The LA Times today ran a point-counterpoint on the state of the State of California.
, laid out in a compelling way by Rebecca Solnit
, stresses the need to change the distribution of the tax burden in California, and the prison spending, which are both important factors rarely discussed in any corporate media discussions.
, written by some pro-corporate think tanker
at the Claremont Review of Books, reveals why what passes for modern "conservative" thought is very little thought, and monocausation based upon an emotional hatred of government and outright ignorance.
The Claremonter writes that California schools perform no better than Texas' schools now while spending 12% more in its overall budget. He then writes that California public employees have the highest compensation in the nation. This causes him to say: "The 'dues' paid by taxpayers in order to belong to Club California purchase benefits that, increasingly, are enjoyed by the staff instead of the members." He also says Texas "spends its citizens' dollars more efficiently than California..."
What's missing from this corporate think-tanker's analysis, just for starters, is any statement about the cost of living in Texas compared to California. Buy a house or rent an apartment in Texas and check out the price difference from California. The difference is more than the difference in school spending of 12%. Check out the difference in pay scale in the private sector in any number of jobs and you'll see the same pattern. So it's not as if Club California members get less for their money because the State is inefficient. It's because it costs more to live in a relative paradise, weatherwise.
He then cites a study from McKinsey & Company saying that California students are two years behind Texas students. If so, how does he explain that Texas
still ranks #49 out of 50 states on the Verbal portion of the SAT and #46 out of 50 states in the Math portion? California students scored higher than Texas students in all three categories of the SAT--Critical Thinking, Math and Verbal (Writing)--last year
and this year
Oh, and Texas' scores have been going down
for the past five years. This is obviously news to the Claremonter and Joel Kotkin, who the Claremonter favorably cited in his propaganda piece. Maybe both need to get out of their limos a little more when they go on their corporate sponsored junkets...?
The Claremonter also notes how people are leaving California, never once analyzing the circumstances--such as whether they are leaving because...again...the lower cost of living in other states, starting with housing. See this
article from the LA Times in 2004 (during the housing bubble) that showed how well paid folks were leaving California for cheaper housing and lower costs of living not tied to taxes. And now, in these bad times, if I'm semi-employed, it's economically (though not necessarily culturally) better for my family to have me semi-employed in Iowa or Texas, where housing costs are much lower, than trying to pay the mortgage or pay the landlord in California. What's the consistent fact between good economic times and bad: The high cost of housing in the Golden State, even as housing prices significantly decline in that still Golden State.
Oh well. The Tax Cut Cult remains alive in the halls of Claremont College and the op-ed page of the Los Angeles Times.
For those who wonder just what to do about the state of this still wonderful state of California, the state needs five reforms, as I've noted before
1. Let the market rates for real estate decide property taxes for businesses (in other words, reform Proposition 13 to free up property taxation for business property owners). Yes, you read that right. I said "market rates." Yup, market rates...See? I'm not always against market rates.
2. Reform the "Three Strikes" criminal sentencing law so that we are not overcrowding our prisons with lifers who smoked too much weed or were caught with cocaine as their "third strike."
3. Reform the requirement to balance the budget and raise taxes so that "only" a supermajority of 55%, not 67% of the votes of both the Assembly and State Senate are needed.
4. Limit the scope of initiatives or ban them outright. They have become captives of truly special interests across the board and have done more harm to this State than just about anything else from an institutional standpoint.
5. Increase the state income tax on the top 5% to what it was under Republican Governor Pete Wilson in the 1990s, including increasing the top rate to its Wilson-era rate of 11%.Equal time critique
: Did we note Rebecca Solnit's point about the distribution of water in this State? That 80% of our water goes to agriculture, and 40% of our water goes to water the crops that constitute 1% of the gross output of our State? That
may not be true, and if it is true about alfalfa and rice, the subsidy may be worth it. Also, here is the Pacific Institute's report to which Ms. Solnit may be referring: The study's summary shows the 80% water usage figure is limited to the Sacramento-San Jacquin Delta
, not the entire state. Otherwise, Ms. Solnit is fairly spot on about what's needed in our state as far as institutional reform.