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Roger L. Simon

“California Dreamin’” becomes “I Got the Blue State Blues”

November 2nd, 2009 - 8:05 am

Well, there is no song – that I know of – entitled “I Got the Blue State Blues,” but someone ought to write some lyrics because the old “California Dreamin’” has become bluesy indeed, somewhere along the lines of Billie Holiday’s “Stormy Monday.” It’s that bad. This has become a lousy place to live and everybody knows it, even when “all the leaves are brown/and the sky is grey” elsewhere.

There are many reasons for this but William Voegeli has put his finger on one of the major ones in “Golden State isn’t worth it” – an op-ed that appeared yesterday in the Los Angeles Times. I wonder how many of its readers (or editors) read it, because what Voegeli is saying goes against the policies the paper has taken since I moved West in the era when Mama Cass & Co. sang “California Dreamin’” and ” Go Where You Wanna to Go.” (Oh, man, do the lyrics of that last one make me sad.)

But back to Voegeli. He writes in the LAT:

In America’s federal system, some states, such as California, offer residents a “package deal” that bundles numerous and ambitious public benefits with the high taxes needed to pay for them. Other states, such as Texas, offer packages combining modest benefits and low taxes. These alternatives, of course, define the basic argument between liberals and conservatives over what it means to get the size and scope of government right.

It’s not surprising, then, that there’s an intense debate over which model is more admirable and sustainable. What is surprising is the growing evidence that the low-benefit/low-tax package not only succeeds on its own terms but also according to the criteria used to defend its opposite. In other words, the superior public goods that supposedly justify the high taxes just aren’t being delivered.

Voegeli goes on to back this up with facts and figures, adding more in a lengthier piece in City Journal. But to those of us who live here those facts and figures are just so much garnish. We know without opening the papers that Cass’ lyrics have gone sour. It’s almost as if we are living in Friedrich von Hayek’s posthumous joke. All our best intentions have gone to mush in a welter of competing, greedy interest groups. Now, according to Voegeli, and as every California commuter knows, even the state highway system in low taxes Texas is better than the world’s fabled first freeway system. Those great songwriters Lieber & Stoller remain unreconstructed liberals, but even they must be worried about the black denim clad hero of their song on Highway 101.

Which brings me to my conclusion. I thought about sending Voegeli’s article to all my (modern) liberal friends – the remaining ones anyway – because I thought it would get them thinking, if anything does. But I stopped. In this era, nobody’s talking.

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