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Works and Days

The Inexplicables

October 30th, 2010 - 6:45 am

What’s the matter with California?

4. Many have written to me along the following lines, “How can a bankrupt state like California vote for two figures like Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer so closely associated, fairly or not, with the ideology of massive government, higher taxes, unionized public employees, and hostility to private enterprise?”

Well, they have not won yet, and we never quite know what fickle Californians will do in the privacy of the voting booth. Yet why not? Lots of people like the present redistributive state, and want even more from government, not less. They are not worried that roughly 3,000 plus are leaving California each week, most of them higher income earners, or that we are creating third-generation families dependent on the dole, or that the highest paid teachers in the United States either cannot prevent, or are in some cases connected to, the fact that Californian youth earn among the lowest reading and math scores on standardized tests in the nation, or that almost half of the nation’s 11-14 million illegal aliens are (wisely) in California.

California may still have 1 billion recoverable, but untapped, barrels of oil, over a half-million acres of productive farmland taken out of production to help the three-inch delta smelt, and a great deal of natural mineral wealth and timber, but we deem ourselves wealthy enough not to need any of that, so smart are our professors, politicians, journalists, and community organizers in figuring out ways to redistribute the ill-gotten gains of agriculture, Silicon Valley, the Napa wine industry, and what manufacturing is left in California. The state has assumed that 101, 99, and I-5 will never be modern three-lane freeways in their entireties, and that our schools cannot turn out literate students, and that our government bureaus, from the DMV to emergency rooms, are Dantesque. It reminds of Greece. When I visited and lived there over the last 30 years, everyone shrugged that in theory the system could not go on, but the new EU would save it, and so enjoy it while it lasted. Californians suspect you cannot shut down industry and drive out wealth, but our EU salvation is the U.S. government.

Why are the Yanks so crazy?

5. Why would Europe, and France especially, be so hurt about Obama’s freefall? A series of articles has expressed shock that the American voter after just 21 months is sobering up and turning on their prince. How could they? Hmmm, let us count the ways.

Start with the model of Europe itself — as in we do not wish to end up broke like Greece, or shut down with rioting employees as we see in France. We see in Europe tax-cheating refined to an art form, as the VAT has created an entire black market in “pay in cash and we give you 20% off” sales.

We really do have primaries; our candidates are not pre-selected by party hacks or conniving parliamentarians, so a Sharron Angle or Rand Paul can appear out of nowhere, not relegated to the waiting line of party dignitaries to connive for a turn after twenty years of loyal service.

We are, it is true, in some sense a rejection of Europe’s class system that predetermines one’s slot in life, inasmuch as status is predicated there, even in a socialist state, on birth, parentage, accent, family tribal connections, and education — not mostly on money that is a far more fluid way of bestowing influence and rank.

We have no real tradition of the impoverished baron in his crumbling estate strutting on the parapets of society; we do see nobodies appear out of nowhere with millions in self-generated cash, who want to turn that capital into exposure, influence, and political and social status. I prefer the latter, as do most Americans.

So it is no wonder that we are quickly tiring of Obama’s European experiment, and no wonder Europeans are shocked that we are. They should be hurt; Tuesday’s election should be a loud, “please do not turn us into those folks” message. Expect after the election even more European outrage stories about Tea Party “zealots,” “racists,” and “fanatics” who questioned our first and only chance to embrace the European socialist/technocratic model.

Vote on Tuesday with a passion as if you have never voted before.

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