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Monday, November 17, 2008

California's Broke And I Don't Care



[Update: Since I wrote this, they've amended the expenditure number to $136B from $141B by including "a decrease of $4.673 billion to reflect expenditure offsets provided by the issuance of Revenue Anticipation Warrants in 2009-10 for costs incurred in 2008-09." Hmm. I remember Revenue Anticipation Warrants from Popeye cartoons. I'll gladly pay you Wednesday for a hamburger today. Oh, and they wiped the entire linked 2008-2009 budget line items completely. Ah, government transparency]

Don't get me wrong; I like California. I lived there for a year or more back when Jimmy Carter was still desolating the landscape. My brother lives there still. I was as much an itinerant migrant worker as anybody referred to on that map. We didn't have a Dust Bowl to drive us west from my native Massachusetts, but we had the Blizzard of '78 and Michael Dukakis, which was pretty good, too.

The reason I don't care "California's broke" is I know that means that the government of California is broke, not its citizens. Unlike everybody involved in the dissemination of news, I don't conflate the two.

The Governator has his hand out for federal money. With San Franciscan Nancy Pelosi running congress and some high-powered senators on the other end of the hillhall, he might get a taste. It's a bad idea. When a fellow you know comes up to you at the racetrack and says he's lost all his money because his can't-miss horse threw a shoe, and wants to borrow a few hundred so he can buy groceries to feed his children, you're wise to at least consider that his kids might go hungry no matter what you do.

The media, who are useless, report California requires a $28 billion dollar "bailout," because they can't add and don't own a dictionary. According to California's own webpage, there's a $14.5 billion dollar deficit for the current year. Your eyes will glaze over trying to research the real numbers for the California state budget; like all such things, no one will give you a straight answer, because they either don't really know but can't admit they don't know, or... they really need to borrow a couple hundred to feed their children because this can't-miss horse threw a shoe...

This chart, supplied in execrable .pdf, says the budget for 2008-2009 is $141 billion, so we could run with that. The Governator's office, which I imagine has a weight room and gives yoghurt enemas free to all state employees, reports that they're spending $139 billion while collecting $129 billion for 2008-2009. I imagine that Ahhnold ate some of both piechart pies. Let's go with $141 billion and a $14.5 billion deficit and stop wasting our time.

I ask you: Could you trim ten percent out of your budget and still eat three times a day? Of course you could. I'm not going to go out on the skinny tie/big beltbuckle/hoarding gold, ammo and canned goods limb and say everything the government does is useless, but nobody in any government seems to be walking both ways to work, carrying a sandwich in a bag. A sane person could trim ten percent out of that budget and no one sane would notice.

We shouldn't make the mistake of equating a state budget and a household or business budget. Likewise don't equate sanity with participants in almost any government. It's not a person to be reasoned with. Not even the participants understand exactly how to run it any more. They just think they can demand money and it will show up and they will spend it. Until it doesn't.

Money isn't showing up right now, so they're looking for it in the federal couch cushions. There's even less money there, because we're talking all deficits all the time of course; but even if California borrows the borrowed money, would California's citizens be better off? I doubt it. The runaway train aspect of governance allows very little room for maneuver. On one hand, anyone who campaigns on the "Let's close down government and have a barter/gold coin economy again" isn't talking sense, and deserves the .05 percent of the vote they get. The flip side of that (gold) coin is the notion that if you raise taxes over and over, we'll all be rich when the tax rate gets to 110%. I have my doubts.

A good politician these days simply says "I wont make things worse," and doesn't. That's not a sexy mandate, and since politics is showbiz for ugly people, and California has gone whole hog and made politics into showbiz for ugly showbiz people now, the only hope is that the whole thing fails and you start over. It's a shame, because then the real California -- the people that live there -- will suffer.

I went into the line items for the actual budget, to perform the usual back-seat-driver-blog-thing of finding the dollar value of the deficit in golden toilet seat covers and diversity training fees for gay/lesbian/transgendered college republicans and other easy to find fiscal abominations. I found something so much more disquieting and Kafkaesque, which made up my mind that the California government needs to collapse into a pile of dust before it gets one more cent of anyone's money.

Look at this enormous list of enormous expenditures. Scroll down to: Tax Relief.

[Up-update: California keeps wiping out even the cached version of these pages. Here's a screenshot of the Budget for 2008-2009 as enacted.]
The State of California taxes its citizens over $500 million dollars and then spends it on giving relief to its citizens because their taxes are too high.

Ponzi wept.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

CA tax relief sounds an awful lot like tax relief here in Dirty Jersey. When John Corzine decided the millions he spent on becoming our senator were wasted, and decided to spend another few million to instead become our governor, the first thing he did upon taking office was raise our sales tax from 6% to 7%. The primary purpose of this tax was to "ensure property tax relief." Got that? They raised our taxes to save us on our taxes -- the kind souls! It's this kind of stuff that earns the state its reputation. Corzine and his cronies were running around saying to anyone who would listen that this was the only way to ensure permanent property tax relief. Why something like, say, cutting the property taxes themselves wouldn't work is evidently beyond the understanding of someone as simple as me. Now, facing a mere $1.5 billion budget deficit (which pales in comparison to CA, but hey, ours is a small state in land mass if not population, filth and pollution), what is not looking like it's going to be doable for us this year? Property tax relief -- it's just not in the cards for us this year. Color me shocked, as I continue to spend over twice the national average for the right to own my own home on top of giving an extra 17%* to the state on every purchase I make. I just never saw that one coming.

* 6% to 7% is a 16.66% tax increase.

~Bob

Sam L. said...

"Ponzi wept." A most apt, concise, and brilliant ending.

Gerard said...

Standing ovulation!

Gimmer said...

Ah, a died in the wool bitter Republican. Guess I won't bother reading here anymore. I have had enough Republican Nightshade.

John said...

Yes, anonymous, NJ is very much like CA. And the wonderful thing is that we here in Monmouth county are about to get whacked with the property reappraisal, (based on 2006 property values of course) which, we're told, will not result in higher taxes, cough, cough.

And now I hear that Corzine is in the running for Treasury, because, you know, he did such a bang up job for us here.

I am absolutely sickened by politicians of all stripes.

SippicanCottage said...

I've never understood, and refuse to cooperate with any exhortations to prove my loyalty to one half of the population by hating the other half.

John said...

Ah, a died in the wool bitter Republican. Guess I won't bother reading here anymore. I have had enough Republican Nightshade.

Wow, if Glimmer actually read the post, and then bothered to follow the links, and THEN concluded the post was some sort of Republican manifesto, then she perhaps she should go elsewhere. I think Sippican does a masterful job of hiding his political leanings. It's one of the reasons I read his blog. That anyone can read those links and not be outraged is why we are where we are today -- "Pay no attention to facts -- we MEAN well, therefore we are GOOD." Gag.

Thud said...

I think gimmer got the wrong end of the stick...I come here because of this sites lack of bitterness...did I miss something?

Ron said...

Totally OT:

for Myrna Loy-loving Sippican:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7Unti0LJ8g

SippicanCottage said...

Ron- That was great. Mrs. Blandings.
When I lived in Culver City, Hollywood like that was gone, but still warm in the footprints.

Stuart said...

It's rare to have a real discussion about things political in real life. It's damn near impossible on the internet.

I see a drive-by comment like the one above and can't help wondering, "What's wrong with you?".

Anonymous said...

I was born and raised in California. San Francisco, to be more precise. It was a "real" city then with "real" people living in it. It got so crazy in the 60's I ran away to NYC and then to Doity Joisey next door. (frying pan to the fire?) Well, at least corruption has a sort of internal logic where crazy is just crazy.
Also, the raising the taxes, both sales and personal has spawned an underground economy so large it's what's keeping the state afloat. Er, Cash is King?
God help us all....

tlclark@temple.edu said...

Bush is Hitler!!

Wait, did I miss the flame war? Sorry, I just didn't want to get left out.

Geez, you people are all so civil, don't you know how this internets thing is supposed to work?

Noobs.

Eric said...

I used to live in NJ, but I moved to PA.

My property taxes are annoying but nothing compared to that mess in Jersey.

Like the android in 'Alien' said: "You have my pity."

Ron said...

OT again, Sippican did you that RKO still exists as a paper corporate structure? That it still owns the rights to Mrs. Blandings, and remade as Are We Done Yet? with the Cary Grant role being played by...Ice Cube?

Anonymous said...

The best way to deal with these liberal tax and spend governments is as follows. When the economy is down and they are hurting for money thats the time to tighten your belt and quit spending. A broke government is a pork trimming government.

You can simply pull your money out of the bank and put it in a safe deposit box. You can buy your stuff used on Ebay.

Starve the beast, because 7% governmnet growth is not compaitble with 3% wage growth.

Gerard said...

I like that comment so much I'm blogging it.

Dave said...

You said

The reason I don't care "California's broke" is I know that means that the government of California is broke, not its citizens. Unlike everybody involved in the dissemination of news, I don't conflate the two.


How could this not affect the people of California? What about when they issued IOUs instead of tax returns? What about the people who are getting turned away from colleges because the schools can't afford any more students? What about the government employees who are losing their jobs? What about the businesses that are pulling out and moving to a more stable environment? What about the imminent tax hikes that will be required to pay for it all?

I don't see how you can say that when an institution that is funded by tax dollars goes broke that it won't affect the people funding it.

SippicanCottage said...

Hi Dave- Thanks for reading and commenting.

When a fellow you know comes up to you at the racetrack and says he's lost all his money because his can't-miss horse threw a shoe, and wants to borrow a few hundred so he can buy groceries to feed his children, you're wise to at least consider that his kids might go hungry no matter what you do.

Anonymous said...

http://www.iscaliforniabroke.com All signs point to yes.

SippicanCottage said...

Anonymous link is hilarious.