you don’t deal with the big issues, the little ones will never matter.