Thursday, January 06, 2011


How to balance the state’s budget? That is the question.

The political class ensconced in Sacramento has made clear its preference—higher taxes. Unfortunately for these self-infatuated mandarins, California voters have defeated numerous revenue-enhancing propositions in recent years—most of them quite handily.

On the other hand, voters also soundly rejected the four ballot measures put forward by the original incarnation of Governor Schwarzenegger in 2005—propositions that aimed to restrain spending and curb the power of public employee unions.

In last November’s election, Californians reiterated their support for far-reaching environmental restrictions (Prop. 23) whose ultimate cost, in terms of jobs, lost revenues, and increased prices, will likely dwarf the benefits derived from allowing businesses to keep recently enacted tax breaks (Prop. 24).

Judging from this voting pattern, the mindset of Californians seems to match perfectly, and in spades, this cynical political aphorism: “What voters want from their government is more services and lower taxes.”

In the Golden State those services increasingly come in the form of regulations designed to improve “quality of life”—usually at the expense of economic development.

The most defensible examples of this quality-of-life objective are municipally-based decisions that concern zoning and construction of large retail stores in areas where traffic infrastructure is lacking and the secondary impact of mega-businesses on the surrounding area is uncertain. These are the primary concerns expressed by opponents of a Walmart superstore in Menifee.

The least defensible examples involve federal environmental regulations that put the welfare of critters like the delta smelt above that of thousands of Californians in the Central Valley who depend on its agricultural productivity for their livelihood.

Other laws in the same dubious quality-of-life category are state-based measures that may dramatically increase energy costs for the sake of global warming theories. Remarkably, these laws don’t make the slightest dent in hypothetical climate projections since China and India are (understandably) unwilling to forego the much more tangible, immediate, and certain quality of life improvements linked to economic growth.

Thus the principal benefit of these climate-based energy policies is psychological—to which benefit one may add the largely illusory promise of “green jobs.”

Given these delusional priorities, Californians may eventually embrace the city of Oakland’s solution for its financial woes, marijuana production and taxation—a “silver-bong” that’s been put on hold since the defeat of Proposition 19.

Given a choice between taxing reefer or reworking state pensions, developing oil reserves, improving the business climate and cutting state expenditures, the fraternal twin of the bogus “casino solution” looks pretty good—especially when you’re inhaling deeply.

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