So, a member of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors – Jeff Stone, a Republican – has proposed splitting the state of California, with San Diego and the largely rural, Republican-leaning south east of the state becoming “South California,” and LA remaining with the liberal coast and northern part of the state. You can follow the link to the LA Times for the map of what his proposal would look like. Secession proposals of this nature are a hardy perennial on the Left and Right alike, and are almost always bad ideas, although there is at least a fair argument that California as currently constituted is (1) too large any longer to serve the role of responding to local needs unmet from Washington that is a major part of why we have a federal system in the first place (as the LAT notes, “[t]he proposed 51st state would be the fifth largest by population, more populous than Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania”), (2) essentially dysfunctional, and (3) particularly unresponsive to the needs of the 13 million residents of the 13 counties in question.
But what’s really interesting here isn’t a proposal by one member of the board of one county, but rather the response by a spokesman for Governor Jerry Brown:
“If you want to live in a Republican state with very conservative right-wing laws, then there’s a place called Arizona,” Brown spokesman Gil Duran said.
Now, I don’t know about you, but saying that millions of residents should just leave the state if they don’t like California’s liberal laws, dysfunctional finances and horrendous business climate doesn’t really disprove the point that the Sacramento elite really and truly do not care about the Republican-leaning parts of the state or the people in them. California’s unemployment rate is 11.7% compared to 9.1% for the nation as a whole (given California’s size, I’d guess without doing the math that means the rest of the country may be as much as a full three points below CA). Even the NY Times says California’s budget crisis may be the worst in the nation, with a $26.6 billion budget deficit comprising nearly a third of the state’s budget. California owes $2,362 in debt per resident of the state, and pays a 20% premium to borrow money compared to better-run states; its A- credit rating from Standard & Poor’s is the worst in the nation. A recent budget deal only barely convinced S&P to avoid an immediate further downgrade, and S&P is still concerned that the deal doesn’t solve the state’s long-term “backlog of budget obligations accumulated during the past decade”.
Gov. Brown’s office may think that’s a record to get cocky about, but maybe it’s time California showed a little humility about the failures of its political culture and business climate, and learned a few things from its more conservative neighbors – and maybe even from some of its own citizens.