California: Wherefore art thou?

June 20, 2017
T. Keith Gurnee

T. Keith Gurnee


Californians, it’s time to take stock of ourselves. Who are we? Where do we stand? Where might we be heading tomorrow? Tough questions that need incisive answers.

As a native Californian, the state of my birth is a mystery to me. We find ourselves in an Alice-In-Wonderland world where “right” is wrong and “wrong” is right. It’s a crazy upside-down political environment that is painting an uncertain, if not foreboding, future.

Whatever that future might turn out to be, we will all be responsible for it.

Can we recapture the luster and promise that once was the Golden State? Or will we slide into oblivion as the late, great state of California? The uncharted territory that faces us demands that each of us contemplate that uncertain future and its consequences.

Since the mid-1970s, California elected a number of Republican governors, some conservative and some moderate. But in recent years– and with the solid support of our state’s voters–our state government has made a hard lurch to the left.

As a result, we essentially have a one-party system with no checks and balances. A supermajority of one party that controls our state Legislature, enough to override even a liberal governor’s veto.

Today, Republicans all but find themselves on the ash heap of irrelevance in state politics. Even the rare and endangered species of common-sense moderates are reviled by the “Progressives” as right-wing conservatives. Are we doomed to follow this political trajectory? It seems so.

Just consider the confounding questions that face us:

1.       How can it be that UC Berkeley, that hallowed institution that gave us the “Free Speech Movement” of the 1960’s, has become the champion of suppressing free speech, with a bit of violence and vandalism thrown in?

2.       Why do so many people say they believe in the right of free speech, but only if they agree with what the speaker is saying?

3.       Why does it seem that so many of our colleges and universities seem more devoted to political indoctrination rather than higher learning?

4.       What has happened to a Democratic Party that once stood for tolerance to cause it to devolve into the poster child of intolerance to other points of view?

5.       Is our state legislature becoming unhinged when one of its members introduces a bill to legalize the hiring of Communists for government jobs?

6.       Why does Attorney General Becerra try to jail an 86-year-old widow for making a phone call in a polling place while he defends the “Sanctuary Cities” movement to protect oft-deported felons and murderers?

7.       With the push to make us a “Sanctuary State” and with whisperings of even “secession,” are we willingly setting ourselves up to be the 2017 version of 1861 South Carolina?

8.       Why would our state leaders spit in the eye of the winner of the 2016 presidential election (despite their dislike of him) and run the risk of having him withhold federal funding from a California that sorely needs it?

9.       Why do we continue to tolerate ever-increasing state and local taxes that threaten to penalize job producers and drive them out-of-state? Remember Tesla?

10.   With the worst affordable housing crisis in the nation, why do we continue to over-rely on over-regulation while striving for ways to obstruct the production of the housing we need?

11.   How is it that the Golden State has become the “nimby” state where that phenomenon has metastasized in the body politic at every level of government?

12.   Why do so many Californians support devoting our legislative energies to protracted and expensive investigations while ignoring the things we need to get done for the American people?

13.   While the “Black Lives Matter” movement continues to focus exclusively upon incidents with law enforcement, why does it ignore the far greater epidemic of black-on-black violence in our inner cities?

14.   How is it that the most politically powerful lobbies in California are the public employee unions that constantly advocate tax increases in the most heavily taxed state in the union?

15.   Why do we tolerate a governor who is obsessed with his woefully under-funded bullet-train-to-nowhere while encouraging high density “transit-oriented development” flanking the tracks that will slice right down the throat of the most fertile agricultural valley in the nation?

16.   Why do we rely on an unbalanced income tax system that heavily penalizes the rich to pay for “wants” rather than “needs,” like expanding our water supply in a state that just endured a six-year exceptional drought?

17.   Have our governor and our state Legislature done such an excellent job of governance that they deserve the thousands of dollar in raises they just received?

18.   And finally, what prospective “leaders” of our state government are out there who can take us forward into the 2018 elections?

That election season is right around the corner and will be upon us sooner than we think. California has morphed into a political monoculture where common sense is missing in action. As of this writing there is not a single moderate or Republican on the 2018 gubernatorial radar screen. Instead, that screen is mostly populated by the political hard left.

Consider the slate of candidates who have already announced their intention to run for governor:

·         Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco, that bluest city in the bluest of states, who hopes to spread that city’s zany extreme left gospel throughout the state of California.

·         Former mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaragossa, a firm believer in the “sanctuary city” and the “sanctuary state” movements to protect dangerous criminals while expanding his political constituency.

·         Delaine Easton, the former state superintendent of public instruction, who is joined at the hip with the California Teachers Association and other public employee unions.

·         John Chang, our State Treasurer, another Democrat who seems to be the only rational one of the bunch. He has argued against some of the tax increases advocated by his party while doing a halfway decent job of managing state funds.

Whether any moderates or Republicans might enter what has become a political desert for them remains to be seen. If not, we should start getting to know John Chang better.

Is it time for those of us who are unhappy with our state government to wake up and embrace an agenda for change? Or is it time to plan an Exodus to another state? As a native Californian, I vote for the former course. It’s time to develop an agenda for change.

To be continued…

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Consider Germany. Unlike policies favored by US conservatives and libertarians, the German government starts from the premise that it is government’s responsibility to ensure national wealth and income, to the extent possible, benefits the population as a whole.

For example, Germany’s robust industrial policy is designed to preserve the country’s manufacturing base. A US conservative/libertarian would argue such a policy shelters industries that would perish in a free market, misallocates capital, and stifles innovation. Instead Germany, with ¼ of the US’s population, is the world’s 2nd largest exporter of manufactured goods. And we’re talking high-value, high quality cutting edge manufactured goods, not the “affordable” trash available at your local Wal-Mart.

Meanwhile, the “free market” US manufacturing sector bottom fishes for the lowest costs of production worldwide and thus the US sends quarter-filled container ships back to China with coal and wheat, meanwhile racking up staggering trade deficits.

Germany also has a problem the US wishes it had. In spite of its cutting-edge, no-cost-to-student trade school system, German manufacturers have difficulty filling high skilled, high paying manufacturing jobs.

Then there’s Germany’s single-payer healthcare system that covers most people living in the country. This system provides first class healthcare at a fraction of the US cost and the German population has generally better health and longer life expectancy than the US’s.

In addition to its cutting edge trade school system, Germany also offers high quality, tuition free college education, thus giving its young people the choice of advanced craft training or academic training depending on their desires and capabilities.

Then there’s Germany’s unsurpassed national infrastructure that renders the US’s third world by comparison.

So sure, there’s plenty to complain about how our state is governed. For example I firmly believe there is no reason government employees should not have 401k retirement plans like the rest of us. But bad policy decisions at the state and federal level can be corrected, and the failures don’t discredit the need for effective government that’s mandated to operate in the best interest of all its citizens. You need to go no further than Kansas and Oklahoma to find examples of the sorts of havoc low tax, low wage, low regulation, limited government can wreak on society.

Finally, regarding the economy, beginning with the “Reagan Revolution” the US electorate has accumulated ample evidence that the “trickle down” economic policies favored by the wealthy and super-wealthy have resulted in a tide that actually lifts very few boats while holing all the rest. It will continue to swallow the “low tax, unregulated free market provides the greatest benefit, government is the problem” myth at its peril, now greatly elevated thanks to the cretin currently occupying the White House.

Just got back from Nevada and will be moving there and taking our assets with us. What a shame I was born here but don’t recognize it anymore.

Any particular reason for Nevada? Just curious.

I have several friends who relocated to Texas and love it.

We love the Sierras and if we can’t have the sea we’ll take the mountains, and a lot lower living costs.

Bon voyage. This makes sense. Now if all the other complainers would do the same . . .

No Income tax!

It’s going to take something really awful to make a change in CA.

I am thinking of something along the lines of millions of retirees or soon to be retirees losing their pension, having no social security, having a stock market crash decimate savings. A trifecta of financial doom that will leave millions without a means to survive in their twilight years.

I am less than 45 years old. On my social security annual statement, even if I reach my full retirement age of 70, the “system” doesn’t have the funding to pay out my “earned amount”. The paperwork currently says 78% of what I am due to receive. I wonder what that amount will be in 30 years…..

I’ll tell you what else I see. CSU college courses are $325 a unit right now. Then you add books, parking, “fees”. It is easy to see how a young person could get in debt. Heck, I would be in debt if I didn’t just have the option I of working whenever I want to make that $$ to pay for the advanced degree I am seeking.

Housing. We need to do something. Wow. A house that looks like a hobbit lives in it sold for $400k in my area. Then you have city officials telling homeowners what they can and cannot do on their private properties. I have thought about putting a granny unit or “tiny house” on the back of my property (it’s totally big enough), but the city won’t allow it. It’s ok to put 3 apartments up where a house was and charge $1400 a piece for them, but you can’t add living space for your family. PG&E keeps raising rates and fees, making “tiered” rate usage. Water and sewer- well, when you have embezzlement going on, your fees are going up.

So I think it will take something where many people are camping in vans and tents outside the State Capitol before anything changes.

A Critique well received. Thoughtful. Constructive. Appreciated…

Meant that to go to Modernwelding…

Reading your article, I thought of a state where portions of my family live, Oklahoma. There the exact reverse could be stated, the Democratic Party has no relevance. So, I would broaden your concern to reflect political polarization in this country.

Why is this county so polarized that citizens seem to lose appreciation for cost effective government, and lack a sense of the “common good”.

As for California, I would ask, why are so many Republicans ridiculously “right wing”? Are there no moderate or even liberal Republicans? As to Democrats, are there no sensible moderates? Is the maintenance of Democratic Party control more significant than the control of our borders and the greater public good?

The NIMBY argument is a good critique and nationally applies to both sides.

I would get delist the less important critiques and concentrate on the questions 1) if this state can afford the effects of open borders with Latin America, and 2) financial issues.

I have a theory about why some areas of CA are “ridiculously right wing”.

Remember that book “The Grapes of Wrath”? My grandparents were actually living in those tent cities. They were migrant workers who came West from OK when the dust bowl happened. Both sets of my parents worked in the fields, and I’m white. My dad picked fruit, green beans, cotton, sorted potatoes. My mom picked cotton, worked in a potato shed. There are generations of conservative republican “right wingers” who have similar roots.

Why this matters is that no one cared that the migrant workers of times gone by didn’t have food, shelter, or healthcare. They were expected to suck it up. There were not programs like WIC, no free “everything” programs.

My uncle developed both Valley Fever and Tuberculosis from working in the fields and in living in such closed quarters with so many others. He lost 1/2 of his lung. My father also developed Tuberculosis and was in the hospital for 4 months.

Not all white people have country club memberships and Swiss bank accounts. Many don’t understand white privilege, because oh I don’t know- maybe when you are living in a migrant camp you don’t feel like you are getting “hooked up” by society.

Right wing Republicans are sick of the rhetoric that pushing self sufficiency and paying for US citizens first is racist.

Right wing — absolutely — and for other reasons such as those that follow: Proposed SB 54 makes California a “Sanctuary State” — an act that subordinates California Law to unlawful acts of illegal immigrants. It in essence allows a statewide exception for low cost Mexican workers to violate the laws that apply to California’s citizens. Here is another outrage encouraged by the Democrats in California. It is exemplified by SB 54, and the past endorsements of gay marriage, the push of the LGBT agenda, the subordination of Christian religions to secular liberalism and the specious claims of “hate speech” to legally diminish the right of “free speech” to criticize these events.

As to free speech … agreed.

Agreed … can this state can afford the effects of open borders with Latin America? I don’t think so.

Your other issues is what loses it for SOME Republicans.

No one cares about gays marrying, LGBTQ … their business not the States. If you don’t approve … look away.

You don’t have the right to impose your version of Christianity on others.

“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

Matthew 7:1-3. Strong probability the teaching of the Christ.

Per wiki, “Most scholars believe the Gospel of Matthew was composed between AD 80 and 90, with a range of possibility between AD 70 to 110 (a pre-70 date remains a minority view). The anonymous author was probably a male Jew, standing on the margin between traditional and non-traditional Jewish values, and familiar with technical legal aspects of scripture being debated in his time. Writing in a polished Semitic “synagogue Greek”, he drew on three main sources: the Gospel of Mark, the hypothetical collection of sayings known as the Q source, and material unique to his own community, called the M source or “Special Matthew”.”

Interesting valuable history but is it relevant to someone in the 21st century?

Are there no moderate or even liberal Republicans? Sure. Katcho, Sam Blakeslee — even a D could vote for them. But politics proved toxic for them. Too bad.

Agreed … solutions are lost in the political tussle.