Right now California's economy is moribund, and the prospects for a quick turnaround are not good. Unable to pay its bills, the state is issuing IOUs; its once strong credit rating has collapsed. The state that once boasted the seventh-largest gross domestic product in the world is looking less like a celebrated global innovator and more like a fiscal basket case along the lines of Argentina or Latvia.
It took some amazing incompetence to toss this best-endowed of places down into the dustbin of history. Yet conventional wisdom views the crisis largely as a legacy of Proposition 13, which in effect capped only taxes.
This lets too many malefactors off the hook. I covered the Proposition 13 campaign for the Washington Post and examined its aftermath up close. It passed because California was running huge surpluses at the time, even as soaring property taxes were driving people from their homes. read more »
Contrary to popular notions held even here in southern California, Santa Monica was never really a beach town or bedroom community. It was a blue-collar industrial town, home to the famed Douglas Aircraft from before World War II until the 1970s.
When I first lived there in the early ’70s, the city was pretty dilapidated, decaying and declining (except for the attractive neighborhoods of large expensive homes in the city’s northern sections). I remember a lot of retirees, students, and like me and my wife, renters of small apartments in old buildings. The tiredness of the place was incongruous with its great location and weather. But then the first of several spectacular rises in real estate values took off. read more »
“Man is the only kind of varmint who sets his own trap, baits it, then steps in it.” — John Steinbeck
Though probably not intended as a political commentary, Steinbeck’s utterance perfectly describes the current California budget crisis. And, given the revenue and service delivery relationship between cities and the state, traps can be set and baited in Sacramento, leaving mayors, city councils and city managers to step in them. read more »
Dionne Warwick posed the question more than 40 years ago, yet most Americans still don’t know ‘The way to San Jose’. Possessing neither the international cachet of San Francisco nor the notoriety of Oakland, San Jose continues to fly under the national radar in comparison to its Bay Area compatriots. Even with its self-proclaimed status as the ‘Heart of Silicon Valley’, many would be hard pressed to locate San Jose on a map of California. read more »
These are times that thrill some easterners' souls. However bad things might be on Wall Street or Beacon Hill, there's nothing more pleasing to Atlantic America than the whiff of devastation on the other coast.
And to be sure, you can make a strong case that the California dream is all but dead. The state is effectively bankrupt, its political leadership discredited and the economy, with some exceptions, doing considerably worse than most anyplace outside Michigan. By next year, suggests forecaster Bill Watkins, unemployment could nudge up towards an almost Depression-like 15%. read more »
It is well known that the largest percentage losses in house prices occurred early in the housing bubble in inland California, Sacramento and Riverside-San Bernardino, Las Vegas and Phoenix. These were the very southwestern areas that housing refugees fled to in search of less unaffordable housing in California’s coastal metropolitan areas (Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and San Jose). read more »
By rejecting the complex Sacramento budget settlement, Californians have brought about an earthquake of national significance as has not been seen since the passage of Proposition 13 over thirty years ago. Once again, California voters handed politicians something they fear more than anything else, constraints on the ability to raise taxes and raid revenues for their pet interests.
Some, like long time Los Angeles Times statehouse reporter George Skelton thinks it’s the voters’ fault, as he suggested in his recent op-ed. The problem, we are told, lies with voters. The state’s massive fiscal crisis, which I and others warned was coming, was apparently unforecastable to California politicians and their enablers, like Skelton. read more »
Special interest groups are the scourge of the common interest, are they not? The Founding Fathers, in The Federalist Papers, recognized the danger posed by “factions,” but assumed that competing groups would keep the balance. They could not have foreseen our current Special Interest State, wherein tens of thousands of special interest groups exert such profound influence on politics, policies and life in the United States. read more »
Canaries were used in early coal mines to detect deadly gases, such as methane and carbon monoxide. If the bird was happy and singing, the miners were safe. If the bird died, the air was not safe, and the miners left. The bird served as an early warning system.
Domestic migration trends play a similar early warning system for states. California’s dynamism was always reflected by its ability to attract newcomers to the state. But today California’s canary is dead. read more »
My wife and I attended a wedding on a recent past weekend. It was a beautiful event in a beautiful setting: city of Atascadero, county of San Luis Obispo, on California’s central coast. We drove through spectacularly beautiful wine country to get there. The weather was beautiful. A beautiful young couple exchanged vows in the backyard of the groom’s childhood home, where his mom still lives.
Beautiful setting, wonderful people read more »