Does the CA Election Really Matter?

OCT. 21, 2010


On Nov. 2 Californians face the most important election in decades, deciding the governorship, a U.S. Senate seat that could tip the Senate into the Republican camp, legislative and local races and several crucial ballot measures. When looking at a state election, it’s always essential to start with the national picture.

Golden Staters boast like this: “Californians can certainly be proud of statistics like these: California’s economy is the largest in the United States and the eighth largest in the world. …” That’s from the Web site of Gavin Newsom, the Democratic San Francisco mayor who’s running for lieutenant governor, a pointless jobs whose very existence displays the waste in California’s governmental system.

But it’s irrelevant. If California split up tomorrow into 10 smaller states, economically not much would change for anybody. The reason is because we’re all part of the United States, which still has the world’s largest and most productive economy — although repeated economic mistakes probably will lead to China overtaking us in a couple of decades.

The mistakes include inflation of 8 percent — the real number — caused by Federal Reserve Board inflationism;  a debasement of the dollar by the Fed to “prop up” the economy; two expensive wars that have bled the treasury dry; a Social Security system now running red ink; endemic, $1 trillion deficits; and a tax-and-regulatory system that punishes production and rewards complication.

California’s unemployment rate, officially 12.4 percent but might really be as high as 25 percent, won’t drop much, if at all, until at least some of the federal foolishness is fixed, no matter what happens in the state house in Sacramento.

Fiorina vs. Boxer

That’s why the crucial statewide race is incumbent Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer vs. Republican businesswoman Carly Fiorina. If Fiorina wins, then Republicans have a good chance of taking over the U.S. Senate, in addition to the House. They then could make matters difficult for President Obama, especially on the economy.

But as my article here on Fiorina here showed, she favors maintaining the Bush-Obama status quo on the wars and the inflationary Federal Reserve Board. So do most Republicans. So other than changing the faces in the leadership chairs in the Senate chamber, it’s not clear exactly how her election would shake things up.

Boxer, meanwhile, is the poster girl for liberal failure. Her latest strange stance was to favor the violation of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms of anyone put on the federal No Fly List. On October 18, Boxer insisted that the election “is a choice between someone who is working to keep our airlines safe and working to keep guns out the hands of terrorists, versus someone who believes that those on the suspected terrorist no-fly list should be able to buy a gun –- any gun.”

The mysterious No Fly List is compiled by the top-secret Terrorist Screening Center, part of the FBI. Its criteria for putting someone on the list are secret. So are the names on the list. Those flagged on the list have included the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, Boxer’s former liberal Democratic colleague.

Liberal Democrats are supposed to be against arbitrary police powers. Apparently not during elections.

Gerrymanders ‘R’ Us in California

Across the country, hundreds of congressional districts are undergoing the exhilarating practice of democracy in action. National issues are being debated, especially, between Tea Party Republicans eager for change and incumbent liberal Democrats. An estimated 50 to 100 seats are in play, out of 435.

Not in California. Severe gerrymandering following the 2000 U.S. Census has frozen districts for a decade as either heavily Republican or heavily Democrat.

According to Ballotpedia, Proposition 11, passed by California voters in 2008, is supposed to end the gerrymandering by turning redistricting for the state Legislature over to the new California Citizens Redistricting Commission. But that won’t happen until next year. Meanwhile, on this ballot in less than two weeks, another initiative, Proposition 20, would add congressional seats to those configured by the commission.

And to make matters more confusing, also on this November’s ballot is Proposition 27, which would eliminate the commission, essentially restoring the old system of gerrymandering.

Sanchez vs. Tran

One of the few competitive congressional races in California is between incumbent Democrat Loretta Sanchez and Republican challenger Van Tran. The Orange County Register described it this way:

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez has held sway there for nearly 14 years, easily dispatching a series of lackluster Republican opponents for more than a decade. She’s the daughter of immigrants in an immigrant district, a Democrat with an easy advantage in money and registered voters.

But her opponent this year is a political patriarch of the very Vietnamese community that Sanchez has worked to win over. Republican Assemblyman Van Tran hopes to ride the same tide of voter discontent that national Republicans think will put Congress in their hands this November.

Polls and pundits give Sanchez the edge, but many put Tran within striking distance. The chairman of the Republican National Committee called the race a “top 10” for the party.

For her part, Sanchez brought in former President Bill Clinton, who told cheering crowds at an Oct. 15 rally:

“This is about what kind of country this is going to be, what kind of community this is going to be, what kind of Orange County this is going to be,” Clinton said, speaking from the steps of the Old Orange County Courthouse to a crowd that police estimated at 1,000 people.

He warned later in his speech: “When you make an important decision when you are mad, there’s an 80 percent chance that you’ll make a mistake.” And then, to shouts and cheers, he added: “I’m old enough to admit mine.”

Unlike President Obama, President Clinton remains popular, and his appearance could turn the tide in favor of Sanchez.

The next Governator

The California race getting the most statewide and national exposure naturally is that to replace “Governator” Arnold Schwarzenegger. Both Republican candidate Meg Whitman and Democratic candidate Jerry Brown just put up attack ads linking the other to Schwarzenegger’s tenure of failure.

Ironically, both Brown and Whitman back Schwarzenegger’s favorite accomplishment, AB32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006; although Whitman favors suspending it for a year. None is convinced by the arguments that AB32 would kill many California jobs.

All three oppose Proposition 23, which would suspend AB32 until unemployment drops to 5.5 percent or lower for a year.

All three — Arnold, Meg and Jerry — also favor only minor tinkering with the state’s Doomsday Issue — state worker pension liabilities that could be as high as $500 billion. Although here, the are real differences in approach. Whitman promises a “business” approach to the problem, while Brown promises to use his vast experience in the mechanics of state government.

The pension tsunami is so immense that, to a certain extent, it won’t matter who’s the next governor. There just isn’t enough money to pay for the pensions. The New York banks and bond house will be reluctant to loan California more money to prop up the pensions. So the pensions will have to be cut — and the cuts will have to be big.

Budgets also will have to be cut. The shape of things to come is prefigured in the 19 percent government budget cuts just announced in the United Kingdom. Years of profligacy there, as in California and the rest of the United States, have brought an inevitable Day of Reckoning. And that Day is now.

California initiatives

Given the dysfunctional nature of the governor’s office and the state Legislature, as in the past most tough policy choices will be decided through initiatives.

The major initiative, Prop. 23, was mentioned above. The initiative’s proponents say it will save up to a million jobs by suspending AB32, which would impose draconian new environmental laws on the state.

Those opposing 23 say it will halt the creation of “green” jobs and prevent California from becoming the world leader in “clean” energy.

A Google search for “Prop. 23” done while writing this article found that the top ads and articles all were anti-23. Perhaps that could change before election day.

The bottom line is that Prop. 23 is about whether California will be perceived by global investors as a nutty place that comes up with screwball laws that could destroy your business in a heartbeat. The small number of “green” businesses subsidized or aided by AB 32 and other laws backed by high-tech investors excepted, of course.

Inhaling Prop. 19

The second most important initiative is Proposition 19, which effectively would legalize marijuana in California. Proponents say it would reduce the number of people in prisons for drug arrests. And that marijuana is effectively legalized anyway, with the possession of a small amount recently reduced to a $100 infraction.

Opponents say that Mary Jane is a “gateway” drug that leads to heroin, meth, cocaine and other “hard” drugs, although there’s little evidence to back up those claims.

A big complication is that the federal government, under supposed “liberal” President Obama and Attorney General Holder, will ignore the clear will of California voters, should 19 pass, and continue imposing the federal government’s draconian laws. Interfering in the actions of a sovereign state, Holder threatened, “Accordingly, we will vigorously enforce the [Controlled Substances Act] against those individuals and organizations that possess, manufacture or distribute marijuana for recreational use, even if such activities are permitted under state law.”

Proposition 22, according to Ballotpedia, “would prohibit the state from raiding” local funds. So it’s another form of “ballot-box budgeting” that has gotten the state in trouble in the past. The main part is that it would protect local redevelopment agencies, which misuse “eminent domain” to grab local private property and give it to other private companies.

Proposition 25, according to Ballotpedia, would “end the current requirement in the state that two-thirds of the members of the California State Legislature must vote in favor of the state’s budget in order for a budget to be enacted. It also requires state legislators to forfeit their pay in years where they have failed to pass a budget in a timely fashion.” Tax increases still would require a two-thirds vote.

The pay part is just bait. The real effect would be to make the Republican minority even more irrelevant.

The gerrymandered Legislature

Due to the gerrymandering discussed above, little will change in the state Legislature. After the election, it still will be just shy of two-thirds Democratic in both houses. Because the game currently is rigged, the Tea Party revolution sweeping the country is almost irrelevant here.

Everyone now is waiting to see what happens to Prop. 27 (discussed above), how the Redistricting Commission will work (should Prop. 27 fail), and what the results of the U.S. Census will show.

Meanwhile, the California’s Legislature remains an entrenched, clueless, global embarrassment.

But as Herb Stein’s Law goes, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” Regardless of what one thinks of democracy and the “will of the people,” California’s dreamy, unrealistic, even preposterous budget and other policies cannot go on forever.

John Seiler, an editorial writer with The Orange County Register for 20 years, is a reporter and analyst for His email: [email protected].

Related Articles

CA jobs growth continues strong

New data show strong jobs growth continuing in California throughout the year. That’s good news for the state’s workers. And

Legislating To Giants

Katy Grimes: This morning, the Assembly took time to honor the San Francisco Giants. A very excited Assemblyman Tom Ammiano,

School Funding Reform Skewered by CTA

JULY 11, 2011 By WAYNE LUSVARDI In California, all good ideas for school reform seem to end up in the corner