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Contentions

California Dreamin’

Mainstream media coverage of the California tax propositions’ crushing defeat is predictable. You see, this is a rebuke of Arnold Schwarzenegger personally (who in defeat now has “Republican” affixed to every mention of his name). Or it’s the fault of the “fickle” voters somehow, who are too dense to see that the way out of an enormous deficit pit in a recession is to raise taxes — lots and lots.

They are loath to see what the votes really mean, which is an overwhelming rejection of five tax-hike measures. First, the turnout was pitifully low suggesting that all those shiny new pro-Obama, liberal voters aren’t easily lured back to the polls for such mundane matters as the fiscal health of their state. New Jersey and Virginia Democrats with statewide elections this year should take note.

Second, this is the largest outpouring of popular opinion since the November 2008 election. And it follows the April Tea Party protests. The message from California and around the country is remarkably consistent: the voters have no patience for tax hikes and are angry at politicians for spending ad infinitum. If politicians in states less liberal than California (most anywhere) are contemplating running on tax-and-spend politics and think voters are indifferent to their antics, they should reconsider.

Third, California really is a mess. Double digit unemployment and near bankruptcy are awful for the state, but also for the country at large. Megan McArdle thinks not even this administration can bail the state out:

If Uncle Sugar bails out California, California will not fix its problems.  Perhaps you want Obama to make it fix the problems, using the same competence, power, and can-do spirit with which he has repaired all the holes in the banking and auto manufacturing sectors.  But Obma is not in a good position to do this.  California Democrats are a huge part of his governing coalition.  All Obama can do is shovel money into the bottomless pit of California’s political system.

[. . .]

California will go bankrupt, muni and state debt will spike, the federal government will backstop humanitarian programs and very possibly all state and local debt, and eventually, California will figure out whether it wants higher taxes or lower spending.  But we will not actually make the world a better place by enabling the lunatics in Sacramento to pretend they can have both.

We’ll see if California is too big to fail. But it would be a mistake to ignore this as a personal rejection of one governor or a spasm of misdirected anger. It is, above all else, a preview of what happens when government is unable to control its spending or limit the power of public employee unions — the inevitable reaction when voters have finally had enough. Those inside the Beltway should perk up.


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