California Ushers In a New Era of Bipartisan Plunder

The Golden State descends to a new low.

God help California from its current crop of wealthy “moderates,” who believe that the only thing that will save our state is a dose of higher taxes. They continue to embrace electoral rule changes that ultimately will undermine the GOP’s supposedly hard line on tax hikes.

June 5 was the first election that used the “top two” primary system, a form of open primary designed specifically to elect more candidates who resemble former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who helped advance the idea. He was one of least effective and least principled Republicans to attain higher office in recent years, so let this serve as a warning about what is to come.

The election also took place under new districts drawn under a supposedly apolitical redistricting system.

After the smoke cleared, we find these results: Top two has obliterated minor parties, and assured that the ideas they bring in the general election, will not get a fair hearing. In many legislative races, the general election will pit two members of the party against each other, which is part of the system’s design. Top two is supposed to promote greater choice, but voters will have fewer choices.

Top two is supposed to reduce the influence of big money, but record amounts were spent in the primary cycle. It will only increase the power of moneyed interests. Now candidates will need to run in two open, general elections, rather than in a narrow primary and then in a general, in what typically is a safe seat. That takes a lot more money to win than it did before. Who do you think will provide it?

Redistricting was supposed to take the politics out of politics, but media reports proved that Republicans improperly vetted the redistricting commission members, allowing on the panel agenda-driven lefties.

Between the two “reforms,” it’s clear what will happen: Democrats are likely to gain a rock-solid two-thirds majority in both houses of the Legislature, where they can then have the power to raise taxes at will. Another “moderate” reform has also gone into effect—the elimination of the two-thirds vote requirement to pass state budgets. We can already see what has happened as a result of that change. In this cycle, Republicans don’t have a say in the process, because Democrats no longer need to rely on their votes to pass their budgets.

I’m not sure how giving only one party and its most extreme elements unchecked power to pass budgets is in any way a moderate idea.

Fortunately, these political reformers were unsuccessful in their attempt to create a constitutional convention that would have enabled the liberals who dominate our political process to cast aside many of the taxpayer protections in the state constitution. But some of them are eager to see the initiative, recall, and referendum process hobbled, so average folks are more dependent than ever on the Legislature.

These good-government types argue that Democrats and Republicans are too partisan (true), that liberals are too focused on insanity such as banning foie gras and imposing regulations on tanning salons (also true), and that conservatives are too focused on social issues such as gay marriage (yet again, true). But their solutions miss the mark by more than a country mile.

Everyone knows the political system in our state Capitol is broken, but their naivete and failure to consider the law of unintended consequences is infuriating.

The problem isn’t that political parties fight with each other. The problem is that one party in particular is in control of the Legislature and statewide constitutional offices, and that this party is controlled by the public-sector unions. Note how infrequently these moderate reformers point to the union problem. They figure we can reform the state without taking on the main obstacle to reform.

In a typical newspaper editorial in favor of Proposition 14, which in 2010 created the top-two primary system, the Marin Independent Journal opined: “Proposition 14 could help bring cooperation and collaborative problem solving back to Sacramento.” As silly as partisan displays can be, I much prefer a world of political debate, where two parties hold each other accountable than a world where few of the political actors have any governing principles, and instead work together in a cooperative way to divvy up the spoils provided by taxpayers. The idea that Sacramento will be overtaken by a bipartisan reform spirit is too funny for words.

The ostensible goal of these reforms sound sounds sincere, but I suspect that most of their advocates have a darker agenda. They know the proposals will help Democrats pick up either enough seats or enough wobbly Republicans to raise taxes. Once that big battle over taxes is over, there will no longer be a stumbling block to the infrastructure-spending and other programs these business interests support.

The joke will be on them, of course. They envision a world where they are in the backrooms, diverting tax loot toward the infrastructure projects they desperately want. But instead the unions will control those backrooms just as they do now. These businesses—the ones who sell the rope to the hangman—will soon find their necks in a tightening noose. Sure, they will get their occasional privileges, but the business climate around them will continue to decline.

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  • fish||

    Forget it Steve...it's California.

  • BarryD||

    Those who think "the rules are different, here!" are bound to discover that they aren't...

  • juris imprudent||

    This state must be sacrificed to show how impossible the progressive political agenda is. We need to go as far left as possible, so that when the whole thing collapses there is no question about who's fucking fault it was.

    Think of it like the Germans learning about hyperinflation. Three generations later and you rarely find people who believe in debasing their currency.

  • ||

    when the whole thing collapses there is no question about who's fucking fault it was

    Everything beyond the Iron Curtain collapsed yet that did no damage to the credit of Marxism and socialism.

  • Keith3D||

    If your intentions are good it doesn't matter what the outcome is!

  • fearsomepirate||

    You won't make many friends in Poland if you wear a hammer and sickle on your hat.

  • RoninX||

    It did to those who lived behind the Curtain. It's not surprising that Eastern Europe is more economically conservative than Western Europe.

  • Mo||

    I do not understand the hand-wringing about top two voting. Minor parties' ideas never got a fair hearing in general elections. Top two is like runoff voting, which in Europe leads to loads more minor party clout. If anything, it makes the scare tactics of throwing your vote away less salient because you can vote for the guy you really like in the first round and still have a shot of choosing between Kang and Kodos in the final election.

  • fresno dan||

    I tend to agree. Maybe its not any good, but its not like the present system is providing responsible gubermint, butterflies, and unicorns.

  • fresno dan||

    I also note that Kodos's support of COUNTERclockwise twirling is gay homophobic fascist communism...which is why we should all support it 110%

  • MoreFreedom||

    Far better than top-two voting, is Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). First, voters only go the polls once. You rank the candidates in your preferred order, or only vote for one if you like. Votes are counted and if there isn't a majority winner, then the candidate with the lowest number of votes is thrown out. Then those who voted for him, have their 2nd choices counted instead. This process continues until a majority winner is declared. For a nice interactive demo of IRV, see http://www.chrisgates.net/irv/

    With top-two, in the first round, many won't necessarily vote for their favorite candidate thinking they are unlikely to get to the 2nd round. But this problem doesn't exist with IRV.

    Top-two is also subject to stealth spoilers. The Democrats might get a couple of folks to run as Republicans to thin the field and votes, and ensure only two Democrats make it to the final round.

    Third parties would do much better with IRV than top-two.

  • ChrisO||

    The real problem is the voters, just as it usually is.

    As a non-Californian, my only concern is that I may end up being forced to bail them out. That's one of the few truly good reasons I can see to electing a Republican president--he's slightly more likely to tell somebody like Jerry Brown to drop dead.

  • DJK||

    Hahahahahaha! Just like GWB told the banks to drop dead?

  • DJK||

    Not gonna happen. CA will be bailed out, no matter what.

  • DarrenM||

    Banks are bipartisan. California is a Dem stronghold. What do Republicans gain by bailing out California?

  • DJK||

    Because of the legal precedents it would set. California is not the only state in desperate financial trouble. Others include swing states Ohio, Nevada, and Florida. Think the GOP wants to be hit over the head with that electoral nightmare?

    Also, CA produces more than 10% of the nation's GDP. I would think that most people (incorrectly or not) perceive such a massive bankruptcy to be extremely problematic. It's "too big to fail" all over again.

  • DJK||

    Interesting article (or at least it looks like it - I didn't get a chance to read in entirety) on the political and legal ramifications of state bankruptcy:

    http://www.thedeal.com/magazin.....nkrupt.php

  • Keith3D||

    "CA produces more than 10% of the nation's GDP. I would think that most people (incorrectly or not) perceive such a massive bankruptcy to be extremely problematic. It's "too big to fail" all over again."

    Luckily the idiots in sacramento can't print money, so a state bankruptcy does not have to take the state economy with it. On the contrary a govt that does what it takes to survive (i.e. tax everyone into the ground) is more dangerous to the economy.

  • fearsomepirate||

    You're incorrectly assuming that the foundation of every successful business is government spending. This is false. If California's government isn't bailed out, that doesn't mean all the businesses in the state will close up shop in solidarity with the idiots in Sacramento.

  • gaoxiaen||

    They gain money. They own the banks.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Maybe, but at least its government can be replaced by a creditors' committee.

  • jhamrick||

    Have you ever heard of NYC? Gerry Ford told New yorkers to drop dead back in 1975. He did it with substantial national poll numbers at his back. You really don't think their will be a national groundswell of protest when CA shows up sporting a tin can? If so you must be a Californian: Only someone still living their can be that deluded.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Why not a buyout? Give them a little money, strip everyone in the state of U.S. citizenship, and make them a sovereign nation. Offer anyone who wants to go live there a one-time fee, at the cost of U.S. citizenship.

  • MarconiDarwin||

    Or we can cut out the moocher red states and call it even.

  • steve_publicus||

    ChrisO - Do not worry. The US Government has the mechanism to straighten out States that make a mess of themselves - its called Reconstruction. This is where the President dissolves the state and bans the politicians who made a mess from holding political office and then rebuild the political culture.

  • MarconiDarwin||

    Given that California has been a donor state for ages, and only gets 79 cents on the dollar of taxes, or did till recently, the bailing out has been taking place in, you guessed it, the red states.

    If conservatives were not hypocritical about redistribution they would reject the donations from the blue states.

    And basically wither away.

  • MoreFreedom||

    I agree that the federal government shouldn't play favorites among the states. But instead of calling for an end to the favoritism, you call conservatives hypocritical for taking the money for their state.

    My bet is you're a liberal and will willingly take the money. You reflect the two-party system where the parties fight over the spoils taken from citizens so you can spend it.

    If you believed in fairness, you'd call for an end to federal government transfers to states, and a reduction in tax rates, so those who toiled to earn the money in the first place can keep it. But that apparently isn't what you want. You'd prefer the feds play favorites with our money.

  • BarryD||

    Hey, where's the DK video on THIS post? It needs it at least as much as Nick's does, and probably more!

  • Sevo||

    "The election also took place under new districts drawn under a supposedly apolitical redistricting system."

    The check's in the mail.

  • Sevo||

    Not mentioned here ('cause is wasn't part of his point) is that the same election which passed 'top two' also reduced the number of 'yes' votes required to pass a budget in the legislature. It formerly took a 2/3 majority, now 50%+1 will do it.
    The result is that repub legislators are now irrelevant to the budget discussion.
    I'm awaiting the blue team spin required to blame the red team when the new budget turns out to be just as much fantasy as the last one.

  • juris imprudent||

    I say this is what you asked for, this is what you get.

    I also say that the majority of California voters deserve the tax increase about to be extracted from them.

  • Sevo||

    As they do the union-bene costs after voting for the guy who signed the Dill Act.

  • Bill||

    It will be the fault of libertarian deregulation. And austerity.

  • Sevo||

    And it will be so reported with a straight face.

  • MOFO.||

    And also boooooosh

  • Jesus H. Christ||

    If I remember correctly, the Federal Gubmint has been extracting more in taxes from CA than CA has received back in monies and services from Washington for some time now. That is, CA has been a net "+" on the federal books. In that case, a bailout is a bit like, "give me some of my money back."

    I live in CA, and all the comments about the stupid electorate, evil, arrogant greedy unions, amoral opportunistic dipshit legislators, it's all true. Problem is, I love the place. It's beautiful, and the weather is great. Mountains, deserts, temperate rain forests, ocean, all within less than a day's drive.

    I just wish it wasn't run by fools.

  • BC||

    I live here, too, and I would gladly nuke the place from orbit given half a chance. The entire state sucks fetid moose cock.

  • Ron||

    For those who continue to say they want bi-partisanship in government all they have to do is look to California for what that gets you.

  • Bobarian||

    WHU-U-U-U!!

    Are you talking bi-partisan agreement between Unions and the far left?

  • Registration At Last!||

    Supermajority requirements and the ensuing gridlock have done less than nothing to solve California's budget woes.

    The gridlock is, as a matter of course, broken only with fatter, juicier bribes to special interests.

    A streamlined budget approval process is really more likely to require less graft and payouts to influential constituencies.

  • BC||

    A streamlined budget approval process is really more likely to require less graft and payouts to influential constituencies.

    That's probably true. The unions won't have to spend quite so much to find and peel off the handful of wobbly Republicans necessary to authorize the theft of more wealth from the state's dwindling number of productive people.

  • Registration At Last!||

    Yep. But don't kid yourself that that all trouble can be laid at the feet of public-sector unions. Plenty of other beasties have their prehensile paws out, too.

  • BC||

    None of those other beasties own the California Democratic party lock, stock, and barrel. However much these other interests may try to rent-seek, the simple fact of the matter is that the public-sector unions are far and away the worst culprit, and declawing them would go an extraordinarily long way to fixing the state's problems.

  • Sevo||

    Registration At Last!|6.15.12 @ 5:10PM|#
    "Yep. But don't kid yourself that that all trouble can be laid at the feet of public-sector unions. Plenty of other beasties have their prehensile paws out, too."

    Right, RAL. I'm sure.
    Care to tell us who that is, or just admit you're an ignoramus?

  • MoreFreedom||

    "A streamlined budget approval process is really more likely to require less graft and payouts to influential constituencies."

    Seems to me, that special interests won't have to bribe (I mean contribute campaign cash to) as many legislators to get their government favors. Rent-seeking is harder when more legislators' votes are required to pass a bill.

    There are two good bits of news here. First, Democrats will own the budget deficits and can't blame the Republicans. Second, CA will likely go bankrupt sooner, and under complete Democratic control. Thus, rather than making deals with Republicans (like go along with this tax increase and we'll repair that road in your district), the Democrats will start eating their own as they fight over who gets to spend the dwindling tax revenues.

  • Sevo||

    Ron|6.15.12 @ 3:31PM|#
    "For those who continue to say they want bi-partisanship in government all they have to do is look to California for what that gets you."

    Sarcasm or stupidity?

  • ||

    Fortunately, these political reformers were unsuccessful in their attempt to create a constitutional convention that would have enabled the liberals who dominate our political process to cast aside many of the taxpayer protections in the state constitution. But some of them are eager to http://www.lunettesporto.com/l.....c-3_6.html see the initiative, recall, and referendum process hobbled, so average folks are more dependent than ever on the Legislature.

  • ||

    Hey, how's that registration thing working out?

  • joy||

    Arnold Schwarzenegger, who helped advance the idea. He was one of least effective and least principled Republicans to attain higher office in recent years, http://www.zonnebrilinnl.com/z.....c-3_8.html so let this serve as a warning about what is to come.

  • Skep41||

    True...except you forget that when The Governator put four conservative ballot propositions up for a vote that would have reformed this state's political system the Republiclowns turned their backs on him because he didnt want to oppose 60% of the people in this state and the US Supreme Court by opposing abortion. Republiclowns in this state are either closet Democrats or 'Social' conservatives with views so repellent to the majority of people that they are doomed to permanent minority status. There has to be a new party rising from the ashes of Cali's collapse.

  • Skep41||

    "Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out." Now that the Republiclowns have proven themselves completely useless and we are in a one-party 'democracy' similar to that of Mexico in the 1930s the only option left is to let the Commiecrats put their name on the coming disaster. Just as growing up in a Marxist country is the surest guarantee that you will never be stupid enough to believe in that discredited philosophy so will living through what is going to happen in this doomed state will teach our incredibly stupid electorate the undeniable truth that there is not one single Commiecrat fit to hold public office. Their crack-brained philosophy can only lead to bankruptcy, tyranny and ruin.

  • The Galatian||

    20 Year Study Compares Job Growth Living Standards in Conservative Texas versus Liberal Massachusetts. Texas trounces Massachusetts, even during high tech boom of the 1990's.

    http://galationpress.blogspot......issue.html

  • MarconiDarwin||

    Go live in Texas, then.

  • MarconiDarwin||

    "Republicans improperly vetted the redistricting commission members, allowing on the panel agenda-driven lefties."

    Sour grapes, but even if this was true, if Republicans are so horrible at picking members that are vital to their own relevance, they certainly should not be in a position to make decisions for the rest of us. Sheer incompetence needs to be sidelined. Because between such incompetence and obstructionism, the GOP has given NOTHING to California starting with the last several Republican governors.

  • Sevo||

    "Republicans ....should not be in a position to make decisions for the rest of us."

    So, you are 'the rest of us', asshole?

  • fearsomepirate||

    The thing about democracy is the people get what they want. Californians want a state-wide suicide pact that will destroy businesses and ruin kids' education.

    As long as I'm not forced to give them free money for their bullshit, why should I give a flying fuck what kind of idiocy they vote for themselves? What, am I supposed to say, "Sorry Californians, I'm so sorry you're a bunch of brain-dead retards"?

  • mulp||

    But I guess you are happy when for decades Californians sent money to mostly Red States to prop up their backward 3rd world economies. Texas became a competitor to California because of the pork the Texas Republicans brought home, with LBJ's pork memorialized in the Johnson Space Center which should have been in California if you based it on which State supported the needs of Aerospace for educated engineers and for research.

    Republicans are desperate to stop the defense budget sequesters because the spending cuts will hit Republican districts harder than the Democratic District that pay more in Federal income taxes due to the higher incomes in Democratic States - thus the defense budget is a transfer of money from liberals to conservatives, from Californians to conservatives.

    And Florida gets lots of Medicare money, with high income Californians paying more in FICA taxes than the low tax low income Red States.

  • tee shirt pas cher||

    God help California from its current crop of wealthy “moderates,” who believe that the only thing that will save our state is a dose of higher taxes. They continue to embrace electoral rule changes that ultimately will undermine the GOP’s supposedly hard line on tax hikes.

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