Wednesday, February 24, 2010

California is oh so screwed

In my usual fashion, I posted my thoughts on somebody else's space rather than my own and will now enjoy 15 seconds of infamy. It's cool though - people actually read Stephen Green's site (probably because he updates it more than once a month). Anyway, for both of my readers... I've finally gotten it through my thick head that California is screwed.

I came to this conclusion yesterday. And that sucks, because I live here.

Here’s the story:

I was at a luncheon the other day with the State Controller of California (the guy who cuts the checks) speaking. He actually seemed to be a pretty stand-up guy. He was careful not to say anything too politically damaging, but he was completely up-front about that issues facing the state.

Here’s the really scary thing: he asked the group how many people would be willing to cut spending in the following areas: Education, Health Care assistance, and Prisons? These areas comprise 92% of California’s budget, so any meaningful cuts would have to touch them. I was the ONLY person in the room that raised their hand for all three. And without naming names, this was one of the most conservative groups of people you could get into a room (at least in Cali) [edit - I should say, as conservative as you get without actually being a politically-based group]).

If people don’t even have the guts to raise their hands in a room full of as like-minded a bunch as you’re going to find, how on earth do they expect their politicians to do anything?

I suspect California’s not the only place like this.

Some other thoughts on the subject:

1) John Chiang (the Controller) specifically mentioned that for arcane legal reasons (my eyes glazed over) the state can’t go into bankruptcy, but it can go into default. He said (more or less) that unless you’re into legal minutia it’s pretty much the same thing. Essentially, a judge starts ruling your life. A commenter named "Bohemond" on the VodkaPundit site claims that a major difference is that a judge overseeing a default can't void the union contracts. I have no idea.

2) The other thing that struck me during the meeting is that at no point did the possibility of “running government tasks more efficiently” arise. In fairness, it’s not the Controller’s job to dictate that – he struck me as someone who’s trying to be apolitical and give as much data to the public as he legally can. He has a crappy job where it’s impossible to please everyone (it’s not *his* fault that he has to issue IOUs), and I can tell he’s pretty much walking around on eggshells, so there’s no point in beating up on him.

Anyway, it's not encouraging.