Friday, May 29, 2009

California Bleeding

The voters have spoken, and have decided that not only would they voluntarily tax themselves further, they also rejected measures that provided a quick fix to budget problems without raising taxes - raiding special purpose funds that had been "underutilized" in the time leading up to the budget failure. The only measure that passed is a hit against legislator pay - a weak hit but still a hit.

There are those with an ideological bias against any restraint on government. That the voters actually stood up to the state is considered a travesty. Economic commentator Paul Krugman blames the whole mess on Proposition 13 which made it difficult to raise property taxes and impossible to reassess upwards without a change of house ownership, and requiring a 2/3 supermajority to raise taxes, which is considered holding the majority hostage to the minority. Since the Democrats do not have a 2/3 majority they are forced to come to terms with the permanent Republican minority in order for taxes to be raised. Paul Krugman is against any form of spending cuts.

Even with the requirement for a 2/3 majority, California is already one of the most heavily taxed states in the nation, showing how little the requirement for a supermajority hampered the ability to raise taxes. It should also be noted that for all of Krugman's claims to being an economist, he completely failed to predict the recession that started unofficially in 2007 and officially in 2008 - the biggest economic news of the decade.

So Governor Schwarzenegger is striking back. When forced to cut, he made some interesting choices. Some of them make sense, such as the park closures, but he also wants to have it so that if stolen property is recovered by the police they have no requirement to notify the owner that the stolen property is recovered. This would ultimately result in a new form of civil asset forfeiture, forfeiture by default.

He's also proposing a 5 percent pay cut for state employees.

Since Chapter 9 bankruptcy is only available to municipalities the only option the state has if bailouts fail is to default. It has been many years since a state defaulted on its debts, and doing so would lead to a domino effect of state debt.

That is probably why Governor Schwarzenegger is targeting his cuts at certain services. He’s not laying off auditors, but he is closing state parks. He has proposed cutting state salaries by 5% since that would mean he doesn’t have to fire state employees, but instead of firing state employees he’s cutting funding for medical care and school busses. Granted while the state should not be in those, the cuts seem designed to inconvenience the residents of the state as much as possible.

But these programs are also the reason many people believe the state exists. This is a dangerous move for Governor Schwarzenegger because if he follows through on his threats people may discover that they do not need the state to provide these services, and will wonder where their tax dollars are actually going. This could even result in a freer California.

No wonder Peter Schiff, in a sentiment shared by all liberty lovers, advised Obama to reject any bailout of California, advice Obama is likely to reject for the very same reason that any libertarians hope he takes it.

1 comment:

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