Twas the night before Cinco; from barrio to 'burb, Mexifornians were stung by the barbs of The Derb.
Having followed a trusted friend's advice that I "might enjoy" John Derbyshire's May 4 takedown of a recent Economist special report on California, I'm feeling like I've been rickrolled.
Da Derb starts out well – as how can anybody not start out well, when opening the old urethra on one of these monocle-raising white papers from the pith-helmeted fancy lads at The Economist? I mentioned the magazine's California blow-out issue recently, but only in the context of an enthusiastic follow-on from the L.A. Times' Tim Rutten, a columnist with a palpitating passion for the powerfully perfumed prose perspicacities you can only get from our former (and future?) colonial overlords. Sample riff on a famous Warren Buffett line from The Economist's Andreas Kluth: "And each ebb during the three decades since Mr Brown's first reign has revealed California less dressed than before. Each flood then briefly restored its modesty. But this latest ebb has shown the state to be stark naked." That's it! That's precisely it!
So Derbyshire's on solid ground in calling out Kluth for an article that attempts to explain the state's economic coma by airing politicians' regular list of pet peeves: term limits, direct democracy (via ballot initiatives) and of course, Prop 13. There's plenty of debunking to do on all three of these. To name one example: The idea that ballot initiatives have caused the state's $26 billion structural deficit is fanciful. Although it's true Californians have voted themselves nearly $100 billion in bonded debt since the middle of the last decade, little of this debt service has impacted the budget because state fiscal authorities have broad discretion over when and if bonds ever get issued. The result is not democracy at its prettiest: Voters approve a pile of debt; the treasury never gets around to borrowing it; and in the cold light of sobriety, voters forget the whole thing ever happened. But it's not responsible for the state's fiscal crisis.
But when Derb's at the wheel, you always know what part of town you're going to end up in. Having eliminated all the easy explanations for the state's fiscal crisis (and not, apparently, having much interest in the roles played by government employee compensation, annual budget gimmickry, bureaucratic bloat that has given us more than 500 state agencies, etc.), the Seeing Calvin Coolidge In a Dream author realizes it must be the you-know-whos:
Doing a scan of that 11,000-word Special Report in search of Abominable Words, I came up with these counts: "immigration" — 0, "Mexican" — 0, "illegal" — 0, "undocumented" — 0, "border" — 0, "Spanish" — 0, "Latino" — 0, "Hispanic" — 1 ("half of California's pupils are Hispanic, and 40 percent of those hardly speak English"), "welfare" — 2 ("many Californians have lost their homes, jobs, health care and welfare services, [Governor Jerry] Brown implied" and "it seemed as though cities would have to close parks and counties would have to deny their residents medical and welfare services [i.e. after the 1978 Proposition 13 vote]"), …
This struck me as very strange. I knew of course that The Economist is open-borders libertarian; but 11,000 words on California's problems with barely a mention of the Mexifornia Factor? Come on.
You know, I pride myself in being a sultan of sophistry for whom nothing ever means what it says. But, um, there doesn't seem to be any way around acknowledging that Derbyshire just declared "Mexican" to be an abominable word. I'd even be willing to grant him "Latino" and "Hispanic" – ill-defined groupings that have little meaning to anybody other than raza hustlers. And I realize National Review has a lustrous history of special awareness of racial differences. But I have to admit: I miss the Derbyshire who used to blame everything on The Homosexuals.
For more information on how the Abominables are ruining California, dig Reason TV's interview with ¡Ask A Mexican! columnist Gustavo Arellano. And note that the birth certificate Gustavo purports to show at 6:35 doesn't look like any long-form birth certificate I've ever seen — more like a piece of carbon paper he uses to make two fake green cards at a time: