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Jerry Brown’s Cooked Goose

In the current issue of the Claremont Review of Books, William Voegeli masterfully summarizes more than 50 years of California politics in “The Tao of Jerry”:

By 2012 Democrats will have held simultaneous majorities in both chambers for 50 of the preceding 54 years. Even as the national GOP mounted a surprising comeback in the 2010 midterm elections . . . Democrats won all eight statewide offices, held a U.S. Senate seat, and increased their majority in the state legislature.

After half a century of Democratic rule, California faces a bleak financial future:

California faces years of austerity. According to a report issued in November 2010 by the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO)—California’s counterpart to the Congressional Budget Office—the state’s general fund is heading for a $20 billion shortfall every year until 2016, as far ahead as LAO cares to project. Since LAO does not expect general fund revenues to exceed $100 billion until 2015, these deficits would be more than one-fifth of the state’s budget for half a decade.

The long-term deficits are structural—the result of the “blue-state model of high taxes, big government, and strong public employee unions,” combined with a “severe practical defect” that makes the model unsustainable: it is “doomed if the people who live under it, accepting or even demanding its benefits with their votes, are unwilling to pay its bills.”

The Democratic solution to the private economy’s failure to cover the cost of government is always to raise the cost of government: levy more taxes. But withdrawing more funds from the private economy to turn them over to a government that cannot produce a balanced budget, even with some of the highest tax rates in the nation, is a solution that may have run its course. The golden goose may have finally been cooked just too many times.  



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