Ed Driscoll

Why Is California Hosed? Blame 'The Bloomberg Syndrome'

“Nice puff piece on San Francisco’s Trash Inspectors” in the Atlantic, one of Ace’s co-bloggers quips. “I can’t quite put my thumb on why California has a debt issue. It couldn’t be paying people to do stuff like this can it?” The piece highlights — I take it back, praises — nanny-state intrusiveness to the nth-degree:

To help improve the city’s landfill diversion rate, Slattery and his crew pound the pavement, both in the early morning and in the evening, keeping tabs on what’s being thrown out and educating people about the three-bin system. The early-morning cart monitors are armed with clipboards, and they take notes about the trash sorting behavior of each household, which is later entered into a database and given to the outreach crew.

“Bad, bad, bad,” says Calderon, shaking her head as she peered into the bins in front of a small home. “This goes in here,” she says, pointing to pieces of plastic packaging that had been put in the black bin instead of the blue recycling bin. She makes a note of it and moves to the next house. There’s no time to waste, because it’s garbage day, and the crew has to remain a few blocks ahead of the trash collectors.

In the course of the morning, we encountered a handful of people – mostly Chinese Americans – who looked somewhat surprised to find a group rummaging through their trash. Each time, Slattery points to his vest and explains that he’s with the Department of Environment. By about 7 a.m., the workers take off their reflective vests and headlamps and head back to the office to log the data they’ve gathered.

San Francisco residents are required by law to separate their compost and recycling from the rest of their trash, and soon they’ll have an added incentive to do so. Recology, the city’s trash hauler, will likely be raising its rates this summer. Under the proposed change, compost and recycling would no longer be free, but people who opt to downsize their black trash bin would pay a reduced fee.

Needless to say, this is all bulls***, to give it a name:

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And it’s also a case of two Atlantics in one; elsewhere on the Website, Conor Friedersdorf (I know, I know) explores “What Progressives Can Learn From Their California Failures.” But won’t of course:

What vexes me most about California governance is the pervasive dysfunction. Whatever one thinks about taxation in the state, disagreements about how big government should be and what it should do are proper and unavoidable. But the flame-retardant-couch law? The inability to fire the worst teachers in a timely manner? The pernicious giveaways to the California prison guards? The public-employee pensions so unsustainable that they’ve already bankrupted cities? The gerrymandering? The inability to provide accurate cost estimates for high-speed rail? These problems aren’t rooted in different ideological visions or the minority party’s intransigence.

They’re just amateur hourish — seemingly undeniable evidence of inept governance. The state needs its own Washington Monthly just to chronicle all of the dysfunction. Says Krugman, “at this point the state’s G.O.P. has fallen below critical mass, losing even its power to obstruct — and this has left Mr. Brown free to push an agenda of tax hikes and infrastructure spending that sounds remarkably like the kind of thing California used to do before the rise of the radical right.” Fair enough. The Democrats are running things now. Let’s see how quickly they fix the problems that I’ve mentioned, now that nothing matters save their own ability to govern, or lack thereof. I predict that the legislature will remain captive to teacher and prison-guard unions, that public-employee pensions will continue to eat up an unsustainable share of the state’s revenue, that the increased tax revenue will largely be steered to special-interest groups, and that Democrats will prove unable to complete large infrastructure projects on time or on budget. Let’s revisit in a year to see if my pessimism or Krugman’s optimism proves closer to the mark.

I sincerely hope I am proved wrong.

As long as its cities are featherbedding their payrolls by hiring people to go through their citizens’ garbage, it’s a safe bet he won’t be on this topic, at least.

For another example of a once Golden State now in twilight, Aaron Clarey explores “How Liberal Art Majors Destroyed Stockton,” at his Captain Capitalism blog:

I pointed this out a while ago, but it needs repeating.

You cannot expect a group of adults whose only experiences are in the non-profit/government/education industries to lead with any measure of competence in that they are politicians first and foremost and have not the ability nor care to adhere to mathematical and financial reality.  They are mentally spoiled little children who just happened to be in adult bodies that purposely and consciously chose weak degrees requiring no rigor, effort or thought, and consequently chose easy “careers.”  It should be no shock that Stockton, or any city or organization, led by such weak and talentless people went bankrupt.

Is it the quality of the people who managed its services that led to Stockton’s fiscal collapse, or is it that they very likely succumbed to what Victor Davis Hanson has dubbed “The Bloomberg Syndrome:”

It is a human trait to focus on cheap and lofty rhetoric rather than costly, earthy reality. It is a bureaucratic characteristic to rail against the trifling misdemeanor rather than address the often-dangerous felony. And it is political habit to mask one’s own failures by lecturing others on their supposed shortcomings. Ambitious elected officials often manage to do all three.

The result in these hard times is that our elected sheriffs, mayors, and governors are loudly weighing in on national and global challenges that are quite often out of their own jurisdiction, while ignoring or failing to solve the very problems that they were elected to address.

Quite simply, the next time your elected local or state official holds a press conference about global warming, the Middle East, or the national political climate, expect to experience poor county law enforcement, bad municipal services, or regional insolvency.


But while Stockton’s mayor is busy turning her back on ethical oil, her city makes the list of America’s most dangerous cities in multiple years.

Stockton’s rococo global warming concerns, and San Francisco’s garbage nannies are both reminders that the simpler, smaller, and more focused the government, the less qualified the people running it need to be. Or as Milton Friedman once said, “It’s nice to elect the right people, but that’s not the way you solve things. The way you solve things is by making it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right things:”

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Unfortunately for all of us though, California politicians and civil servants take the notion of “politically profitable” far too literally.