When the Tax Day Tea Party protests happened on April 15, the idea of government spending us into bankruptcy seemed hard for some to grasp. A month-and-a-half later, they have a perfect example – California.
California is the Golden State no more. If Sutter’s Mill were still a major mining operation, the state would sell it to Chinese investors for quick cash. The Golden Gate Bridge would be next.
Thanks to years of screwed up government, California is $21 billion or more in debt. That’s nearly $600 for every man, woman and child in the state – in addition to their usual tax over-burden.
Naturally, when things get that bad somebody has to be blamed. If you’re in the media, a simple answer is to blame someone who can’t fight back. You might pick someone out of the limelight like former President George Bush or someone no one likes – such as former President George Bush.
But if you can’t blame Bush, then blame a dead guy.
The political leadership of California – Republicans and Democrats and Ahnold (not sure where he falls) – have driven the state to the point of fiscal ruin. But the media are looking to blame this crisis on a man who made his mark decades ago. His name? Tax protesting hero Howard Jarvis, the man who brought Proposition 13 to California. Prop 13 limited state tax assessments and became a tax revolt model that swept the nation.
Take a look at how New York Times economist/columnist Paul Krugman describes the current situation on the Left Coast in a May 24 column. “The seeds of California’s current crisis were planted more than 30 years ago, when voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 13, a ballot measure that placed the state’s budget in a straitjacket.”
Krugman doesn’t call out Jarvis by name. He doesn’t have to. The name Jarvis is synonymous with Proposition 13. But what Krugman does is slick. In one rhetorical flourish, he damns previous anti-tax initiatives and bashes the current tea party tax protesters because of the ultimate sin: “Proposition 13 made it extremely hard to raise taxes.”
We can’t have that. In an era where the U.S. deficit has ballooned to close to $2 trillion, being anti-tax makes you a bad guy. Or as Vice President Joe Biden once claimed – unpatriotic.
It’s much the way Jarvis was once treated – called a “fat cat” or even a “curmudgeon” in his New York Times obituary. His opinion was first ignored, then denigrated. It’s how the media treat most conservative activists – criticizing both the person and the position.
Unfortunately, that sentiment is common in the media blame game over California. Don’t blame decades of mismanagement or mega-salaries for union buddies, bash the voters. Especially conservative voters.
ABC’s George Stephanopoulos gave voice to that pro-tax, anti-democracy position, saying their view is “you should do away with the two-thirds plus one requirement and you should do away with Proposition 13.”
With the May 26 ruling about Proposition 8 banning gay marriage, we’ll see even more coverage from the media blasting the citizens of California because they have the audacity to vote – and vote against things journalists like.
So now look for a two-part media offensive. On one hand they will attack California’s unique initiative process that gives voters a say in how their state is governed. Simultaneously, journalists will begin the push for an Obama bailout for the states. That won’t be easy. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates state deficits hitting at least $145 billion in 2010 and $180 billion the following year.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner hemmed and hawed about his view of that pricey option for California. While he raised doubts about his power to help the state, he stressed that he needed congressional approval to do it. And while he appeared skeptical, Geithner reminded Congress “there are things that we've had to do I would never have contemplated doing.”
In human speech, Geithner would be perfectly happy to dig us further into debt for one big reason. There’s another number Obama will be taking into account aside from California’s $21-billion debt load – 53. That’s the number of congressional representatives the state has, or 12 percent of the total.
Obama is consistently using the budget and the bailouts as a winner-take-all solution to securing Democratic power for the long-term. His actions in Detroit haven’t just aided the unions, they’ve taken over. The UAW now has a 17.5 percent stake in General Motors thanks to Obama.
Now thanks to California, we’re all getting a lesson in just what happens when government fails. Unfortunately, that lesson might be the wrong one. And you and I will be paying to bailout more potential Obama voters.
California here we come? I hope not.
Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture. His column appears each week on The Fox Forum and he can be seen each Thursday on Foxnews.com’s “Strategy Room.”