June 20th, 2013 at 3:03 pm
What Went Wrong in California
Regular readers know that I — partially out of loyalty to my home state, partially because of a masochistic streak — spend a lot of time writing about the public policy failings of California, a state that has weaponized liberalism and turned it on itself. Despite its massive size, enormous population, and national influence, serious analysis of California’s public policy failings was in short supply until just a few years ago. One of the biggest factors in changing that trend has been the Manhattan Institute, which launched a City Journal California website (where I occasionally contribute) and regularly featured pieces on California in the quarterly print edition of City Journal.
After a few years of work, they’ve now anthologized some of the best material to provide a comprehensive overview of what ails the state and what can be done to fix it. It’s available in the form of the new book The Beholden State: California’s Lost Promise and How to Recapture It. The book features contributions from the likes of Victor Davis Hanson, Andrew Klavan, Art Laffer, Steven Malanga, and William Voegeli, in addition to several others. Yours truly is even responsible for a couple of chapters.
I recommend it for all despondent residents of the Golden State, all Americans who want to learn how to keep their states from going down California’s road to decline, and every resident of Texas who likes a good laugh.
August 11th, 2011 at 8:15 pm
Britain’s Warning for America
One does not have to be a particularly astute connector of socio-political dots to watch the recent rioting that has gripped London and find parallels to America’s enfeebled welfare state. That makes the following bravura passage from Theodore Dalrymple at City Journal all the more disquieting:
The riots are the apotheosis of the welfare state and popular culture in their British form. A population thinks (because it has often been told so by intellectuals and the political class) that it is entitled to a high standard of consumption, irrespective of its personal efforts; and therefore it regards the fact that it does not receive that high standard, by comparison with the rest of society, as a sign of injustice. It believes itself deprived (because it has often been told so by intellectuals and the political class), even though each member of it has received an education costing $80,000, toward which neither he nor—quite likely—any member of his family has made much of a contribution; indeed, he may well have lived his entire life at others’ expense, such that every mouthful of food he has ever eaten, every shirt he has ever worn, every television he has ever watched, has been provided by others. Even if he were to recognize this, he would not be grateful, for dependency does not promote gratitude. On the contrary, he would simply feel that the subventions were not sufficient to allow him to live as he would have liked.
A challenge for readers: remove the first sentence from the above passage. Then see if you can find anything that doesn’t apply to modern-day America. It could happen here.
July 15th, 2011 at 5:49 pm
California Higher Ed Cuts Researchers, Funds Diversity Czars
Heather MacDonald of City Journal highlights yet another example of California residents migrating to Texas for greener cash pastures. (In this case, UC San Diego lost three top cancer researchers to Rice University after the latter offered a 40% increase in compensation.) Facing a $650 million cut in state funding, the University of California system campuses are shedding faculty and programs, but not, unfortunately, the blizzard of “diversity czars” and their sizable staffs.
UC San Diego is adding diversity fat even as it snuffs out substantive academic programs. In March, the Academic Senate decided that the school would no longer offer a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering; it also eliminated a master’s program in comparative literature and courses in French, German, Spanish, and English literature. At the same time, the body mandated a new campus-wide diversity requirement for graduation. The cultivation of “a student’s understanding of her or his identity,” as the diversity requirement proposal put it, would focus on “African Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, Chicanos, Latinos, Native Americans, or other groups” through the “framework” of “race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, language, ability/disability, class or age.” Training computer scientists to compete with the growing technical prowess of China and India, apparently, can wait. More pressing is guaranteeing that students graduate from UCSD having fully explored their “identity.” Why study Cervantes, Voltaire, or Goethe when you can contemplate yourself? “Diversity,” it turns out, is simply a code word for narcissism.
MacDonald also highlights how the multi-million dollar diversity industry has embedded itself into plumb positions at UC Berkeley and UCLA. If UC students are upset about the coming hike in tuition, they should aim their picket lines at the faculty senates and diversity czars whose very existence makes such increases even higher than need be.
July 11th, 2011 at 9:47 pm
Gelinas: 3 Choices on Leftover Toxic Debt
City Journal’s Nicole Gelinas describes the Bush-era “TARP” bailout as a massive case of moral hazard. With the financial sector able to fob off its bad debts to the American taxpayer while suffering almost no consequences, it’s no wonder the jobless rate is not recovering.
The politicians we elect have three choices—the same choices they had four years ago. They can admit that this debt isn’t worth much and allow the financial sector to bear the consequences. They can hope that the Fed tries to use inflation to raise the price of everything else, making the debt seem a lighter burden in comparison. Or they can maintain their silence, letting the financial sector take another half-decade or more to make enough money on new ventures so that it can finally admit what it should have admitted back in the fall of 2007: bad debt is never good. At least the Fed acknowledges this strategy: it says that it’s using “time” to manage toxic securities and “minimize disruption to the financial markets.” But prolonging government control of financial markets just prolongs investors’ uncertainty.
If Congress and President Obama, as well as the candidates who would like to succeed the president in 2013, maintain their silence, people should at least understand that the lousy jobs numbers are no mystery. They are the result of a policy that Washington has willfully chosen. As the Fed notes, the cost of this policy isn’t measured in dollars but in something more precious: time. Washington’s refusal to confront the debt problem is costing millions the most productive years of their lives.
May 14th, 2011 at 12:54 pm
CA GOP’s Budget Proposal Shows Party Getting Serious
City Journal has a piece by Pacific Research Institute’s Steve Greenhut praising the California Assembly’s GOP leadership for proposing a series of small fixes that would result in dramatic savings for the state budget:
But much more encouraging is that the Republican plan suggests how simple reforms can save serious dollars. Take the provision of medical care for prison inmates. According to the Assembly GOP’s budget white paper, “The cost of providing health care to state prisoners has been the fastest growing part of the corrections budget. After the [federal] receiver took control of the system in 2006, medical costs skyrocketed. They reached $2.5 billion a year, including mental health care. The cost of health care for each inmate per year in California is approximately $11,600, while prison healthcare costs $5,757 in New York; $4,720 in Florida; $4,418 in Pennsylvania; and $2,920 in Texas. While costs have increased dramatically, it has not improved the quality of care enough to take the system out of federal court receivership.” Under the Republican plan, the state would contract out the correctional health-care system, saving $400 million. But that would mean taking on the powerful California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the prison-guard union that just won an absurdly generous contract from the governor.
Other budget cuts in the Republican blueprint include $3.7 billion from programs related to early childhood, mental health, the poor, and the elderly, as well as $1.1 billion from the state payroll. The plan also includes $2.8 billion in other savings from a bill that has already passed the Assembly but hasn’t become law. It doesn’t go far enough toward addressing the size and scope of California’s government, since the state faces even bigger fiscal problems down the road. But Republicans have made their point: California can fix at least its short-term budget problem if Democrats truly want to.
The Assembly GOP’s white paper on their budget proposal balances the state’s remaining $15 billion budget deficit without raising taxes. Greenhut points out that although the proposal doesn’t fix the structural issues plaguing California’s chronically dysfunctional governing process, it does show that there are at least a few Republicans able to offer a serious solution to the state’s most troubling problem.