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California: What Not to Be

ALPERN AT LARGE - It’s breath-taking how local, state and federal political forces continue to remain tone-deaf with respect to restoring voter confidence in our budgetary process. It’s equally breath-taking how many economic problems buffet us like tornadoes that assail our neighbors in the Midwest and the South…but at least those problems force us to address reality.  Even in Sacramento.


Yet for those who still cling to those old stand-by canards of yesteryear, here are a few good ideas to cling to that’ll keep California on the list of states that the rest of the country points to as examples of what NOT to be:

1:  RELY ON THE HOUSING MARKET TO MAKE THE BUDGETS BALANCED

Cross our fingers though we may, the housing market isn’t going to magically come back with a bang after the bust it went through in 2008.  That bust is still occurring, with credit tight and the local job market even tighter, and although it’s good that struggling homeowners are given more chance to hang on to their homes, foreclosures and un/underemployment will go together like peanut butter and jelly.

The silver lining in this cloud?  Maybe we’ll stop relying on the homebuying/flipping craze and try to build a real economy.

2:  RELY ON A ONE-PARTY SYSTEM TO MAKE THE BUDGETS BALANCED

Times columnist George Skelton’s columns about how Senate Majority Leader Steinberg is trying to push the minority GOP into playing ball with raising taxes to balance the budget (LINK) and how even good Republican bills are shot down in Sacramento (LINK) provide ample talking points on both the opportunities and perils of one-party rule in Sacramento.  

Both Republicans and Democrats will have to stand for something, and stand for the voters and taxpayers of California, to gain traction in future elections.

The silver lining in this cloud?  Maybe we’ll stop relying on the one-party craze and try to build a real economy.

3:  RELY ON CHILDREN TO RESTORE THE QUALITY OF OUR SCHOOLS AND MAKE OUR BUDGETS BALANCED

Whether it’s local school board politics or state policy making, the adults in the room have to have the final say to ensure the quality and its associated sustained funding for our schools.  Fortunately, the LAUSD Board unanimously acted like adults when they took dramatic steps to restaff Huntington Park High.  

This occurred, as Times columnist Sandy Banks noted, despite the attempts of both students and current teachers (who both are showing non adult behavior, in my opinion) to stop it (LINK).

With the taxpaying base sharply down in California, it’s not hard to conclude that increased revenue will be needed to maintain quality in our education, whether it’s K-12 or at the university level.  However, one can clearly be pro-education while recognizing that union excesses and the soft racism of low expectations is destroying the public will to pay more for an education system that’s mired in layers of inefficiency, cost-ineffectiveness and—at times—outright corruption.

The silver lining in this cloud?  Maybe we’ll stop relying on the educational/spending cottage industry, and instead focus on educational quality and try to build a real economy.

4:  RELY ON TAXES BEFORE REFORMS TO BALANCE OUR BUDGETS

After months of thrashing those horrible, trollish, demonic GOP holdouts because they didn’t follow the path of previous GOP politicians and instead said “NO” to taxes, without first enacting state worker spending/pension reforms, Governor Brown has backed off his effort to raise taxes this year in a special election. However, he is now forced to break his election campaign promise of asking for voter’s permission before raising taxes (LINK).  

While it might be a truism that without more revenue it’ll be too painful for many, perhaps most, Californians it is also morally and intellectually unfair to raise taxes when payouts to current and outgoing present such an unwholesome impression of California’s state workers.

Perhaps one of the best analysis of the reality and hype of the public benefits/pension debate is offered by Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik, who offers a rather balanced perspective of the need for reform that is based on the numbers as well as the need to restore confidence of Californians in their state government. (LINK)

The silver lining in this cloud?  Maybe we’ll stop relying on taxpayer largess to paper over a state government that appears years away from restoring efficiency, integrity and credibility to its citizens and try to build a real economy.

5:  RELY ON GIMMICKS, NOT JOBS AND EARNINGS, TO BALANCE OUR BUDGETS  

So why did the governor back down on taxes, and why is the GOP finally able to come up with a budgetary plan of its own?  Well, surprisingly, tax revenue just went…UP!!!  

Despite the housing and banking and lending shenanigans that fell down like a whole block of houses of cards, corporate earnings (and associated taxes) were up.

(LINK) Vicious downsizing, vicious demands on increased output, and vicious expectations showed that capitalism still plays a role in our modern society.

But will California show that ingenuity and work ethic as once it did?  New York seems to want it (and Texas seems to want to take away some of our few remaining industrial jobs in Vernon. (LINK).

The silver lining in this cloud?  Maybe we’ll stop relying on a business climate that favors unsustainable trends and start creating a business climate that creates a solid middle-class job base and try to build a real economy.

(Ken Alpern is a former Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently co-chairs its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee.  He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .    The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.) -cw





CityWatch
Vol 9 Issue 39
Pub: May 17, 2011

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