A List of Steps to Fix California

Fifth-generation Californian and classics scholar Victor Davis Hanson has been one of the more realistic chroniclers of the state’s rapid swirl down the toilet bowl from Golden State to Mexifornia.

 

Hanson’s latest thoughts concern what might be done, considering recent reports of the $16 billion hole in the budget. Gov Jerry Brown has been making a lot of noise that the terrible state finances mean that voters should pass his tax-raising initiative coming up in November. (Despite promises of reform, Brown has done nothing about bloated salaries and pensions of public employees and other objectionable spending, like taxpayer-subsidized college educations for illegal aliens.)

John and Ken, the Los Angeles radio guys, read the article with colorful commentary starting at around 4:20 in a Tuesday audio segment — Listen.

After some introductory explanation with shocking examples of dystopia, Hanson lists ten to-do items to fix the state. The first is to tax remittances, an idea which I floated in a 2002 Washington Times opinion piece, a policy that has been tried in Oklahoma and reportedly generated $3.7 million in the first year of implementation.

Sadly, California is now a one-party state, where far-left crazies run the government and the Republican party is deceased. It’s hard to imagine that Hanson’s sensible fix-it list will be considered by those in power, much less implemented.

Can California Be Fixed? NRO, May 15, 2012

Recently, I was driving down pot-holed, two-lane, non-freeway 101 near Monterey (unchanged since the 1960s) when the radio blared that on a recent science test administered to public schools, California scored 47th in the nation. As I looked at the congested traffic on the decrepit highway and digested the idea that our public schools are competitive only with Mississippi and Alabama, I wondered — is that what we get for a more than 10 percent income tax, 10 percent state and local sales taxes, and the highest gas taxes in the nation?

To sum up why California has yet another deficit — this time a $16 billion whopper — is pretty easy: The number of demonized one-percenters who pay over 10 percent in their salary to the state has been shrinking, as thousands flee with their ideas, energy, business, and capital to nearby no-tax states, and others make less money due to more and more costs and regulations — while the number of those receiving all sorts of state housing, food, medical, education, and legal support is soaring. (In crude parlance, California increasingly is seen by some as a very bad deal, in terms of the sort of schools, safety, transportation, and housing per taxes paid in comparison to Reno, Tahoe, or Austin, but by far more people as a very good deal in comparison to the costs versus benefits in, for example, Oaxaca or El Salvador.)

In the last two decades, the number added to the prison rolls (ca. 115,000) was not that much smaller than the number of new tax-filers (150,000). And of the last 10 million added to the state’s population, 7 million are on Medicaid.

But California being California, such reductionist thinking is taboo, and we are not allowed to make any suggestion that there is a connection between fleeing entrepreneurs, massive and illegal influxes of undocumented foreign nationals in recent years, and record public salaries and unfunded pensions.

So that said, are there any out-of-the-box things California might do to save or make a few billion dollars, other than the obvious measures of slashing spending and dismantling burdensome regulations?

1) Slap a user tax on the some $10–15 billion that is estimated to leave the state in remittances to foreign countries, or at least through executive action make foreign cash remittances grounds for disqualification from state public assistance.

2) Cancel high speed-rail asap.

3) Open up immediately the estimated now off-limits 35 billion barrels of oil off the central California coast, the vast majority of which can be safely and cleanly exploited by on-shore horizontal drilling.

4) Cap the amount one can receive from a California public pension, or multiple pensions at $100,000.

5) Eliminate three-quarters of the thousands of public California board members, who stymie commerce and are mostly costly and unproductive term-limited insider politicians.

6) Mandate one official language for state publications and office business.

7) Cut by 75 percent the number of administrators at the UC and CSU systems (their numbers from 1993 have grown by 212 percent), and pay them at the commensurate twelve-month faculty rate.

8) Clamp down on the vast underground and untaxed cash economy that has exploded to the point that one can buy tax-free almost anything needed, from a new lawn mower to a four-course meal, at roadside emporia and canteens.

9) Deport the 20,000 plus illegal-alien felons now in California state prisons to their countries of origin.

10) Have George Clooney do another $40,000 per head Hollywood fundraiser, but with Sacramento, not Barack Obama, as the beneficiary.

The only item with which I disagree is #9 the idea of deporting criminals to their home countries from American prison cells. There’s no reason to think that Mexico and other riff-raff nations would imprison their citizens at their cost for crimes committed in the United States. Some countries refuse to accept any of their deported criminals even after the bad guys have served their time in prison, so we see international responsibility is a rare commodity.