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California Shutdown Dreaming

April 7, 2011 10:08 PM

"As California goes, so goes the nation," or something like that, is an old slogan. California has had government shutdowns repeatedly for years, and it now seems that the time has come for the federal US government to have a shutdown too. Californians seem to prefer the term, "budget impasse," rather than "shutdown," but a rose by any name still smells as sweet. "Sweet?" you might ask? What's so sweet about a government shutting down? It all depends on the government. As I write this, I have no idea whether the Federal Government will shut down after this weekend or not, but the problems leading to a shutdown, if it occurs, will be there regardless. I believe a Federal shutdown is inevitable sooner or later, and possibly even desirable, because the alternative (unchecked spending of borrowed money or unbacked printed banknotes) is worse.

Part of me wants to do some Internet research on the chronology and financial statistics of the California "budget impasses" and the current Federal mess, and another part of me is starting to doze off from boredom at the very thought. The latter part has won the dispute, and therefore I will write what I remember and know about California's mess and the current Federal situation and allow readers to do their own research with the handy links provided.

My understanding about the California "budget impasse" is that it comes from differences between the Republican and "Democrat" party politicians about tax policy, environmental policy, and union policy. While a fellow named Howard Jarvis was alive (here's the link if you want to look him up) he led a movement to put the brakes on rapidly escalating property taxes in the face of a middle-class tax revolt. The Howard Jarvis tax revolt brought about Proposition 13, a successful ballot measure that put severe restrictions on property tax increases. Big-Spending "Democrats" (is there any other kind?) are as enthusiastic about Proposition 13 as much as vampires are about the Gilroy Garlic Festival at high noon, but repeal, as some "Democrats" favor, does not seem to be just around the corner, and probably never will be.

The governor at the time Prop 13 was passed in 1978 was Edmund "Jerry Brown," who served two terms, during which he garnered the nicknames "Medfly Moonbeam" by his critics. He ran again and was re-elected in 2010. (Brown link here.)

Another episode in the saga had to do with limitations placed on energy (electricity) use within the state by environmentally-justified restrictions. During the governorship of a fellow named Gray Davis, an "electricity crisis" occurred, reportedly because California had to import electricity produced out-of-state, with huge price increases. Outraged because California, a state with enormous energy resources, had become dependent on other states, the California voters recalled Gray Davis. (Davis link here.)

The third leg of the California "budget impasse" relates to the role of government employee unions in party politics. Californians passed the "three strikes" law intended to put violent criminals behind bars for life after their third conviction. The result was a massive prison building program in order to house the rascals, followed by the explosive growth of Correctional Peace Officer (guards) unions and favorable contract negotiations with the alleged representatives of the taxpayers. (Wisconsinites will find it easy to get the picture.) California taxes are now sky-high, Republicans want to lower taxes and decrease spending, and "Democrats" want to continue acting like, well, "Democrats." Voilà: "budget impasse." (Union link here.)

Since then, "budget impasses" are as much a part of California life as bears, beaches, and hippies. Californians have got used to them. Gray Davis was replaced by the movie actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who failed to deal with "budget impasses," and Arnold was replaced on 2010 by the aging Jerry Brown, who is failing to deal with the "budget impasse" even as I write this. His plan to "bring a vote to the people" to voluntarily raise taxes never got off the ground. (Duh.)

There is is, America. Government shutdowns. Perhaps the nation should follow the lead of California and stop calling them "shutdowns." The Annual US Budget Impasse, a American tradition since 2011 (or maybe 2012): that doesn't sound so bad, does it?

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