The Quiet Californians
The Obama Paradox
No state has suffered the last four years as much as has California -- given that its progressive governor and legislative majorities serve as force multipliers for the Obama national agenda. We live in a 2X Obama state. And it is desirous for twelve or sixteen, not just four, more years in Washington.
The bluest state is polling at a 20 to 24 point lead for Barack Obama. Who cares that it is struggling with nearly 11% unemployment and facing a $16 billion budget shortfall? What does it matter that its public schools rated variously from 45th to 49th in the nation and that it is home to one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients, forty percent of the nation’s illegal aliens, and the largest prison population in the country? If Ohio supposedly has a million Obama-phones, I shudder to wonder how many are in California.
Bleak? But such stats do not necessarily translate into the bad life for those Californians who vote -- a least in comparison, I suppose, to Minnesota’s winters, Mississippi’s rate of welfare payouts, Baltimore’s streets, or Mexico’s police. We are living on the fumes of natural wealth and a century of prior investment by some pretty hard-working and far-sighted long dead Californians; and it takes a long time to screw all that up.
Indeed, the state’s voting population accepts the status quo: the growing underclass expects entitlements always to grow even greater; state employees are more than happy with in-the-future-unsustainable benefits and packages; and the coastal elite have enough money that they do not care whether they have to pay a bit more to subsidize others and create tranquility in their anointed souls. Meanwhile, California is clear and 78 degrees without humidity -- in late September.
In other words, we are a happy-go-lucky, sunny Greece around 2004 before the fall -- a Mykonos or Rhodes with a German ATM machine. Those sourpusses in the private sector who are not happy and not rich either have left or contemplate leaving -- or hide and hope the scanning, red-eye gaze of Sauron in the dark tower at Sacramento passes them over, at least on this latest sweep. As one of my local critics told me, “Get over it!” and “You’re just jealous” -- and, my favorite, “Why not leave, then?”
Two miles away someone found a corpse a while back in a small Selma park that was once lovely; in high school I once helped to plant trees there. The murdered? No biography, no name, no details of the deceased. I suppose someone brought him to the morgue, and some next of kin went to the coroner’s office. End of story. Forty years ago it would have been front-page news; today it is not even a footnote. The anonymous and unknown killer? I suppose I pass him often on the way into town. The point is that corpses now just show up out here, cars are found abandoned in vineyards, and dogs wander around without owners, all as the new normal. The quietist tiptoes around it -- given that those who caused the conditions who spawned the chaos are usually far away in the Berkeley Hills or Newport Beach.
This November the California voting public is poised to raise state income taxes on the top earners to over 12%, ensuring that the state’s rates top both Hawaii’s and Oregon’s. With sky-high sales and gas taxes, Californians are already the highest-taxed in the nation. The state's schools and infrastructure are among the very worst. In the old days, one might write, “Despite high taxes, California public schools are poor.” But we are getting to the point in California where quietists say, “Because of high taxes, schools are.…” Or: “Due to high taxes, schools are….” More money, not reform, is always the answer and therefore there is never reform.
When the UC chancellor writes alumni that without a new tax hike “higher education itself is imperiled,” don’t assume that he means the UC diversity czar and his horde of $100,000 per year assistants are slated for lay-offs. He means instead that students will pay more fees and the French or classics department may be shut down. (And no, reader, there is no irony here: the targeted French professor never makes the connection that his job is in the cross-hairs because there is a new bureaucracy to figure out how Berkeley is racist by having Asians “overrepresented” four-fold, whites slightly underrepresented, and Latinos in much smaller numbers on campus than their percentages of the state population.)