Politics

Obama: Washington Needs to Be More Like California

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Here's what the president said in Hollywood yesterday while raising bajillions for Mickey Kaus' primary opponent:

Smells like 49er spirit

But here is what I want you to know: I have never been more optimistic about America's future. And I am optimistic because I know there are people like you out there and I know there are people like Barbara Boxer in the Senate who's fighting to change this country for the better. And because you are out there fighting and because Barbara is there fighting, I draw inspiration. And there are people all across this country who are dreaming of a better tomorrow, and then they are willing to fight for those dreams to come true.

And you know what, that's the story of California. This is a state that always drew dreamers, men and women with the courage to pursue their dreams. It's a state that inspired pioneers to head out across an unforgiving wilderness; a state that spurred glory-seekers to rush westward for gold; the state that draws innovators and entertainers, from Hollywood Hills to Mountain View. And there's always been something about California that inspires us to dream; that's called on us to build a better life; that has helped us imagine the world as it is and then recognize that the world as it might be is out there.

And I'm absolutely confident that if folks in Washington can recapture that same spirit—that same boundless, resilient American spirit—we're not only going to rescue our economy, we're not only going to rebuild it stronger than before, but we're going to do what generations did before and make the American Dream more secure for our children and our grandchildren. That's what Barbara Boxer is about. That's what you're about.

While I appreciate any shout-out to my home state, what California's Democratic elite are "about" is enabling their union backers to drive a once-thriving economy into a bottomless pit of unemployment, perennially busted budgets, and unfunded pension contributions that transcend most human comprehension. This is not a spirit Washington should try to "recapture," unless the goal is 12.6 percent unemployment (with a bullet!), a credit rating hurtling toward junk-bond status, and a perpetual round of bailouts from a faraway government entity.

And here's the kicker–Obama in his speech said that "one of the main reasons our economy faltered was because some on Wall Street made irresponsible bets, with no accountability." The exact same language could be used, with 100 percent accuracy, to describe public officials all over California–including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who just today is unveiling his latest too-little, too-late package of reforms. All of these labor-backed bureaucrats bet irresponsibly that they could more than double pension promises to state employees over the past decade, because the "accountability" moment was deferred to when those payments came due. Well, they're only beginning to come due now, and it's a damnable mess:

From the Grand Coulee Dam to the Capitol

This year, the city of Roseville will spend about as much to fund its pension plan as it does on parks and recreation.

San Luis Obispo County will spend five times as much on pensions as it does prosecuting criminals.

And Stanislaus County's pension costs will be nearly double its $23.5 million general fund budget deficit. […]

Yet today's escalating annual pension payments barely touch the looming shortfall: $28 billion in unfunded liabilities – the difference between what pension systems have and the pension benefits their employees have earned – at the 80 largest city and county governments in California, according to an extensive Sacramento Bee review of pension plan valuation reports.

On top of that, those cities and counties owe about $8 billion in pension-related bond debt – all in a time of shrinking budgets. In many areas, the total pension shortfall is more than the annual payroll; in some, it is more than the general fund budget.

California Democrats (and plenty of Republicans too) should not be flattered, they should be locked up.