Beltway Gets California Wrong — Again

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There’s yet another inside-the-beltway rant about the Golden State’s dysfunction or demise.
“Welcome to California: America without Republicans” is the title of a recent Opinion piece in the conservative-leaning newspaper, The Washington (D.C.) Examiner.

"The California dream is dead,” writes columnist Conn Carroll. “Democrats killed it.”

In the Golden State, he writes, “no non-cyborg Republican has been elected governor since 1994,” and Democrats have had “complete control of the state legislature since 1997.”

The result, according to Carroll?

State spending doubled from1996 to 2012, taxes have been hiked and hiked, and the state’s 2012 budget “is still $15.7 billion in the red.”

And if President Obama wins re-election and Republicans move toward policy compromise—or as Carroll put it, if they “[sign] on to Obama’s unprecedented expansion of the welfare state,”  America “would look a lot like…California.”

We all know California is hurting and teetering on the edge of a dicey fiscal cliff.

But, whatever California’s travails are now, they are not owned only by Democrats; both Republicans and Democrats share the responsibility—or the blame—for the muddled state of the Golden State.

For better or worse, legislative Democrats cannot raise taxes alone; it still takes Republican votes to meet the two-thirds majority necessary to pass tax hikes.

That used to be possible under both Democratic and Republican governors, regardless of which party controlled the legislature.

Republicans, by the way, have controlled the Governor’s office for nearly 15 of the last 21-plus years—contrary to Mr. Carroll’s one-party finger-pointing.

Governors Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson, both Republicans, were able to shepherd then-record tax increases through Democratically controlled legislatures, with the help of GOP votes.

Lately, that can’t happen under either a Democratic or Republican governor, largely because of intransigence by Republican lawmakers on the issue of taxation.

Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger tried and failed, which sent him to the initiative process. Democratic Governor Jerry Brown just recently  tried and failed—sending him, too, to the initiative process come this November.

In addition, as the world’s ninth largest economy (according to the Palo Alto-based Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy), California has found itself susceptible to fall-out from Europe’s economic woes, further hampering the state’s ability to expand its revenue base.

The nation already looks a lot like California—its politics polarized, its Republican legislators intransigent on matters of taxing and spending, its government near fiscal calamity, and its economy buffeted by global tribulations beyond its control.

The significant difference may be that, if things continue as they are going politically here in the Golden State, California may really become “America without Republicans.”
Sherry Bebitch Jeffe is a Senior Fellow at the USC Price School of Public Policy and the political analyst for NBC4.

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