SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- California's campaigns introduce candidates not only to the state's voters but to its immensity. In Bakersfield, Meg Whitman, 52, the former CEO of eBay who is campaigning for the 2010 Republican gubernatorial nomination, learned about carrots.
In 1968, the Grimm brothers were selling vegetables at a roadside stand in Anaheim. They moved to Bakersfield and today Grimmway Farms and one rival provide 80 percent of the nation's carrots, partly because the brothers figured out how to make the vegetables pleasingly uniform in shape.
Who knew? Whitman didn't, and the story, which she tells enthusiastically and at length, delights her because it confirms her conviction that California "was built by intellectual capital," and not just the Hollywood and Silicon Valley sort.
California's cascading crises prefigure America's future unless Washington reverses the growth of government subservient to organized labor. The state cannot pay its bills, poorly educates its young, and its taxation punishes whatever success that its suffocating regulatory regime does not prevent.
Whitman, a Roman candle of facts and ideas, insists, "We do not have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem of epic proportions." Twenty-five percent of California's revenues come from income taxes paid by the 144,000 richest taxpayers, so "if one of them leaves, it's a really bad thing." Lots have left. Some never really arrive. Pierre Omidyar, after founding eBay in San Jose, resided in Nevada, which has no income tax.
Whitman says 50 percent of California's spending on education, grades K through 12, goes into overhead, not classrooms, compared to 20 percent in, for example, Connecticut. The public education lobby likes it that way, but because California elementary school students rank 46th among the states in math, 48th in reading, 49th in science, it is, Whitman says tersely, hard for defenders of the status quo to "hide behind the results."
She endorses a convention to revise California's Constitution, which was written in 1879 and has been amended 518 times. She would reduce the number of state Assembly districts (there are 80) because the Legislature is cumbersome, and would modify the initiative and referendum process.