CALIFORNIA MIRACLE DIET

I gained about 20 pounds while taking my qualifying field exams three years ago. It took me all of three months to gain it yet for the last three years I've been trying to lose it with zero success. The fact that weight is infinitely easier to gain than it is to lose, combined with the fact that the most attractive people are often the least interesting, is the surest indicator that life simply isn't fair. In an ideal world every journey would be on level ground, but when it comes to our metabolism the process of getting fatter is downhill while getting thinner is uphill. Up an icy hill. Into a tornado.

We have no control over these facts of life, so all we can do is lament them. In the political world, however, we do have control over a lot of things. Californians, if I can run with the analogy, have binged themselves into budgetary oblivion and are now resorting to drastic procedures to combat the reality that it is far easier to fuck up a government's financial health than it is to unfuck it. If the average state's unhealthy financial position today is like a person with 10 or 20 unwanted pounds, California is bedridden, weighs half a ton, and waits patiently for firemen to knock out the bedroom wall and remove him with a crane.

As medical professionals have to resort to dramatic and often risky procedures to treat a person who is 600 pounds overweight, California has been self-administering some radical surgeries lately, whether sending out IOUs instead of checks, wantonly hacking things out of the budget, getting its bond rating downgraded to near junk, jacking up tuitions while slashing education spending, or engaging in waves of mandatory furloughs. And of course none of it is enough. The depressed global and national economy is going to exert significant downward pressure on the state's income and property tax reciepts next year, meaning that whatever gap-fix solution presented today is likely to leave the state in the exact same situation next summer.

How did things get so bad? Well, the state made it easier for itself to get fat than to lose weight. In 1978 voters passed Proposition 13 which required a 2/3 majority in the legislature to impose new taxes or raise existing ones. No one, of course, was smart enough to realize what would happen if the opposite – a 2/3 majority required to cut taxes – was not also imposed. Combined with other portions of the law which limit property tax assessments to 1% of total property value, Prop 13 greased the skids for California to binge on tax cuts while making it difficult and painful to raise taxes. It's a complex situation with many causes, but the impact of the "tax revolt" can't be overstated.

Orange County, birthplace of the "tax revolt" (along with the subdivision, the strip mall, and the eponymous and christ-awful TV show), went bankrupt in 1994. It remains the largest Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy in the nation's history, and the final nail in its coffin was the rejection by voters of a 1991 ballot proposition to raise sales taxes by half a fucking cent to pay for county courts and jails (you know, to handle that War on Drugs of which Orange County's meatheaded legions were the most fervent supporters).

The only options at this point are painful budget cuts or painful (and nearly impossible to achieve) tax increases. When the budget is finally pared down to the point at which the state's voters can tolerate no further cuts in education, services, and policing, maybe they will have learned enough to revisit the wisdom of their 1978 decision to make slashing taxes as easy and mindless for the legislature as wolfing down the entire damn bag of chips while staring at the TV is for us.

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16 Responses to “CALIFORNIA MIRACLE DIET”

  1. Daniel Says:

    I'll never understand the psychological struggle that is paying a slight increase in taxes, however miniscule. Some of the same people that will spend 50 bucks at a bar getting slammed will be some of the first people bitching about taxes, sniping about the dollar increase at a stadium parking lot, or lamenting the one quarter increase at a movie theatre. If it is not directly serving them and their needs, then fuck it. Who will pay for public services? Not the Angry Guy.

  2. jon Says:

    California is the perfect example (not that all the other states are in great shape) of what happens if the reality and the rhetoric don't match. I've heard Republicans stand up for low taxes for my entire life, but never have I seen a balanced budget from them. Never. Not one. Not without using either socialist redistribution (Alaska) or Federal help (most everywhere else.) Would it be because their anti-government rhetoric is a complete fucking sham? Would it be because they think they can fool enough of us to make their cronies happy? Or do they love the power of government, but find it's kind of hard to run on freedom while acting like people who want power? Their rhetoric stinks of desperation since they don't actually stand for anything other than controlling women and keeping rich people rich. Everything else is up for negotiation.

  3. displaced capitalist Says:

    What I don't get is why so many Californian librul bloggers are blaming Schwarzenegger for this debacle. Sure, he supports the typical Republican ideals of less taxes and other BS, but it's not like he created this mess. He was still just the meat-headed actor producing grade-b flicks back in '78.

    But maybe I'm just out of the loop here on the east coast. I just took a liking to Schwarzenegger when I found out that he a pro-choice republican. At least it means he only drinks the kool-aid half the time.

  4. Amanda Says:

    I didn't see Ed blame the current governor anywhere in his blog. I did see him reference the legislation enacted in 1978 twice, at which time I am relatively sure Ahhhhnoold wasn't governor.

    Also, best way to describe losing weight: uphill, on an icy road, into a tornado. Word up to that.

  5. Sharper Says:

    Displaced Capitalist, librul bloggers 'round these parts generally leave Proposition 13 alone because the cacophony of bullshit you have to deal with when you attack it makes it hardly worthwhile. Consider anti-Prop. 13 screeds a tangent-in-spirit of Ed's recent post about lunatics and the worth of debating them.

    I've been wondering a lot recently about Prop. 13 and how much efforts like it to enact significant limits on property tax increases contributed to the housing bubble — I wouldn't be so keen on my house's value tripling over ten years if it meant my property taxes would also triple.

  6. displaced capitalist Says:

    Amanda: Is Ed from California? I thought he was from some midwestern state?

  7. Charles Butler Says:

    I feel so sorry for that state. I love California, especially Los Angeles and Southern California. But that state is being destroyed by the foolish actors and politicians over there. One of them in govenor and former actor Arnold Swartzeneger. He suckered the voters into thinking that he was a Republican, but instead he is a republican in name only( RINO). Think about it. When a politician mentions the word "BIPARTISIAN" it means that his constituents are getting screwed. This is what is happening to the once great state of California. They are getting screwed over and over again. The crime rate is higher, women are always on the verge of getting raped, there are more gangs than ever, illegal immigration is a cancer, and the taxes and cost of living is a total mess. I will visit someday in the future but I do not think that I will live there for a while. My heart goes out to the citizens of that state because the liberals are destroying that part of the country as well as the state north of them.

  8. Jeff Says:

    Well, that's a new slogan. "California: where women are always on the verge of getting raped!"

  9. Desargues Says:

    Is a compulsive use of quote marks and all-caps the distinguishing mark of the right-wing troll?

  10. Michael Says:

    Women are always on the verge of being raped? WTF?

  11. Ed Says:

    I deserve a better class of troll.

  12. jazzbumpa Says:

    Aha! I get it, now. the problem with CA is that Ahhnold is Repugnicant enuff.

    Thanx, Charles, for straightening that out.

    Where's Nixon when you need him?

  13. Overlady Says:

    No one mentions it anymore, but didn't the ENRON debacle contribute GREATLY to California's woes? As I remember it, California got SCREWED ROYALLY by totally fake energy charges, fraudulently high, forcing the state into insolvency.

    Then the ENRON creeps defaulted on everyone, even their own pensions, and the head guy <strikethrough)faked his death died.

  14. Sharper Says:

    Overlady,

    Enron did contribute greatly to California's woes, but the damage they did wasn't a fraction of what our own voting population has done at the ballot box, what with mandating balanced budgets, requiring a 2/3 legislative majority to increase taxes, and codifying spending requirements in the state constitution.

    Yeah, Enron were bad guys, but it's not like our electorate has any room to criticize.

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