Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning economist, is my favorite "liberal" columnist. His column, "State of Paralysis" about California published on May 25th in the New York Times was not his best work.
George F. Will has been a pompous partisan Republican at the Washington Post for nearly forty years. It's not surprising to see such dreck from him as "No More California Dreaming" on May 3rd or "The Coming California Bailout" on May 21st. But I hoped for a deeper analysis from Krugman.
George F. Will says:
California is exporting talent while importing Mexico's poverty. . .
Flinching from serious budget cutting and from confronting public employees unions, some Californians focus on process questions. They devise candidate-selection rules designed to diminish the role of parties, thereby supposedly making more likely the election of "moderates" amenable to even more tax increases. . .
California has become liberalism's laboratory. . .
Paul Krugman says:
The seeds of California’s current crisis were planted more than 30 years ago, when voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 13, a ballot measure that placed the state’s budget in a straitjacket. . . For California, where the Republicans began their transformation from the party of Eisenhower to the party of Reagan, is also the place where they began their next transformation, into the party of Rush Limbaugh.
With all due respect. Will and Krugman are both wrong. It says something about just how pernicious is this notion is that every political question that exists, has existed, or ever will exist anywhere in the universe boils down to a struggle between so-called conservative Republicans vs. so-called liberal Democrats.
George F. Will would have us pretend that forty years of Republican "conservative" domination, including the last ruinous years of Our Dear President Bush, just didn't happen. You would never know from such rants that our current economic depression was not caused by teachers, social workers, or Mexican immigrants, but by greedy bankers and businessmen. And you would never know that up till now, most calls for electoral "reform" in California has been by those seeking to elect more Republicans.
Paul Krugman ignores the inconvenient history of Prop 13. When Prop 13 was passed in 1978, homeowners, especially those on fixed incomes, really were getting squeezed by property taxes calculated from soaring housing prices. The problem with Prop 13 is that the situation has drastically changed. First, the housing bubble has burst and the real estate market is in a depression. Also, commercial business interests over time, as always, have learned to "game the system" by buying and selling the owners of commercial property rather than the property itself. The problem is not Prop 13, but the utter failure of the political class to adapt to changing conditions -- the very quality that defines "leadership."
Krugman either does not know or likely, does not care about the creepy politics of California Democrats. Barack Obama, the popular elected new Democratic president says:
...those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government...
Alas, the Califonia Democratic Party does not know the meaning of these words.
As I write this, the California State Supreme Court has just handed down a decision upholding Proposition 8's ban on gay marriage. Republicans put Prop 8 was put on the November 2008 ballot in a futile effort to draw more bigots to the polls to vote for McCain-Palin. Democrats let Prop 8 win because, as always, they lacked the guts to fight for unpopular minorities who, in any event, Democrats smugly assume will keep voting for them as the "lesser evil." Mark my words, over the next days and weeks, the horror of California's bipartisan misgovernance will be overshadowed by another battle in the "culture war." And hyping the "Culture War" is the one thing the so-called conservative Republicans and so-called liberal Democrats really know how to do.
The "California Dream" was based on an economy and a society enjoying cheap land, cheap water, and cheap energy. Here nobody cared where you came from because everybody was always on the move to being something else somewhere else. Those are the "Good Old Days" that are gone forever. The great challenge of California's leadership is not to raise more taxes or spend more money but to present a more noble, more green vision for the future. And for sure, neither Republicans nor Democrats are even beginning to talk about that.