California’s Woes

From VDH:

With poor education, a budget deficit, and crumbling infrastructure, Californians shouldn’t be focused on idealistic social programs.

Corporate profits at California-based transnational corporations such as Apple, Facebook, and Google are hitting record highs.

California housing prices from La Jolla to Berkeley along the Pacific Coast can top $1,000 a square foot.

It seems as if all of China is willing to pay premium prices to get their children degreed at Caltech, Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA, or USC.

Yet California — after raising its top income tax rate to 13.3 percent and receiving record revenues — is still facing a budget deficit of more than $1 billion. There is a much more foreboding state crisis of unfunded liabilities and pension obligations of nearly $1 trillion.

Soon, new gas tax hikes, on top of green mandates, might make California gas the most expensive in the nation, despite the state’s huge reserves of untapped oil.

Where does the money go, given that the state’s schools and infrastructure rank among America’s worst in national surveys?

Illegal immigration over the last 30 years, the exodus of millions of middle-class Californians, and huge wealth concentrated in the L.A. basin and Silicon Valley have turned the state into a medieval manor of knights and peasants, with ever fewer in between.

The strapped middle class continues to flee bad schools, high taxes, rampant crime, and poor state services. About one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients reside in California. Approximately one-fifth of the state lives below the poverty line. More than a quarter of Californians were not born in the United States.

Many of the state’s wealthiest residents support high taxes, no-growth green policies, and subsidies for the poor. They do so because they reside in apartheid neighborhoods and have the material and political wherewithal to become exempt from the consequences of their own utopian bromides.

Blue California has no two-party politics anymore. Its campuses, from Berkeley to Claremont, have proven among the most hostile to free speech in the nation.

A few things keep California going. Its natural bounty, beauty, and weather draw in people eager to play California roulette. The state is naturally rich in minerals, oil and natural gas, timber, and farmland. The world pays dearly for whatever techies based in California’s universities can dream up.

That said, the status quo is failing.

The skeletons of half-built bridges and overpasses for a $100 billion high-speed-rail dinosaur remind residents of the ongoing boondoggle. Meantime, outdated roads and highways — mostly unchanged from the 1960s — make driving for 40 million both slow and dangerous. Each mile of track for high-speed rail represents millions of dollars that were not spent on repairing and expanding stretches of the state’s decrepit freeways — and hundreds of lives needlessly lost each year.

The future of state transportation is not updated versions of 19th-century ideas of railways and locomotives, but instead will include electric-powered and automatically piloted cars — all impossible without good roads.

Less than 40 percent of California residents identify themselves as conservative. But red-county California represents some 75 percent of California’s geographical area. It’s as if large, rural Mississippi and tiny urban Massachusetts were one combined state — all ruled by liberal Boston.

Now, a third of the state thinks it can pull off a “Calexit” and leave the United States. Calexit’s unhinged proponents have no idea that they are mimicking the right-wing arguments of the Confederate states that prompted the Civil War. Like South Carolina residents in 1861, Calexit advocates seem to assume that federal law should apply everywhere else except in California. Many of these California residents also believe that the federal Environmental Protection Agency should always override local ordinances, but not so with another federal bureau, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

South Carolina started the Civil War by shelling and capturing federal property at Fort Sumter in Charleston Bay. Calexit wannabe secessionists similarly assume that thousands of square miles of federal property — from California federal courtrooms and post offices to national parks such as Yosemite to huge military bases such as Camp Pendleton — belong to the state and could simply be confiscated from the federal government.

Calexit proponents assume California can leave the union without an authorizing amendment to the Constitution, ratified by three-fourths of all the states. And they fail to see that should California ever secede, it would immediately split in two. The coastal strip would go the way of secessionist Virginia. The other three-quarters of the state’s geography would remain loyal to the union and become a new version of loyalist West Virginia.

Buying a home on the California coast is nearly impossible. The state budget can only be balanced through constant tax hikes. Finding a good, safe public school is difficult. Building a single new dam during the California drought to capture record runoff water in subsequent wet years proved politically impossible.

No matter. Many Californians consider those existential problems to be a premodern drag, while they dream of postmodern trains, the legalization of pot-growing — and seceding from the United States of America.

Source

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Tom McClintock on the Propositions

Representative Tom McClintock’s recommendations for the November 2014 California ballot propositions:

Prop 1 – Water Bond: YES. This is a long way from a perfect measure, but it’s as good as it gets in California these days: a $7.5 billion water bond that spends $2.7 billion for new water storage. If that sounds breathtakingly underwhelming, remember that’s $2.7 billion more than the multi-billions of dollars of water bonds that we’ve spent in recent years. Sadly, it doesn’t overhaul the environmental laws that vastly inflate costs and it squanders a great deal more that won’t be used for storage, but it is a step away from the lunacy of the green left (that adamantly opposes it) and this alone merits support.

Prop 2 – Stop Us Before We Screw Up Again: YES. This repeals Prop 58, a vat of Schwarzenegger snake-oil sold to voters as the panacea to the state’s budget woes. It wasn’t. (My I-told-you-so moment). Prop 58 promised an iron-clad reserve, but in reality, the governor could suspend it any time he wanted. He did. (Oops, I did it again). What I like most about Prop 2 is that to raid the required budget reserve, both the governor AND the legislature must agree and then, only for a specifically declared emergency. In a nutshell, it requires the legislature and governor to do what they did voluntarily during the Deukmejian era. Still plenty of loopholes, but better than what we have today.

Prop 45 – If You Thought Obamacare Was Bad: NO. This is a trial lawyers measure that give the state insurance commissioner the power to set health care rates. Sound good? Doctors and other health care providers are already opting out of Obamacare because of artificially low rates; this compounds the problem for California. The good news it you’ll have cheap health insurance. The bad news is you won’t have a lot of providers accepting it.

Prop 46 – If You Thought Prop 45 Was Bad: NO. Another trial lawyers measure that quadruples the amount they can get for pain and suffering awards. Prop. 45 means lower provider reimbursements and Prop. 46 means higher provider costs. It also requires drug testing for doctors, which is a stupid idea but I appreciate the poetic justice in making THEM pee into little cups for a change. Anyway, it won’t matter because your doctor will be out of state.

Prop 47 – Rose Bird’s Revenge: NO. We’ve gone overboard on some drug-related offenses, but this Proposition can only be described as a drug-induced hallucination. It reduces many grand-theft crimes to misdemeanors and would release an estimated 10,000 incarcerated criminals back on the streets. Basically, it is a burglar’s get-out-of-jail free card. Good news for alarm companies and the handful of 60’s radicals nostalgic for Rose Bird – bad news for the rest of us. Hide the silver.

Prop 48 – Freedom Works: YES. This ratifies Indian Gaming compacts for two tribes in economically depressed regions of the state that will be an economic boon to the struggling local communities there. It also cuts through environmental red tape that would otherwise delay these projects for years.

Source

The Rural Way

VDH with a powerful piece on a way of life that is fast disappearing, at least in California:

Hard physical work is still a requisite for a sound outlook on an ever more crazy world. I ride a bike; but such exercise is not quite the same, given that the achievement of doing 35 miles is therapeutic for the body and mind, but does not lead to a sense of accomplishment in the material sense — a 30-foot dead tree cut up, a shed rebuilt, a barn repainted. I never quite understood why all these joggers in Silicon Valley have immigrants from Latin America doing their landscaping. Would not seven hours a week spent raking and pruning be as healthy as jogging in spandex — aside from the idea of autonomy that one receives by taking care of one’s own spread?

On the topic of keeping attuned with the physical world: if it does not rain (and the “rainy” season is about half over with nothing yet to show for it), the Bay Area and Los Angeles will see some strange things that even Apple, Google, and the new transgendered rest room law cannot fix. We have had two-year droughts, but never in my lifetime three years of no rain or much snow — much less in a California now of 39 million people. I doubt we will hear much for a while about the past wisdom of emptying our reservoirs and letting the great rivers year-round flow to the Bay to restore mythical 19th-century salmon runs and to save the Delta three-inch bait fish. As long as it was a question of shutting down 250,000 irrigated acres in distant and dusty Mendota or Firebaugh, dumping fresh water in the sea was a good thing. When it now comes down to putting grey water or worse on the bougainvilleas in Menlo Park, or cutting back on that evening shower, I think even those of Silicon Valley will wonder, “What in the hell were we thinking?”

I do all the yard work on my three-acre home site and putter around the surrounding 40-acre vineyard. Mowing, chain-sawing, pruning, and hammering clear the head, and remind us that, even in the age of the knockout “game” and nightly TV ads for Trojan sex devices, we still live in a natural world. In the rural landscape, you are responsible for your own water. So you must know about what level resides the water table, and how deeply exactly your pump draws from, and the minutia of well depth, casing size, and type of pump. You know roughly how much sewage you’ve deposited in your cesspool and septic tank, and whether your propane tanks is half or a quarter full. There is no “they” who take care of such things, no department of this, or GS9 that to do it for you. Those who help you keep independent — the well drillers, pump mechanics, cesspool pumpers, asphalt layers, and assorted independent contractors — remind you that muscles and experience, not always degrees and techie know-how, are still important in extremis.

There are no neighbors across the backyard fence. At night there is no one out here, except the dogs that engage in howling wars with the coyotes. Nature abounds, both good and bad: squirrels that undermine the slab under your barn (I have shot them, gassed them, poisoned them for 40 years, and their burrows are larger than ever), and coyotes lingering out of range in the shadows by dusk. But also a red-tailed hawk in your redwood tree stands guard, and a great horned owl skimming across the vineyard that is strangely unafraid of humans. When I ride out in the Michigan countryside, I often stop and stare at octogenarians puttering around huge old clapboard farmhouses, determined in their final days to mow their lawns or paint their porches as if they were newlyweds — “Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Still, let us not be romantic. Rural Fresno County has reverted to circa 1870, when my great-great grandparents first arrived. It is sort of anything goes after dark. I’ve had the following people show up at my house after hours: a group of caballeros in full festive regalia (with wonderful embroidered sombreros) asking to pasture their show horses on my lawn, given they still had 12 miles to go to Raisin City and feared being run over riding down the road in the dark; two young girls stopped in front, cell-phoning gang bangers that the coast was clear (it wasn’t) to go after copper wire; some lost Dutch bicyclists for some reason trying to cross the valley to get to L.A. from Big Sur, hopelessly confused and hopelessly scared (they stayed overnight intramuros on a summer night); five inebriated punks throwing rocks at the upstairs windows; and an exasperated Iranian national salesman who pulled in the driveway, two weeks after 9/11, in a pouring rainstorm, lost, and in need of direction (everything he claimed about his sad unlikely plight that brought him to the house at 11 p.. turned out to be true).

When the sun goes down, you are on your own, and in some sense are better for the challenge. At six I can remember sitting (in the very place I am sitting now) as my grandfather at 70 jumped up to “investigate” a couple of yahoos drinking by the barn. The difference in those days, aside from the absence of armed gang-bangers, was that there was some deference shown the owner, or perhaps he earned it in a way I have not. He was known as “Mr. Davis,” me nothing much at all. So he returned with a laconic, “I asked those trouble-makers to leave, and they did.” Not now necessarily.

Again, all is not so depressing. The other night I drove into the yard and a man was sitting on my driveway claiming the police had pulled his truck over for no lights and now he was stranded. Some story — and absolutely true as he showed me his fix-it ticket. He spoke no English; my Spanish is rusty. But he proved a good soul, and stayed here some hours while we phoned around looking for a relative (about ten years ago I quit driving the stranded to their homes, given that in one instance I was a bit outnumbered).

My 43 acres — what has not been sold off of the ancestral larger farm — still produce 85 tons of raisins (a nutritious, healthy food) for the nation. Mt. View Avenue lines up with Mt. Whitney and on some mornings you can make out its profile by the sunrise. The acreage is well kept, as is the 145-year-old house that I put most of my life savings into — why exactly I don’t really know, other than “I was supposed to.” Perhaps the house is in better shape than when it was first built. Rural life reminds us that we are mere custodians who don’t really own anything, given that the land endures as we turn to dust.

I like the people who reside in these environs — the 85-year-old woman who lives alone with her shotgun; my closest friend around the corner, Bus Barzagus of Fields Without Dreams, going strong at 73. None want to go to L.A. or San Francisco. Another neighbor who is a mechanical genius, and so on. One guy told me the other day, “What am I going to do, put my 150 acres on my back and pack it over to Nevada?”

Otherwise, all the farm families I grew up with but one are gone. There are no 40-acre or 100-acre autonomous farms left. Everything is rented out, small tesserae of much larger corporate mosaics. Looking out the window reminds me it didn’t have to end this way, but how and why not is well beyond my intelligence. (Count up the cost of tractors, implements, labor, chemicals, liability insurance, taxes, etc. — and anything less than 150 acres does not pencil out.)

The old farmhouses are all rented out to foremen, 100% of them first-generation immigrants from Mexico. The Punjabi farming class has become a sort of new aristocracy, if their huge three-story mansions that pop up every couple of miles are any indication.

I worry though not about the way we look or talk, but rather about the use of the land. It no longer grows people, or produces for the nation a 5% minority of self-reliant, cranky and autonomous citizens, who do not worry much about things like tanning booths, plastic surgery, Botox, male jewelry, tattoos, rap music, waxed-off body hair, or social media. I think our impoverished society reflects that fact of agrarian loss, in the sense that never have so many had so much and complained that they had so little while being so dependent on government — and yet they are so whiney and angry over their lack of independence. The entitlement state is the flame, the recipients the moths. The latter zero in on the glow and then, transfixed by the buzz, are consumed by acquiring what they were hypnotized by.

Out here is the antithesis of where I work in Silicon Valley. Each week I leave at sunbreak, and slowly enter a world of Pajama boys in BMWs and Lexuses, with $500 shades and rolling stops at intersections as they frown and speed off to the next deal. Somehow these techies assume voting for Barack Obama means that they are liberal. They are not. By proclaiming that they are progressive, they feel good about themselves and do not have to worry about why their janitorial staffs are not unionized, or why no one but they can buy a house, or why they oppose affordable housing construction along the 280 corridor, or why they fear the public schools as if they were the bubonic plague. Their businesses don’t create many jobs in the area; they don’t live among the Other; they seek to get out of paying income tax as they praise higher taxes; and they use money to ensure their own apartheid. And so they are “liberal.”

No wonder millionaires like Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein, and Barbara Boxer represent such a culture. How odd that the power, the water, the food, the lumber, and the minerals that fuel Silicon Valley all come from distant invisible people, the uncool who are overregulated, overtaxed, and over-blamed by those they never see.

Every six months or so I crawl under the house to check the wiring, plumbing, foundation, and assorted repair work. I did it last week. In the dirt is the weird detritus of 140 years: some square nails, a strange, ancient rusted pipe wrench, 1930s newspaper stuffed into some sort of mouse hole, penciled-in runes of weird numbers and notes scrawled on the redwood beams by some unknown carpenter, a fossilized carcass of a long dead cat, a few rat skulls and ribs. It is also sort of like archaeology, trying to sort out the layers of improvements per good farming years: the foundation raised on redwood beams after the boom of World War I, the metal conduit wiring installed in the 1940s when raisins were again high, the heating ducts put in during the brief boom of the early 1980s, and so on.

Is there a future to any of this?

To paraphrase Bill Clinton, it depends on the meaning of future. None of my children will farm; even if they wanted to, the remnant 40 acres of the original 140 are too few to be viable. The local schools are poor, at least in statistical rankings. There are no pre-Stanford preschools out here. My great-grandparents and their parents got here before the schools; my grandfather graduated here in 1908, my mother in 1939, me in 1971, my children in the 1980s — after that comes the end, I think, of the continuity.

Most of the area’s youth under 30 have long fled to L.A. or the Bay Area. They are sort of the bookends to illegal immigrants who left Oaxaca for places like Selma that they see as heaven in comparison with Mexico. The youth left Selma for tiny apartments in Westwood or Mountain View that they see as heaven compared with what they left.

The land left behind has soared in value, not because it is a necessarily desirable place to raise a family, but due to the fact that in a California of 39 million, in a third year of abject drought, and with the world in need of our state’s fruit, nuts, and fiber, there are not too many places left with such good loam soils, a long growing season, and a water table still about 50 feet.

What keeps a person sane when writing about the Chris Christie road show; the Benghazi, AP, NSA, and IRS scandals; the vast expansion in the government and its never-ending deficits; the insanity on campus; and the world of Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton?

The refuge of the rural world, and the remembrances of a wonderful world gone and now beneath our feet.

Yet I can hear them still.

Source

Bias by Omission

On November 23, USA Today published an article listing the top five best- and worst-run states. In the article, the authors say that, “While each state is different, the best-run states share certain characteristics, as do the worst run.” But they completely omit probably the most important characteristic in how well a state is run: that is, who is running the state. A revealing pattern arises when you look at the party affiliation of the governor and legislatures running the best- and worst-run states.

The Five Best-Run States

1. North Dakota:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Senate – Large Republican majority
  • House or Representatives – Large Republican majority

2. Wyoming:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Senate – Large Republican majority
  • House or Representatives – Large Republican majority

3. Iowa:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Senate – Slight Democrat majority
  • House or Representatives – Slight Republican majority

4. Nebraska:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Legislature (unicameral and nonpartisan) – the vast majority of its members are Republicans

5. Utah:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Senate – Large Republican majority
  • House or Representatives – Large Republican majority

The Five Worst-Run States

46. Nevada:

  • Governor – Republican
  • Senate – Slight Democrat majority
  • Assembly – Large Democrat majority

47. Rhode Island:

  • Governor – Democrat
  • Senate – Large Democrat majority
  • House or Representatives – Large Democrat majority

48. Illinois:

  • Governor – Democrat
  • Senate – Large Democrat majority
  • House or Representatives – Large Democrat majority

49. New Mexico:

  • Governor – Democrat
  • Senate – Large Democrat majority
  • House or Representatives – Democrat majority

50. California:

  • Governor – Democrat
  • Senate – Large Democrat majority
  • Assembly – Large Democrat majority

Obscene

From SFGate:

Alameda County supervisors have really taken to heart the adage that government should run like a business — rewarding County Administrator Susan Muranishi with the Wall Street-like wage of $423,664 a year.

For the rest of her life.

According to county pay records, in addition to her $301,000 base salary, Muranishi receives:

– $24,000, plus change, in “equity pay’’ to guarantee that she makes at least 10 percent more than anyone else in the county.

– About $54,000 a year in “longevity” pay for having stayed with the county for more than 30 years.

– An annual performance bonus of $24,000.

– And another $9,000 a year for serving on the county’s three-member Surplus Property Authority, an ad hoc committee of the Board of Supervisors that oversees the sale of excess land.

Like other county executives, Muranishi also gets an $8,292-a-year car allowance.

Muranishi has been with the county for 38 years, and she’s 63. When retirement day comes, she’ll be getting a lot more than a gold watch.

That’s because, according to the county auditor’s office, Muranishi’s annual pension will be equal to the dollar total of her entire yearly package — $413,000. She also has a separate executive private pension plan, for which the county chips in $46,500 a year.

Source

Tom McClintock on the Propositions

Representative Tom McClintock’s invaluable recommendations on the often convoluted California ballot propositions:

Prop 30: Your Wallet or Your Kids – NO
Either approve $36 billion in higher sales and income taxes or else Gov. Brown threatens to shoot the schools. Don’t worry, the income taxes are only on the “very wealthy,” but it turns out the “very wealthy” include many small businesses filing under sub-chapter S, meaning lower wages, higher prices and fewer jobs. California already has one of the highest overall tax burdens in the country and yet has just approved a budget to spend $8 billion dollars more than it’s taking in. Moral of the story: it’s the spending stupid.

Prop 31: Rotting Mackerel by Moonlight – NO
This one shines and stinks. On the shiny side, it moves us toward performance-based budgeting, restores certain powers to the governor to make mid-year spending reductions and requires new spending to be paid for. On the stinky side, it provides a two-year budget cycle that makes fiscal gimmickry all the easier and locks into the Constitution an incredibly anal process for local communities to adopt “Strategic Action Plans” serving such open-ended new age objectives as “community equity” and nudges them into establishing regional governments to push this agenda. The purpose of local governments is to provide basic services, not to pursue utopian four-year plans.

Prop 32: Cutting The Piggies Off From The Trough – YES
In the “It’s About Time” category, this measure would finally prohibit unions, corporations, government contractors, and state and local governments from deducting money from employees’ paychecks for political purposes without their express written consent. As Jefferson wrote, “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” This puts an end to this despotic practice.

Prop 33: Rewarding Responsible Drivers – YES
Here’s a no-brainer: should car insurance companies be allowed to offer a discount to drivers who maintain continuous coverage? No, it’s not a trick question. Under California’s convoluted law, if you switch auto insurers you can’t qualify for the continuous coverage discount. This measure says you can.

Prop 34: Lifetime Room and Board (and Sex-Change Operations, too) for Murderers – NO
This abolishes the death penalty for first-degree murder. Enough said.

Prop 35: Red Light on Human Trafficking – YES
Prop 35 greatly expands the definition of “Human Trafficking” (already illegal), and greatly increases existing penalties. The problem is real and growing and needs stronger sanctions, although there are some provisions in Prop 35 that make it ripe for prosecutorial abuse, including limiting the ability of defendants to cross-examine witnesses and broadening the definition of trafficking to include those who never had contact with the victim. On balance, though, the good outweighs the bad.

Prop 36: Gutting Three Strikes – NO
After many years of rising crime rates, Californians finally struck back with the three-strikes law. It is actually a two-strikes law: after two serious or violent felonies – in which one has murdered, assaulted, raped, robbed or pillaged his fellow citizens – he is on notice that any further misconduct will remove him from polite society. Prop 36 would require that the third strike also be a serious or violent crime, giving dangerous criminals yet one more opportunity at atrocity. The Left predicted that “Three Strikes” would have no effect on crime – in fact, crime rates have plummeted. When it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it.

Prop 37: Spit it Out – NO
This is the latest effort of the Nanny Left to tell us what to eat. It requires foods that contain any ingredients resulting from biotechnology advances to carry the scary warning: “GENETICALLY ENGINEERED.” There is not a shred of evidence that biotechnology is the least bit dangerous – it often reduces the need for pesticides. To avoid branding their products with the Scarlet Warning, food processors would have to prove that every scrap and crumb in their fare is devoid of biotechnology or face crushing lawsuits. Grocery prices high enough yet?

Prop 38: Pay More, Get Less – NO
Not to be outdone by Prop. 30, this measure heaps $120 BILLION of new income taxes on those earning more than $7,316 (the new millionaires and billionaires of California’s impoverished economy). It’s for the schools, of course. No doubt these dollars (which families would just waste on necessities) will be as well spent as the staggering fortune that we’re already shoveling into the sclerotic school system.

Prop 39: Tax Us Before We Hire Again – NO
This is a $1 billion per year tax increase on California businesses to subsidize a whole new generation of Solyndra scams. But remember, businesses don’t pay business taxes; they only collect them from employees through lower wages, from consumers through higher prices, or from investors through lower earnings. Prop 39 might be bad news for California’s employees, consumers and investors, but it’s great news for the Nevada Chamber of Commerce.

Prop 40: Your GOP Donations At Work – YES
This is a monument to the stupidity of some Republican Party leaders, who spent nearly $2 million of party funds to qualify – and then drop – this referendum to overturn the Senate reapportionment because several state senators didn’t like their new districts. They had hoped to run in their old seats, but after qualifying the initiative found out they couldn’t anyway. A “Yes” vote affirms that the new non-partisan Citizens Redistricting Commission works.