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Friday, December 10, 2010

A Beautiful Day in the Golden State

“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery”. — Winston Churchill

I awoke about 6:30 this morning and my wife and I took our two German shepherds, Baina and Blaze for a mile walk. It was one of those gorgeous late autumn days in Southern California. The air was crystal clear and the sky a deep blue. You could clearly see the show atop the distant mountains the east. The temperature was a crisp 45 degrees and the walk was quite invigorating for the dogs and us. It was truly a great way to begin the day.

As we walked the neighborhood we noticed how many people had their houses decorated for Christmas. Most of the homes are decked with modest displays of season —lights strung along the roof line and a few lighted displays on the front lawn. It is nothing spectacular like some of the houses in our neighboring development, but a definite display of the Christmas season.

After the walk I decided to take the car to our local hand wash. I wanted to get there early so I would not have to wait in the usual line. When I arrived I was able to drive right up to the start line, get fuel and tell the attendant what wash I wanted — the VIP or executive. I decided on the executive as it is three dollars less than the VIP.

As I waited for the car to be finished I watched the men busily wiping the cars and cleaning he windows. These men, all Hispanic, were dressed in their car wash uniforms and doing a great job in the cold air. My windows were spotless, not a streak or smear on them. I don’t know if these men were legal or illegal and frankly this morning I didn’t care. They were working hard and earning their daily bread.

After the car was finished I drove up the road to Target to pick up a pair of glasses I had ordered from their optical department. When I arrived there were people already loading their shopping carts into their cars and the store was filled with shoppers. It was about 9:15. When I got to the entrance for the optical department I discovered it did not open until 10:00 a.m. I was disappointed, but it was too nice of a day to get upset. I just left for my next stop and told myself I would come back later.

My stop was the cleaners to pick up three pairs of pants I had in for cleaning and pressing. The little dry cleaning shop in our neighborhood shopping plaza is run by a Korean family, as many are. I was greeted by the little Korean girl with a smile on her face. She promptly retrieved my pants from one of those moving overhead racks. The pants were properly cleaned and pressed and neatly hung in plastic wrap. I paid the girl and thanked her. As I was leaving she wished me a Merry Christmas with a smile. I don’t know if she was a Christian or a Buddhists, I didn’t care.

On my way home I noticed all the trees along the boulevard were now wearing their gold, amber and orange leaves of autumn. You can see along the boulevard leading to our development for about two miles — it a straight run to the turnoff to leading to my development. The sight of the colored leaves against the deep blue sky with the snow-capped mountains in the distance is quite an awesome sight.

As I turned into my development and crossed over the bridge over the golf course I could see the morning golfers with their little carts milling about the lush green of the course. When you cross over the bridge you get a great view of the mountains, it’s quite a sight.

By the time I arrived at home I was beginning to wonder how such a beautiful state, with so many natural resources and so much beautify could become a social nightmare burdened under a mountain of debt? Was it because we didn’t work hard enough? The men in the car wash were working hard and the little Korean girl at the cleaners was there from 8 to 6 doing her job. Didn’t we pay enough taxes? California has one the highest state income tax in the nation. Our sales tax is 9%, our property taxes are high and we pay about $0.65 tax on a gallon of gas. Is it because we did not have enough resources and industry? At one time we had aircraft plants, car plants, a thriving IT industry, medical appliance industry, the movie industry, one of the largest farming and agribusiness in the world, mining, and oil refineries. We had the lowest rate of unemployment in the nation at 4.5% and were the 6th largest economy in the world ahead of France, Belgium, Ireland, and other EU countries. Only the United States, Japan, Great Britain, Germany and China had a greater GDP than California. How could things go so wrong in the Golden State?

Four things drove us into this mess; insane regulations, greedy, power hungry politicians and their out of control spending, a bloated civil service and school system with their union guaranteed pensions and health care and greedy public sector unions that don’t give a damn about those guys in the car wash, that Korean girl in the cleaners or you and me.

With the increasing power of the environmental and other special interest groups over the past thirty years many businesses, large and small, have left California for more friendly business environments. Car plants have closed, aviation companies have moved, farms have been regulated out of business and land is now lying fallow. IT businesses, like Intel and Dell have moved to New Mexico or China. Banking centers have relocated to North Carolina, South Dakota and Texas. Small businesses have done the same with many moving to Arizona, Nevada and Texas where the taxes are lower and the regulations are less.

California government has grown in leaps and bounds in the past thirty years. We have state agencies piled on top of state agencies. In fact we have so many state agencies that most agencies do not even know of the existence of the other agencies. This has bloated or civil service employment. With a state-wide unemployment rate of 12% the civil service is still growing.

We have a school system that was once the envy of the nation. Our community college system was second to none. Now we rank somewhere around 47th on the national scale of K-12 education. We spend, on average, about $9,000 per K-12 student each year. About 25% of California’s students are English learners (ELs), compared with almost 9% nationally. Most of California’s English learners (85%) speak Spanish.

Civil service and teachers unions have burdened the California tax payer with a mountain of unfunded pension and health care liability. Due to the laws passed, beginning with the 1978 Dill Act, (click here for my blog post on his issue) public sector unions have gained more and more power over politicians and attained more and more compensation and protection for their members. This also applies to the greed and arrogance of the teachers unions.

The greed of the politicians to maintain their power is unparalleled, even by the U.S. Congress. Over the past thirty years California has had a Democrat controlled state assembly and senate. They have maintained this control by garnering the support of their base constituents — public sector unions, teachers unions, environmental groups, radical leftists and welfare recipients. They claim to be the party of the poor, a claim that is true as they need the poor to maintain power. As soon as there are no “poor” they lose.

All of this did not happen overnight. It began on a small scale with small steps, but always in the same direction — the wrong direction. Like the boiling frog theory the voters of California were immersed in a pot of water at a cozy and comfortable temperature and they (we) paid no attention. It felt okay. As the heat was turned up and we eventually began to boil we hardly noticed we were cooking to death. Now we don’t know what to do so we elected the architect of the boiling pot — Jerry Brown.

If you think those riots going on in London over a small increase in a minimal tuition for a university education is restricted to the land of our forefathers think again. You haven’t seen the end of it yet. It’s coming to California very soon.

This is what can happen to a beautiful day in California when you begin to think too much.

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