The Sacramento Bee has gotten more and more panicked about the budget situation, and they started off frantic. Before the election, their recommendation was to vote against every last bond measure. Good ideas may be on the ballot, but the Bee editors kept saying that we have no money. From what I can observe, they are right to be panicked about our budget situation. I talked it over with a friend who follows the legislature closely, and he cannot imagine a realistic solution to our budget problem. The rules put in place by propositions combined with the incentives for the Republican legislators* close out any solutions.
The Bee writes editorial after editorial trying to focus attention on the fact that California can’t put together a budget, blaming institutions, blaming individual actors, pointing out the harm. This week they’re running a series on different powerful lobbies in the budget gridlock; they write a plaintive request in the introduction to the series:
As you read these editorials, we’d urge you to think about your role as a member of an interest group.
That’s right. The budget crisis is so hopelessly snarled at the top that the Sacramento Bee is appealing directly to the diffuse better nature of the broad public to rein in their advocates. That’s how bad it is. The constraints on the budget process are so binding that the next best leverage is for the broad public to read a newspaper editorial and adopt long-term benevolence and shared sacrifice. I’m strongly in favor of that, but the Bee’s own comment section contributes to my doubt on that front.
I do not see a path to resolving the budget crisis within our current system. That leads to the interesting question of which is more likely, a large game re-setting force, like a Constitutional Convention, or living in a failed state. What would it look like, living in a failed state? We’re not that far from finding out. We’ll be insolvent in March, which is not a distant and unknowable future. A few months after that, what do we do? Of course we send home all the lazy and irrelevant stateworkers. After that? Send home all the UC, Cal State and community college students and professors? Release all prisoners? Stop patching levees? Stop fighting fires? This isn’t abstract. Right now those are political suggestions to apply pressure, but when we have no money, there won’t be a choice in the matter for very long.
Personally, I think we should start considering an alliance with Somali pirates. They need failed states to base their operations from, and considering that there will be rich pickings headed up to ports in Washington, I think there may be strategic benefits for both sides in a California-Somali pirate alliance.
*Their districts are so solidly republican that if they vote for a budget that raises taxes, they’ll be challenged in the primary and lose. In addition to their own ideological opposition to raising taxes, there’s the fact that they’ll be ousted if they do. That’s some pretty strong motivation for them.