Back to the Future with Jerry Brown at the Helm in California

I’ll start this out by saying that I grew up in Los Angeles, and I’ve witnessed a lot of change here in Southern California first-hand. When I was a youth, there wasn’t a single condo building on Wilshire Boulevard and then the New Yorkers came and, because they couldn’t get their minds around plots of land with lawns and gardens, high rise condominium buildings were built (in the land of earthquakes, no less, and you wonder why they get so scared whenever we have a decent-sized shaker).

As time went on, in my little enclave, I watched as the streets got full of activity where they used to roll up at 7:30 or so, and now things are open very late; traffic is here all hours of every day.

I came of age politically when Ronald Reagan took over for Pat Brown. Pat (apparently) did a pretty good job putting infrastructure in, but Ronnie got the state out of business’ way. After Reagan, we got Pat’s son, Jerry.

Jerry was, to put it politely, a disaster. Not only was he a creature of the unions, but he also enacted legislation that allowed the various unions to organize the state’s public workers, which began the end of the gold in the Golden State. The unions have since amassed hundreds of millions of dollars to influence elections via state worker contributions -- and influence they have. More on this a little later.

During his tenure in office during the ‘70s, Jerry became most well-known for his ineffectual response to the Mediterranean fruit fly (the Med fly), which had infested the agricultural basket of the Central Valley. Only after tremendous damage to the agriculture of the state did a hew and cry go up, and he finally responded by spraying with malathion, a pesticide that he had his crews use over every last inch of the state, including densely populated urban and suburban centers, causing illnesses that could well have been avoided had he acted earlier (the hated DDT, used at the beginning of the infestation in the ag centers, would have done the job).

Jerry also presided over the beginning of the mass transfer of much money from local city governments to the state for it to then use as bribes and largess. The teachers union came into its own during Jerry’s term, and the state’s economy, which started out in a mess from the Nixon/Ford era, ended up even worse (10% unemployment) when Jerry was done at the end. This during a period of time when Ronald Reagan had turned the U.S. economy around and every place was booming but here (nationally, the unemployment rate had begun its decline nine months earlier but wasn’t followed in California until long after Jerry was gone).

Finally, he opened up the largess to immigrants, legal or otherwise, but mostly illegal. It is amazing how much of the state’s budget continues (despite one vote after the next to change the paradigm) to pay for schools and other services for people who shouldn’t be here in the first place.

The state’s finances have been in total disarray ever since. A saving grace has been a two-thirds requirement for a budget to be passed, which has allowed the adults to put something of a check on what would have been even more spending. Nonetheless, despite two stud governors (George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson), and then two disasters (the aptly named Gray Davis and then Ah-nuld-the-Terminator), things have gone from bad to worse to worst of all.

We in the Tarnished State are now among the highest-taxed in the country; here in L.A., there is a sales tax of 9.75%. It is little wonder that over the past decade there’s been a brain drain (except dopes like yours truly, always late to the game) with more than 1.2 million professionals fleeing for greener climes and pastures (read: cheaper places to live and work).