Prop Zero
The Starting Point for Commentary and Coverage of California Politics

Opinion: Palin Says Ryan Is Good Because California Is Bad

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California has its problems.

One of them is Sarah Palin.

In a fit that's weird even for her, the former Alaska governor chose the moment of Mitt Romney's selection of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan to issue an over-the-top, full-of-misstatements condemnation of... California.

The Facebook rant smacked of obsession. After praising Ryan, she made plain that the opponent of the Romney-Ryan ticket is not merely President Obama, but the state of California.

When I think about the direction our country is rapidly drifting in, I can’t help but look at California as a cautionary tale. The Golden State once boasted the entrepreneurial innovation of Silicon Valley, the American creative engine of the arts, economically powerful and beautiful cities from San Francisco to San Diego, and fertile farmlands that helped feed the nation. Now it is descending into financial ruin accompanied by an exodus of middle class Californians leaving for other states. As one writer put it, California’s “fastest-growing entity is government and its biggest product is red tape.” Obama’s vision for America will make the rest of the country look like California, minus the beautiful scenery and warm weather.

Not one thing in that paragraph is true.

The state has problems, to be sure, particularly a broken governing system. But c'mon, governor. Silicon Valley is still innovating and spawning entrepreneurs, California is still an artistic and creative center, San Francisco and San Diego are still beautiful and powerful, and our farmlands still feed the nation. While the state budget is permanently out of balance, the state doesn't face financial ruin. And economically, despite a high unemployment rate, California's job growth has been outpacing the national average. 

And it's nonsense to say government is the fastest-growing entity in the state. It's actually the slowest. Job loss in government, along with construction, has obscured private sector job growth. And as for regulation, one of the things both parties in state politics agree upon is the need to loosen regulations.

California's real problem is that its governing system makes it so hard to address its real challenges. The fear is that the future may not be as bright as the past. But those facts don't square with Palin's argument that Democrats must be responsible for what's gone wrong in California. Indeed, the broken governing system has been constructed both by liberals and by conservatives, Democrats and Republicans (this is a state that's had only two Democrats serve as governor in the past 45 years).

But Palin doesn't let the facts stop her, and she doesn't stop, adding:

Obama’s America is today’s California – complete with $100 billion taxpayer funded bullet trains to nowhere; out of control environmental extremists who have destroyed family farms and left some of the most fertile farm land in America fallow in order to protect a three inch fish; permanent high unemployment; government policies hostile to small business job creators; crippling high taxes; an abysmal real estate market; bloated government that wastes taxpayer money; endless budget shortfalls due to massive unfunded liabilities; city after city declaring bankruptcy; and a state government run by, in the words of one Wall Street Journal writer, “a brothel of environmentalists, lawyers, public-sector unions and legislative bums.”

Again, gross exaggerations is the kindest way to describe this. To pick just one example: If only our bullet train had $100 billion in taxpayer funding (It's a $68 billion project with less than $20 billion in funding, which is why it's almost certainly not going to be completed).

The trouble with Palin's take is that it goes beyond Palin. This has become the GOP shorthand for describing California's problems, and that shorthand, to the extent it reaches Californians, misinforms the public and makes it harder to fix what's actually wrong.

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