California Now a 'Zombie State'

MAY 23, 2011


In our 18 months online, we at have detailed the massive burden of government that weighs down our state. We’ve also sometimes criticized Dan Walters for backing tax increases. He’s the dean of California columnists and I’ve learned from him much of what I know about this state.

Lately, Walters has realized that tax increases won’t solve anything, certainly not the state’s endemic budget deficits; that the money just would be wasted. Today, he sums up California’s plight:

California Lutheran University’s William Watkins … describes California as “something like a zombie state, not quite dead, but certainly not vigorous, moving but with no clear direction,” and says he expects that “the state’s long-term economic structure will continue to slip away from vitality and growth.”

The pessimistic take is that with a high tax burden, a dense regulatory structure, a decaying transportation system, still-high housing costs, an uncertain water supply, a failing education system, a chronically imbalanced state budget, and a growing underclass, California is not attractive to the massive investment it needs to employ 2 million jobless workers.

Certainly if the rest of the nation emerges from recession and California is left behind with Michigan, Nevada and a few other economic basket cases, we’ll know that we have fundamental competitiveness problems.

Reform Governors

Actually, Michigan and Nevada both have reform-minded new Republican governors who are reshaping their states to better compete in the tough global economy by cutting taxes and spending.

Nevada was slammed by the crash in tourism during the recent recession. It also was hit harder than California by the crash of the real estate market. But Nevada still has no state income tax, compared to California’s top rate of 10.3 percent (11.3 percent if Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax increases are imposed.)

Nevada’s new governor is Brian Sandoval, the sort of inspiring GOP Latino leader California has been unable to produce. Instead, we got ex-Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, whom I dubbed “Arnold’s Chauffeur” because he cast the deciding vote for Gov. Schwarzenegger’s 2009 tax increases of $13 billion, which have debilitated the state ever since. As a reward, Unable Abel was appointed Lt. Gov. Now, of course, Abel’s connection to “Lovinator” Arnold has become a curse to him.

Another rising GOP star is New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. Again, why can’t California produce tax-cutting, reform candidates like her? Instead, they offer up Arnold, Meg Whitman and Pete Wilson.

Martinez is going to speak at the annual Flag Day dinner of the Orange County Republican Party on June 13. That’s a big change from four years ago, when Schwarzenegger spoke. I was there and he gave a typically crass speech about his underwear. Ugh. As we’re now learning in too much lurid detail, he aways was, to use his native language, a schweinhund.

So maybe the California GOP, in Orange County anyway, is starting to move in the right direction.

Walters also is incorrect about Michigan, which is thriving under new tax-cutting Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, a computer entrepreneur. As I have written on this site:

Why is Michigan improving, but California isn’t? I think it’s because, during last fall’s election, businesses could look into the future. Snyder had an easy win and Michiganders thought he was serious about his pro-business reforms to create jobs. By contrast, Jerry Brown, who also had an easy win, was seen as a tool of the government-employee unions who paid for much of his campaign, and wouldn’t rock the status quo that has made California the most anti-business, anti-taxpayer state in the country.

After the election, that has been borne out. Brown is pushing a $12 billion tax hike, instead of serious pension and other reform.

Snyder, reports today’s Detroit News, is working to create jobs: “As other Midwest states face shortfalls in their upcoming budgets, Gov. Rick Snyder is charting an unusual path by slashing business taxes as a primary solution.”

Hippy-Dippy Democrats

A big part of the problem is that California’s top political leaders all are in their 70s. George Will writes about this today:

Bill Whalen of the Hoover Institution notes that California’s four most influential Democrats are Brown, U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who are 73, 77, 70 and 71, respectively: “No other state’s political ruling class is as gray, a terrific irony for youth-worshipping California.”

These politicians are what I call “Hippy-Dippy Democrats.” Their focus is 1960s California, an era of tie-died shirts, psychedelic music, Mao jackets, Mao’s “Little Red Book,” campus protests, chants of “Ho-Ho-Ho-Chi-Minh, the NLF is gonna Win!” , Soviet economic “progress” and LBJ’s Medicare and Medicaid Great Society schemes — all premised on the unlimited promise of government imposing utopia.

Since then, the Soviet Union collapsed. China dumped Mao’s socialism for capitalism; China’s economy soon will surpass America’s as the biggest in the world. The NLF — the communist National Liberation Front — did win and kick America out of Vietnam; but the Vietnamese communists also became capitalists, and Vietnam has one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

Medicare and Medicaid are broke, along with the rest of the Great Society. And as to psychedelic music, Jimi, Janice and Jim OD’d four decades ago.

Jerry, DiFi, Babs and Nancy haven’t gotten the word: the 60s are long over. Socialism doesn’t work.

It’s still possible for California to de-zombify itself. We can cast off these politicians and their 60s nostalgia. Like China, we can dump Maoism for free markets. Perhaps, once these septuagenarian socialists have retired, that’s just what we’ll do.







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