First, let me make this clear: I’m a native Californian, and I grew up thinking that California was pretty much the center of the universe.
As a very small child I knew that President Richard Nixon was born about 25 miles north and his “Western White House” was about 35 miles south of where I lived (doesn’t every kid experience the President vacationing near his home?). While in elementary school, my favorite tv shows – “Emergency,” “Adam 12” and “The Rockford Files” to name a few – all included panoramic glimpses of cityscapes and freeways that were familiar. I didn’t “dream” about this California – for better or worse, I lived it.
College, graduate school, and my media career have taken me around the state – Sacramento, San Diego, Fresno, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles – all very different places, and all California. It’s a really big place that I know really well, and it is a part of me.
So it is with great personal sadness that I make this observation: while most of America made a sharp (and rational) turn to the right in this year’s election, California moved even further to the left. As a result, California will worsen.
California currently suffers with its’ self-inflicted $6 billion shortfall in this fiscal year’s budget (a wound that is supposed to swell to $24.5 billion over the next 18 months). 2 weeks ago outgoing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called for a “special legislative session” so the state Senate and Assembly can “fix” the budget crisis, but then quickly announced his legislative priority for the special session: a law to “ban” plastic grocery bags.
Earlier this year as the state continued to swim in debt without any budget at all, California’s legislature attempted a legislative ban on plastic bags. A budget full of accounting gimmicks got passed, but the bag ban failed.
So with the legislature called back to “fix” the phony budget, Governor Schwarzenegger is obsessed with creating his legacy: “We're going to try over and over again” he said, as he argued for a plastic bag ban, “because we have seen in the past that when you don't give up, eventually you can be successful."Never mind that Rome is burning. California will “be green.”
Arnold may get his historic plastic bag ban (condolences to those who may subsequently lose their jobs in the plastics industry), but California will not seriously address its fiscal failures. California politicians are instead making themselves feel good about their efforts to save the planet, while likely assuming that the federal government will take care of the state’s finances.
Governor-elect Jerry Brown shows no signs that he’s any more willing to take the crisis seriously than has Mr. Schwarzenegger. Since his election victory last month, Brown has been virtually non-existent in the media, although reports have emerged indicating that sometime this coming week he will for the first time address the state about the fiscal crisis.
But despite his absence from the press room, Brown did nonetheless find time to publish the priorities of his so-called “green energy plan” last week. The plan raises more questions than it answers, but in a nutshell, it goes like this:
A) “Generate enough new renewable energy within California to serve more than 30% of current peak energy demand.” That’s a good “what” statement, but on this point the plan is devoid of any “how” substance.
B) “Reducing energy consumption in exiting California homes by 40%.” One could imagine the legislature mandating energy rationing in California households. Or perhaps the state will hire a new “residential thermostat police” force, and then claim that ‘green jobs” have been created.
D) “Adopting new energy-efficiency standards for appliances, lighting and consumer electronics sold in California.” There has already been such a standard established for tv sets sold in California – a mandate that tv sets consume “33% less electricity” than older sets – but that new policy hasn’t even kicked-in yet. If California continues to set such “standards” that are different than the standards across the country, the state will continue to drive up the costs of electronic products, but could probably justify hiring new state “product testers.”
E) “Hire a renewable-energy jobs czar.” Yes, of course. “Creating jobs” always begins by expanding the government payroll.
Thus far, Governor-elect Brown’s “plan” has had nothing to do with saving California from its real nemesis, and has everything to do with expanding the power of government. And his plan is completely consistent – both in terms of its alleged “environmental “ components, and its reckless fiscal model – with what we’ve seen at the White House.
It is quite an opening salvo, from a soon-to-be-Governor will be asking the President for a bailout next year. But it serves to move California further and further away from the center of the universe.