California’s Parallel Universe
A friend recently asked what San Francisco’s bond rating getting downgraded had to do with Sharon Angle and Christine O’Donnell’s losses in the last election. I will try to connect the dots.
We’re broke. The American public knows it. They turned over at least 63 House seats, 6 Senate seats, a dozen governorships, 20 chambers of state legislatures, and untold mayors and dog catchers to Tea Party-led Republicans. Sometimes an election turns on a scandal, a major personality, an international crisis, or social issues. Not this time – the public rejected the liberal policies of the Democrats. Among the candidates propelled by the tide were some with great promise – Marco Rubio and Nikki Haley for example – and some that would not have achieved much attention or success in a normal year – Angle and O’Donnell among them. For the defeated Democrats it is much more comforting to talk about the few than the many.
Out here in California the same factors exist. We’ve got among the highest unemployment rates, housing foreclosure rates, structural state budget deficits, unfunded public employee pension liabilities, and an evaporating tax base. But the political establishment and the voters have a different set of priorities. While the rest of the country is looking for adult supervision and jobs, Californians continue to oppose oil drilling and nuclear power, and instead reaffirmed the country’s most stringent environmental regulations knowing that they will drive up utility costs and further reduce manufacturing and the tax base. And they turned the governorship from Republican to Democrat while keeping the Democrats’ large federal and state legislative majorities and almost all state offices.
It really is the voters, not some diabolical plot of the media or corrupt politicians. Its not even that the Republicans didn’t have decent candidates or enough money to spend. If there is no money for schools, water projects or roads, at least we are doing our part for global warming. The icing on the fiscal irresponsibility cake was in San Francisco where a proposition to put modest brakes on public employee pensions was easily defeated by the city’s unions and their liberal allies. Two weeks later bond-rater Fitch provided a negative review, citing the City’s “persistent and large budget deficits” and “post-employment benefits liabilities”. Fitch may not have as much effect as the voters in Ohio, but they recognize that we are on the road to ruin.
So what can change the game in California other than bankruptcy or an unlikely federal bailout? I note with some interest that 37% fo the students at the University of California are now Asian and that a majority of students in the statewide k-12 school system are now Hispanic. Their parents came here for economic opportunity and want their kids to have good educations. They are not environmental zealots and do not use the political establishment’s pro-choice litmus test. I don’t know how the political restructuring will come about, but it is my hope that the emerging majority will eventually demand government policies which support a prosperous economy. Whether the Republicans can align with them or whether they will eventually change the Democratic Party remains to be seen.