Once, California was known as the “Golden State.” No more. It’s struggling with a fiscal crisis of epic proportions. And voters are so disgusted with the ineptitude and waste of a state legislature dominated by liberal Democrats that they are poised to vote down a $16 billion tax increase and a slew of propositions allegedly intended to beat back fiscal Armageddon.
If residents of the other 49 states haven’t focused on California’s plight yet, they should. In a real sense, California has become liberalism’s “canary in the coal mine.” It is an instructive – and frightening – warning of the toll exacted by the kind of leftism now in vogue in Washington, D.C..
Put simply, California is in desperate fiscal straits because it has become a place where government works for only two constituencies: Those who need public assistance, and unions. Sacramento is so busy responding to the needs of the one and the demands of the other that the legitimate expectations of regular, taxpaying citizens have been completely ignored.
For union members, life is good. California teachers earn 25% more than the national average, even though some of the most incompetent, indifferent or downright dangerous of them cannot be fired because of concessions won by the teachers’ unions. The SEIU is so powerful that some of its members were able to listen in on a phone call between the Obama administration and the state – which resulted in the President’s threat to withhold stimulus money if the cash-strapped state made even modest cuts in the salaries of unionized home health care employees. In fact, state government is routinely held hostage by public employee unions; not surprising when one considers that California is home to 356,000 state workers – 9.3 of them for every 1,000 residents.
Similarly, if one is an illegal alien or in need of public aid, California works well, offering a panoply of health and other welfare services with few questions asked. Just last week, in fact, Democrats in the state legislature opposed requiring welfare recipients who failed to complete a drug treatment program to take random drug tests in order to continue receiving benefits. And California spends in excess of $5 billion per year on illegal immigrants and their families, offering a menu of health care services that includes non-emergency care, long-term nursing home care, and abortions.