Progressive Failure Is On Full Display in California

Don’t follow the disastrous example set by the Golden State.

California’s modern-day progressive Democrats keep crowing about the huge success they’ve had in taming the state’s budget deficit thanks to Prop. 30’s tax increases and other “reforms,” and now are championing the Jerry Brown model as a blueprint for the nation. Be very afraid.

It’s bad enough that other states have to deal with our residents, who are fleeing our success-punishing tax and regulatory regimen, but now, apparently, they are going to have to deal with our bad ideas, promoted through smug lectures from California’s liberal politicians.

Not surprisingly, the national media have been quick to tout California’s Democratic-led “renaissance.” For instance, The New Republic this week published a feature, “Back from the Brink,” about California progressives having “achieved the impossible” of a balanced budget.

“Progressive Democratic activists identified the straitjacket of rules that had the state tied up in knots, and devised a systematic plan to change them,” the magazine’s David Dayen argued. “Through massive organizing, they transformed the electorate and sidelined Republican obstructionists. Now, with surplus money on hand, they’re getting ready to fight a new battle over the next few years: whether to focus on budget balancing and debt reduction, or to continue to boldly invest in California’s future.”

I chuckled at the “debt reduction” reference. Have you ever known progressive Democrats to keep a lid on spending or to care about paring back the size of pension debt? They will indeed “invest” in California—and you know what investing means. They will throw money at programs and at government employees without improving accountability or insisting on reform.

Yes, the article is right that California’s Democratic leaders did systematically dismantle many of the taxpayer protections that stood in the way of their tax-raising plans, thanks to Brown's political skills and endless union cash. But that’s a political victory, not a fiscal blueprint.

Brown and his allies killed the two-thirds budget-vote requirement, turning minority Republicans into an irrelevancy. Because of previous supermajority rules, the GOP could tie up budgets, but the result was forcing Democrats to look at the kind of budget cuts and fiscal restraints they abhor. No more. Now, the GOP isn’t even included in the budget process. Now that this “success” has yielded Democratic legislative supermajorities, they can raise taxes whenever they choose. Maybe a moderate Democratic caucus will emerge, but even so-called moderates have always joined the majority when it comes to tax-raising.

The Democrats likewise moved statewide initiative votes to general elections, thus ensuring greater Democratic turnout to support the two big tax increases on the ballot. There was also redistricting and a Louisiana-style jungle primary that—with the support of some good-government Republicans—seems to have further eroded what little power the minority party already had.

The New Republic points to Democratic success at changing voting laws, allowing people to register online. That, along with the vast networking of grassroots and union organizing efforts, resulted in a massive wave of Democratic voters that gave Democrats new congressional seats and supermajority control of both houses of the state Legislature. Lucky us.

Yes, Democrats mustered the powerful interest groups that support them and then rigged the rules to gain more power in a state where the GOP already is on life support. Democratic activists can try to replicate this elsewhere, but I wouldn’t recommend that other states replicate the budget plan.

The Democratic budget blueprint remains the same: keep raising taxes. Dayen argued that Democrats still need to take on Prop. 13 (1978‘s historic property-tax limitation) and eliminate it for commercial property owners. He also called for raising other corporate taxes and imposing a severance tax on oil. Never mind that these tax hikes could crush the real-estate and oil-exploration rebounds that are crucial to the optimistic economic projections that will keep the budget coffers filled.

Old-style progressives gave us the referendum and initiative so the People could keep in check powerful interests. Modern-day progressives are chipping away at that process so no one can challenge the current robber barons, the public-sector unions.

Supposedly, it’s a great victory now that the reform-fighting teachers, prison guards, and other unions can protect their unsustainable pensions and fight reforms that could possibly improve the shoddy public services the left claims to care about. This new blueprint has ignored the “wall of debt” the state government and municipalities are galloping toward.

Despite the governor’s nod to holding the line on spending, this new political dynamic is dependent on the things progressives are incapable of doing: controlling their appetite for increasing the size of government, limiting the demands of labor unions, and halting their desire to tax businesses into oblivion (or Nevada). Just think about the governor’s favored high-speed-rail plan.

Instead of pulling us back from the ledge, the last election may have sent us charging over it. I do agree with Brown and The New Republic that other states ought to pay attention to what’s happening here. But they shouldn’t emulate it. They need to gear up and fight it.

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  • Sam Grove||

    Bankruptcy is our friend. Can't wait to meet it.

  • Gladstone||

    Wait for the federal bailout. Will be nice.

  • Alex the wolf||

    Can the supreme leader bail out without Congress?
    An executive order maybe?

  • The Late P Brooks||

    When I put off paying my bills, I feel much wealthier.

  • ChrisO||

    California's crash is going to make Greece's look like a minor event.

  • DarrenM||

    California's crash is going to make Greece's look like a minor event.

    And Democrats will still be in charge afterward. A tipping point has been reached where they have the power to fix the rules to prevent and punish opposition. The only thing that can address this a civil war of sorts within the Democratic party itself.

  • ChrisO||

    Greece has the advantage that no one is really in charge, I suppose.

    What I expect to happen in California is a similar rise in the underground economy.

    The humongous regulatory state in California is the real problem anyway--actually, just like in Greece. You don't stimulate taxable economic activity by punishing anyone who gives it a try.

  • Killazontherun||

    Hey, three weeks into the new super majority and the state has not slipped into the sea in that entire time. If I were a proglodyte I would be smug about it too.

  • Sevo||

    Killazontherun| 2.1.13 @ 12:19PM |#
    "Hey, three weeks into the new super majority and the state has not slipped into the sea in that entire time...."

    They're just warming up. I'm not gonna search for a link right now, but they passed a new tax. It's 1% on some forms of wood; doors? Studs? Ply? Well, it's not well written, so nobody is quite sure, but it *IS* a new tax the rethuglicans couldn't stop!
    Supposed to yield $500M, prolly cost that much to administer for the gov't and much more for the retailers record keeping.
    But, give 'em time.

  • GregMax||

    I believe that any modification of Prop 13 requires 2/3 voter approval, though as the place sinks into a progressive fantasy coma maybe even that will go.

    As smug as the rest of us may be about the inherent stupidity of CA's idiocy, the rest of the country seems destined to go the same way :(

  • Left-Libertarian||

    Psshaw. You right-libertarians have ignored all of the corporate welfare that allows California to operate like that. You know the subsidies to the Union Pacific, Interstate Highways, the Mexican War, Mexican Statism and Spanish Imperialism. Why is there no attempt to address these issues and the distortions they caused?

  • Libertarius||

    Hey dumbass--this is the law of causality calling, not pleased to meet you. Where the hell does any government get the money to perform "corporate welfare"?

    The government robs the corporations and productive taxpayers (i.e. pretty much anyone not a lefty or democrat) and then "redistributes" their looted money back to whatever political constituencies and their corporate cronies; but I'm supposed to blame this corruption on the people who were robbed in the first place in order to pay for it?

    Separation of economics and state FTW (and a libertarian you are not, you are a lefty collectivist drone who wanted to play the dandy without bothering to think or adopt a rational philosophy).

  • JWatts||

    "You know the subsidies to the Union Pacific, Interstate Highways, the Mexican War, Mexican Statism and Spanish Imperialism."

    Does that sentence actually mean anything? It looks like a random string of concepts thrown together with no coherent thought backing then up.

    WTH do Spanish Imperialism and Interstate Highways have in common?

  • Left-Libertarian||

    WTH do Spanish Imperialism and Interstate Highways have in common?

    Interventions into the market that caused distortions that affected California. If the Spanish had not colonized California it couldn't have become part of Mexico and then annexed by the US. Interstates subsidized the post-war growth of California. By ignoring this the right-libertarians show their shortsightedness to corporate welfare.

  • Free Society||

    You accuse libertarians of "shortsightedness to corporate welfare", seriously? Meanwhile you psuedo-libertarians Occupy a tent in your parents back yard while you bemoan the effects of government policy and simultaneously promote fresh new government powers. You're as libertarian as Glenn Beck and Noam Chomsky's blended feces.

  • JWatts||

    Spanish Imperialism has nothing to with corporate welfare. For that matter US Interstates have little to do with corporate welfare, though at least corporation were involved with parts of the construction. Also, the two have no reasonable connection conjunction with each other.

    Read more.

  • Free Society||

    When a government steals from an individual to redistribute that wealth to another, left "libertarians" blame the receivers, as opposed to the sociopaths stealing wealth and auctioning it off. If there weren't a government pimping out it's monopoly of legal aggression, there wouldn't be receivers to enjoy it's privileges. Left "libertarians" are no different than their progressive-fascist cousins, they just use different euphemisms to arrive at the same conclusions.

  • Sevo||

    Your scare quotes are entirely appropriate.
    The idiot claiming to be such has spent time whacking straw-men and accusing libertarians of ignoring what they don't, while ignoring the lefty spending causing the problems.
    Mis-direction and innuendo; lefty habits.

  • ||

    left-Libertarian - snap, snap - over here. Follow my fingers.

    THE GOVERNMENT CAUSES DISTORTIONS IN THE MARKET.

    Liberals are stupid. Plain, fucking stupid.

  • MoreFreedom||

    Libertarians reject government taking from some only to give it to others whether it be individual or corporate welfare.

    In both cases, the real criminals are the politicians who also benefit. They are the only ones with the power of force to steal the money from us, to pay for the welfare, the campaign contributions, and the votes.

    Most libertarians argue that this is power government should not have, and that we should be free of serving welfare queens via government. And that majorities shouldn't be able to vote themselves individual benefits from the public treasury. Essentially, libertarians argue against giving government the power to steal. It creates incentives to act immorally.

  • Tak Kak||

    So every article on every topic needs to be a 10,000 page book?

    There are literally thousands of pages written by libertarians about each of those topics, you're just lazy (or a satire).

  • scareduck||

    They don't even have the numbers for a full month of Prop. 30 taxes in yet. Crowing is way too early.

  • 655321||

    While I agree with most of the article I have to point out the statement "It’s bad enough that other states have to deal with our residents, who are fleeing our success-punishing tax and regulatory regimen..." seems to be false.

    Our state is not losing large numbers of residents, it's gaining them. It was just this week reported that the state's population will grow 39% by 2060: http://tinyurl.com/bqyrqyf (that's a link to the L.A. Times article that I had to make into a tinyurl due to Reason's website's software objecting to "too long of a word").

    Already 3.8% of the state's population receives monthly welfare checks, which is 1/3 of the entire country's welfare recipients, despite California only having 1/8 of the country's population. Our unemployment rate is higher than the national average, with around 1 in 10 people out of work.

    Hispanics are expected to become the majority next year (Reuters article: http://tinyurl.com/aoljfms), which will likely strengthen the Democratic Party as Hispanics disproportionally vote Democrat.

    With the Democrat supermajorities in the state Senate and Assembly, as well as a Democrat in the Governor's Mansion, we are now a de-facto single party state. The jokes about The Peoples' Republic of Kalifornia don't seem to be far off anymore.

  • iggy||

    http://blogs.sacbee.com/capito.....-2011.html

    According to this, California lost 100,000 more people to other states than it gained in 2011. The population growth in California doesn't necessarily have anything to do with immigration from other states, since the numbers indicate that people are actually emigrating from California. The reason for California's population growth is likely the birth rate of native Californian's, which doesn't actually dispute the article's argument that California is losing people to other states.

  • Ex California||

    Yes, California's population is growing, however that growth is among those who are not contributing to the finances of the state. There are large numbers of people in the 10.3 to 14.3% tax brackets (including me) who are leaving the state. That is the problem.
    If people like Phil Mickelson leave, no amount of "growth" from higher birth rates, illegal migration, etc. will make up for the lost revenue.

  • T Clark||

    Either Democrats or Republicans have supermajorities in about half the states. In states with Republican supermajorities, governors and legislatures have passed laws to undermine voting rights, unions, and civil rights. Do I like that? No. What's the proper response if I complain? "Tough toenails." And that's my response to you. It's called democracy.

  • DarrenM||

    You are right about that. Replublican and Democratic are just labels anyway. IMO, if one party becomes overly dominant, it will fracture since the competition from the other party will not be enough to hold it together. What that point is is another question.

  • Dan||

    Underming voting rights and civil rights? Please cite one example. And using democrat rhetoric that characterizes things like voter ID laws as civil rights violations doesn't count. I mean real examples.

    And I hate to burst your bubble but unions are not guaranteed anything other than the right to exist. They don't have rights other than that one.

  • DarrenM||

    Bay "that", I meant the 'it's called democracy' part. The idea of "undermining voting right", etc., is pretty vague. I would guess you are referring to a requirment to present id before voting among other things. I suspect you are just spouting Democratic talking points here rather than actually doing any original thinking. This is not to say there is nothing Republicans are doing that deserves criticism any more than Democrats.

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  • buybuydandavis||

    "California’s modern-day progressive Democrats keep crowing about the huge success they’ve had in taming the state’s budget deficit "

    More evidence of the Post Truth era.

  • ||

    As bad as this may sound...I kinda hope they do go over. This'll make them see the error of their ways, and there's no way they can blame the Republicans since they have a Super-Majority in Both Houses.

    And MAYBE..the climate will be so bad for business you guys over at Reason magazine will move to Texas :D Just a thought...

  • Libertarius||

    There is no such thing as truth, reality, or consciousness. But that doesn't stop the progressive democrats from saving teh day!

    /lamestream intellectuals

  • Dan||

    They don't even have a balanced budget or a cash surplus anyway. They just used accounting tricks to shift a huge chunk of their debt from the year it actually occured to another year. They are worse off financially than they were before, they just cooked the books.

  • DarrenM||

    You can't crow about projected savings anyway. It's depressing how many people buy this bs. Still, I hope they are correct and this does bring the debt down. I think we'll be lucky if they are even half right.

  • Dan||

    It's not even a projected savings. They just moved a huge portion of their debt to another fiscal year so they could claim a quarterly financial report indicates improvement. Not only is it intellectually dishonest, it's entirely fabricated and they are knowingly spouting falsehoods. This practice is illegal in the private sector. We've been gung-ho about sending people to prison for it for a couple of decades now.

  • Eno Frapuni||

    Not a word from the State Democrats on how they intend to pay for the $500 Billion in unfunded pension liabilities.
    Oops.

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