I'm Singing the California Blues

APRIL 6, 2011

Once known throughout the world as the Golden State, California used to attract people from other parts of the United States as well as folks from other countries. People migrated to California for a chance of success in the land of opportunity — to be able to work, create and innovate. And innovation was not just allowed in California, it was encouraged and fostered.

My own parents came to California in the 1950’s from large East Coast cities, not only looking for better weather, but to break away from what they thought was stifling East Coast family and tradition.

My husband’s family has had seven generations of Californians in the state. But the younger family members are starting to migrate elsewhere. The promise California once held is no longer a reality — that is, unless you receive some type of government handout, entitlement or subsidy.

There is a cancer spreading across California and it’s called entitlement. California legislators talk every day about leading trends and being the first state to do something unique. Whether legalizing marijuana or gay marriage, or offering carbon offsets, and solar and green technology subsidies, California lawmakers are still obsessed with being different — and in doing so, causing financial disaster for the state.

However, California is still leading the nation in many areas: foreclosures, unemployment, business closures, college dropout funding, low-income housing, child-care subsidies, businesses departing the state, the $26 billion state budget, bond debt and corporate welfare.

We also lead the country in welfare and entitlements.

California, once the state to lead the rest of the country in nearly every segment of the economy, is now kicking and screaming like a petulant toddler, stubbornly refusing to recognize that the state is precariously perched on an unstable cliff. The only thing California will be leading in the future will be when we head over the financial cliff before every other state.

But, by golly, when that happens, every residence will have a solar system, our front lawns will be replaced with organic vegetable patches and drivers will only use sustainable hybrid cars. We will keep a goat in the backyard for milk, and be forbidden to eat meat. Our clothes will be made from hemp. And because of the water shortage, Californians will be a smelly group, limiting flushes and only allowed to bathe every fourth day.

Other states are doing everything to help revive business by lowering income tax rates while incentivizing entrepreneurs with tax cuts, manufacturers’ tax credits, regulatory reform and rewards for innovation. Yet California is still penalizing businesses for even daring to exist in this state, as well as preventing new businesses from being created with a permitting process that disheartens even the boldest of entrepreneurs.

Every legislative committee hearing I attend is loaded down with bills full of wish lists: green technology subsidies, free college for children of illegal immigrants, free health care, sustainable low-income housing, Internet service for low-income housing, utility-funded solar subsidies, homeless entitlements, plastic bag use penalties, reusable bag incentives, new vehicle purchases for universities and inmate education — all real legislation.

No Concern for Costs

It is tragic is that I am not hearing any warnings from the Capitol about the enormous cost of these programs, or even the impracticality of government trying to run entitlement programs. This is all wish-list stuff.

Major California public school districts such as Los Angeles are losing students at a 50 percent dropout level. They’re graduating illiterate kids, and kids that aren’t qualified to take college-level math and English. Yet the Senate Judiciary Committee this week convened a “special order of business” to consider San Francisco Democratic Sen. Mark Leno’s bill SB 48, described as a “prohibition of discriminatory content,” which would require Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender history to be taught in public schools.

This is not social comment, rather incredulity. When so many California students can’t perform at grade level, and most of those who do graduate have to spend the first year of college in high-school English and math classes, legislating social issues to the public school curriculum is reckless and vainglorious — all in the name of sensitivity.

This is how legislators spend their precious time, for which they are very well paid.

While Leno is currently pursuing matters near and dear to his heart, his colleague, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, is pushing a card check bill which would end the secret ballot process for agricultural workers.

My heart really is breaking for this state.

The Legislature continues to spend money we don’t have on programs that the majority of the state’s residents don’t need. It’s an arrogant plan to continue growing government. California isn’t providing more services to the needy; legislators are just adding entitlements and regulations, and then adding oversight boards and more employees to run the entitlement programs and manage the regulations.

It’s a flimsy scheme designed to provide more and more Californians with a tie to government — either in the form of a subsidy, pension or entitlement. Californians are now voting for their own entitlements.

High-Tax Ranking

Meanwhile, according to the Tax Foundation, California’s tax ranking against other states is embarrassing (with 50th being the highest-taxed residents):

Property Tax: 18th

Corporate Income Tax: 33rd

Sales Tax: 49th

Capital Gains on Real Estate: 50th

Gasoline Tax: 50th

Utility User’s Tax: 50th

School Parcel Tax: 50th

Overall Rank: 50th

According to my CalWatchdog colleague Wayne Lusvardi, California’s Unemployment Insurance, Workers Compensation, CalWORKS and Medi-Cal funds are broke. “These funds have been patched by Federal loans and subsidies for the last two years but the availability of these funds is running out,” Lusvardi recently wrote.

There are just too many legislators pushing their own egocentric wishes and utopian dreams on California, ignoring the obvious, unwelcome facts: California’s economy is not going to improve with solar subsidies, more entitlements and low-income housing with wireless Internet. This is no longer the Promised Land. The crisis is real, and government is never the answer.

Ronald Reagan said,Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.” How right he was. And how sad for California.

— Katy Grimes

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