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What is really wrong with California?

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Everyone these days is telling everyone else that California is broken, and everyone lies about why.

The Daily News editorialized last weekend that the California legislature is broken, but didn't say why. So they blamed the people who have the least power of all in the legislature: Republicans.

The Times noted last week that California now had the worst bond rating of any state, but didn't say why.

The San Jose Mercury News said yesterday that since 2003 California under Schwarzenegger has spent money faster than the rate of inflation.

The Toronto Star says that Prop 13 has broken the state.

What's really wrong? Even Sacto's two top pundits really don't leave much to chew on.

Dan Walters at the Sacto Bee says it's because California spends five times more per prisoner than per public school student.

I don't agree that this is the main problem. While California may have embarked on "the biggest prison project in the history of the world" prison expenditure accounts for 10% of the overall budget. If you were to cut the prison budget entirely, you still wouldn't solve California's fiscal woes.

George Skelton, still repping our former fishwrap of record, is even more off track: "The chief culprit: The Legislature's inability to pass a state budget on time. Frustrated local governments and schools can't plan. Private vendors selling to the state get stiffed. Worst of all, the Capitol politicians ultimately panic, punt the state's fiscal mess into the future and pass a fraudulent budget."

Huh? It would be nice if Skelton could string together a coherent sentence on this, let alone a coherent paragraph. Maybe covering Sacto all these years has finally got to him.

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The Prop 13 line is nonsense. Our property values allow the state to more than compensate for our low tax rate.

The prison argument is an easy point to make, but not a primary cause of brokenness.

Blaming the legislature, a bunch of powerless pawns who barely understand a quarter of the issues set before them, is equally up a tree.

No. Here's the main problem. The main problem is the top leadership since the energy crisis of 2000. The main problem has been, in sucession: Gray Davis, Cruz Bustamante, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Fabien Nunez, and Karen Bass.

Five people.

It all started with the antagonism between Cruz and Gray Davis, but it has gone nowhere but down ever since.

The People of the great State of California in their progressive wisdom knew what to do even in 2003: they knew after the inanity of rolling blackouts followed by the indignity of the onset of bond fatigue that the budget needed to be cut across the board. That was what the people elected the Terminator to do in 2003.

It hasn't happened.

But that's not 100% Schwarzenegger's fault. It is one quarter of his fault. It is also the fault of various tone-deaf Assembly Speakers who may yet fumble the most liberal State in the Union into the Republican column yet again. The fault is on the leadership, entirely: Republican AND Democrat.
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