Fixing California

By John Conway | December 21, 2009 2:31 pm

This past year has been a long, slow downward spiral for California into one of the worst financial crises in state history. Revised revenue projections in February led to huge slashes in funding for an array of programs from higher education to state parks, and a $25 billion budget shortfall looms next year. State employes and university (both Cal State and UC) employees have been furloughed, and UC tuition has gone up dramatically – 32% within a year. Protests at Berkeley, UCLA, and my own institution, UC Davis, led to dozens of arrests in November.

[I was amazed, the night of November 19, to see a helicopter with a powerful searchlight circling over the main administration building at UC Davis. The police, many from jurisdictions 20 miles away, had created a perimeter about 100 yards from the building, which was still occupied by students who were later arrested for trespass (and the campus police returned to find their tires slashed). The next week saw another protest, resulting in amnesty for those previously arrested…]

People are angry, and justifiably so. There are over 400,000 parents in the state who are getting a giant kick in the pants (myself among them – my daughter is at Berkeley). But who should we be angry at? Faculty? UC administration? The government in Sacramento? The global economy? What can we change that will truly fix the problems California faces?

One simple and direct idea has emerged, from a professor of linguistics at Berkeley, George Lakoff. He proposes the following 14-word amendment to the state constitution for the Nov. 2010 state ballot:

All legislative actions on revenue and budget must be determined by a majority vote.

With a million signatures, this proposition will be on the ballot next fall, and I am going to predict at this point that this will very likely be the case. If adopted, this would put an end to the 2/3 majority of the legislature required in California to enact any tax increase, and thereby end the present tyranny of the minority that hamstrings the state that I wrote about before.

No one wants their taxes to go up. But there are some real no-brainers out there, in my opinion:

  • Increase the state gasoline tax. In February the legislature failed to enact an increase of 12 cents per gallon on top of the present 18 cent tax that would have raised over $2 billion per year.
  • Tax energy extraction. Inexplicably, California is the only oil-producing state that does not tax oil extraction. The failed 2006 Proposition 87, with a 6% capped tax on extracted oil, would have generated over $1 billion in revenue per year. (By contrast, Sarah Palin raised the Alaska energy extraction tax to 25%!)
  • Decriminalize marijuana. There is in fact going to be a proposition on the 2010 ballot to do just that. A combination of legalization, taxation, and drug education, much as we treat alcohol (a far more dangerous drug) will be vastly superior to incarceration. Legal growers will drive the smugglers out of California. How much revenue could be generated by taxing one of California’s largest crops is hard to guess. It’s a lot.
  • Repeal corporate tax loopholes. There could be a ballot initiative on this next fall as well. It’s technical stuff: loss carry-backs, tax credit-sharing, and the single-sales factor. But it’s potentially $2.5 billion per year! And again, California is alone in some of this ridiculousness.

There are plenty more ideas out there, I am sure. In any case, it is the majority who should decide. The is how it is done in every other state in the union. California is far from being the most heavily taxed state in the nation – I believe there is plenty of room to solve the present crisis and create a state worthy of being one of the largest economies in the world.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics
  • Matt

    To the blogger John,
    Though I’m 100% behind you on 75% of your article, I gotta ask: Why? Why is this on Discover Magazines website? And why does it have a comments section?
    I’m a product of the Cal State system (Northridge). I’ve heard many of my buddies complaining about their tuition as they near the end of their protracted student careers. I know where you’re coming from, but there are places for rants like these, and a science mag aint it.
    As to the content of this article: how about a little background as the to rationale of why Prop 13 was passed in the first place (clue: keep gov’t spending down). You’re only addressing half the argument.

  • Pieter Kok

    Matt, you must be new to blogging.

  • John

    Matt, our ability to *do* science is under direct threat due to the state budget crisis. Sorry, I though that the relevance was clear. This is not just a political rant…

    Let me give you an example. Last year we conducted a search for two junior faculty members in our field, particle physics, here at UC Davis. We made offers to some top candidates, but lost out to other institutions. That’s the way it goes in academia, oftentimes. But the problem here is that once the state budget crisis hit, we were not allowed to conduct another search this year. Or next year. Or probably the next. In fact there is not only a hiring freeze, but an actual goal to shrink the campus by 10% to help meet the shortfalls anticipated. Less science will get done.

    But it’s even starker than you might think. Just consider the statistic that for every dollar the good people of California put into research at the University of California, six federal dollars flow into the state. It’s an incredibly good investment for the people. There are tons of other good statistics at this link:

    http://www.ucthewayforward.org/messagingimpacts.pdf

    I discussed this, and Prop 13, in my previous post, to which I linked up above:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2009/09/23/walkout-at-the-university-of-california/

    The bottom line is that nothing will kill basic science faster in this country than de-funding it. And a 33% minority has seen to it that this is what will happen in California, where science has underpinned the whole state economy. It’s breathtakingly stupid.

    We cannot do science without money. Government money. The people’s money. We are not getting rich off it. We don’t have fancy offices or the trappings that corporate America enjoys. We spend every dollar as carefully as you could imagine…we want to get the most from it! We give jobs to graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and professors who inspire and teach the next generation. Our system of research universities is the bedrock foundation of our technological economy. And it’s being hurt, badly, now. Help us reverse this!

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Stick around, Matt! You’ll be horrified.

  • Matt

    I know we shouldn’t be engaging in a back-and-forth, but…

    Actually, every one of your points are completely valid, and I really do thank you for fighting the good fight. The reason I felt compelled to write in the first place is because I find that a lot of bloggers (science bloggers included) tend towards populist messages that will invigorate those who already agree and alienate those who disagree. The climate debacle is a prime example, from the science and anti-science sides both.

    My high school philosophy teacher taught us some very basic rules to framing a debate, which can be summed up by RASR:

    Relevance: Are the arguments relevant to the debate at hand?
    Accuracy: Are the arguments accurate?
    Sufficient: Are there enough distinct arguments to defend your position?
    Rebuttal: Have you addressed the rebuttal to your arguments?

    Though your arguments are accurate and sufficient, I obviously found fault in the rebuttal, as you give no reason for why the 2/3 vote got introduced in the first place. I think 2/3 vote is crazy, but it got passed for some reason.
    As for the relevance, you very clearly told us why we should care in your response. But your original post could have been more at home in the LA Times, since you didn’t hint towards science education, technology, or any other of a number of topics related to this particular venue. I realize that you may not have a soapbox anywhere else, but if you want to convert non-believers, you gotta make them care first.

    All debate aside, I also fear for the future of pure science.

  • Jason

    Your thoughts are both logical, well presented and reasonable.

    Which is exactly why they will fail and fail hard when it comes to the political arena.

    To address each of your points from a pessimist or realist viewpoint, depending entirely upon what perspective you take on politics.

    1) Gasoline tax. Mere mention of new taxes or higher taxes instantly sets people into a tizzy, even if the change is an extra cent on every dollar. Its practically suicidal for any politician to touch new taxes.

    2) Energy extraction. See above.

    3) Very hard to predict, but something tells me the moral values voters have much higher turn out in off-cycle voting drives and they will always see marijuana as a great devil. I wholly agree that it is far less of an issue than alcohol and perhaps worse to criminalize it (especially considering the gang problem in California and that marijuana smuggling is the prime source of gang revenue/incarceration), but parents will always scream about how it will destroy their children. Who knows however, I’m prone to surprise.

    4) Very likely and easier to do for politicians since everyone hates a corporation, but since most politicians have their campaigns paid for by coporations, we’ll likely see very little effective work done in this region.

  • John

    Aww Jason, you had to bring reality into it…hate when that happens.

    Maybe politics is the art of convincing enough people that your vision of reality is actually going to be better for them than what they have. I just think it should be 51% of the people, not 67%, in California. At least in California the people can directly change the constitution.

    Matt: the back and forth is what makes blogging so much fun! We bloggers write what we are thinking, and then thousand of people read it, then a few kick our butts publicly. As long as we keep it on a civil and rational plane I am happy.

    Do take a look at my post from Sep. 24 where I dug into Prop 13 a bit. I still think that the US Supreme Court deserves a lot of blame for the mess we are in. If there ever was a more stark example of the failure of equal protection, I don’t know what it is.

  • Kevin Taniguchi

    A very good proposal John. And I am even more elated that you hail from UC Davis! Hope to see you on campus sometime.

  • Greg

    A 2/3 vote exists to prevent tyranny of the majority. And I think is a very good idea. I believe the majority (50.1%) deciding the budget is a bad idea.

    I do however, agree with your idea about decriminalizing marijuana. Not only would that generate tax revenue it would decrease the cost with no longer having to enforce or incarcerate for these offenses.

  • coolstar

    While corporate taxes in CA MAY be low overall (I have no comparison data at hand), individual taxes certainly are not. As of 2008, CA ranked 6th highest in the nation in terms of individual tax burden, where that is defined as taxes divided by income. That’s perhaps a bit misleading as CA was “only” about 10% above the national average. While the “super-majority” law in CA has certainly led to a lot of problems, I’m not confident that a “simple-majority” law will by any means be a panacea.

  • http://lablemming.blogspot.com/ Lab Lemming

    Since when were resource taxes not populist?

    Alaska is one of the most republican states in the Union. And thanks to its resource tax there is:
    a. no sales tax.
    b. no income tax
    c. a $1000 check is mailed to each and every resident each year.

    Not taxing non-renewable resource extraction means that the government is giving an irreplaceable resource away for free.

    As for the general question of taxing and spending, the main hurdle you have to face are these:

    A. Will the government spend the money better than the people for purpose X.
    B. Will the money actually go to purpose X, or will Political group Y get their hand on it instead?

    I don’t think that many people are upset by the expendetures at UC Davis physics. But if UCD is getting cut because some less worthy cause is better at clinging on to the money, then popular opinion will continue to be for cutting state spending until the unpopular program starves. In this situation, education is collateral damage.

  • John

    Lab Lemming, it’s arguable that the money *not* going to the University of California (not just physics, and not just UC Davis) is going instead to prisons. At least, that’s been the trend in the past 20 years.

    So if we cut money for prisons (as a result of legalizing marijuana for example) will the money go to the universities? You are right, it’s not automatic at all. We need to be highly proactive in Sacramento and in public in general, making the case for public support of higher education.

    This problem is not at all confined to California, either. Somehow, nationwide, the idea has gotten into the heads of state legislators that public support of higher education is a luxury we cannot afford, rather than the basis of the standard of living we enjoy. This is what is so breathtakingly, stupidly, shortsighted.

  • Wil

    California has repeatedly gotten itself into financial trouble, for decades. It is mainly caused by two things: habitual over spending by the state legislature, and occasional downturns in the state’s economy (which reduces the overall tax intake).

    Increasing taxes during an economic downturn (like now) will allow the legislature to spend even more, and will extend and deepen the economic downturn. This is precisely, absolutely the last thing that should be done.

    John, it is as if you recommended that a minor house fire be put out by drenching the flames with gasoline and gun powder.

  • Haelfix

    Yea it flies in the face of every economic theory to raise taxes during a depression. Arguably the federal government should have put more stimulus money into helping states, but well thats another story.

    The bottomline is that indeed the 2/3 majority is silly, but then so is the habitual overspending by the state legislature which is and has been overwhelmingly populist for a long time and highly innefficient in their money allocation.

    We aren’t just talking about funding intelligent programs like fundamental research and universities (which everyone agrees is a worthy pursuit), but also a large excess in various entitlement programs and infrastructure projects that probably should not have been there in the first place (or at least bargained down to reasonable prices).

    The 2/3 majority was a sort of ‘starve the beast’ mentality that might have been a noble idea, but failed miserably. It did nothing of the sort. The good programs ended up getting cut, the bad ones kept in place. That is not a republican or democrat issue, but simply stupid.

    Incidentally I agree with the energies tax after the recession is over, and maybe even legalizing pot (I don’t really care one way or the other). But closing corporate loopholes has a tendency to backfire, b/c firms that might want to come to california, will typically flow to greener tax haven pastures and hence have the opposite effect, so a little more forethought and analysis is required.

  • TomInAK

    John:

    My understanding is that businesses and high-income individuals are fleeing CA like the Okies fled the dust bowl. I think that heavy-handed regulation probably plays a big role, in addition to the personal & state income and state sales taxes. Eliminating the 2/3 majority required to raise taxes, and promptly jacking them even higher will only accelerate the trend, ultimately leaving the state populated mainly by public employees and those on the dole.

    If I were the king of California, some of the things I’d look at to fix the deficit would be:

    1) Wholesale elimination of programs, departments, entitlements, etc.
    2) Selling off state assets to pay down the debt; including real estate, oil & gas leases, and whatever else could be spared.
    3) Loosening or eliminating regulations on business. If you want business to stick around to employ residents and be taxed, you need to provide a non-hostile environment.

    I’m sure that some non-objectionable, even worth-while stuff would be eliminated or cut back, but the fact is that the state is tapped out. If I max out my credit cards and take out a second mortgage on the house and still can’t meet expenses, I have to cut back. The kids’ soccer & ballet goes. The cable tv goes. We give up dining out and have spaghetti a couple of nights a week. I probably end up selling the silverware I inherited from Grandma. Why should it be any different for government? If the money isn’t there, don’t try to spend it.

    This has been a pretty civil thread, and I’ll try not to change that, but I can’t avoid commenting on the tone-deafness of ripping folks who are struggling to keep their heads above water in the worst economy in decades as “tyrants” for preferring to pay their mortgage instead of shoveling more cash to a profligate state government.

  • http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/categories/27286 Carl Brannen

    Argue from the numbers. Here’s the St. Louis Fed Reserve numbers on California’s economy such as number of government employees, total population, tax collections, etc. , a total of 71 time series going back to around 1990.

  • http://eternal-cartesian.blogspot.com/ Cartesian

    About marijuana if we take the case of Netherlands where it is easy to buy some without any legal problem, the fact is that since they have let the marketing of it, the national intelligence did not grow and it seems to be the opposite if we refer to some great Dutch discoveries as with Huygens (even if this is quite old) and to the fact that actually Netherlands is almost absent in the international research. So to legalize it could cost.

  • http://eternal-cartesian.blogspot.com/ Cartesian

    P.-S. : The national intelligence is very important politically because from it is coming the fact that a country has better to be in a democracy or in a tyranny, because when there is not enough intelligence the only way in order to make move the people can be tyranny ; but there are some steps before like aristocracy or monarchy, if we start from republic. Finally some ask to be free for doing some things, but what they could have in return of this part of freedom is less liberty in general.

  • http://lablemming.blogspot.com/ Lab Lemming

    Tom in AK (#15)
    says:
    “2) Selling off state assets to pay down the debt; including real estate, oil & gas leases, and whatever else could be spared.”

    Did you not read the post? They can’t sell O&G leases because they give them away for free, and can’t get a 2/3 vote to tax them.

  • TomInAK

    LL:

    Even if that’s the case, I’m pretty certain that the state would get a royalty percentage of the oil produced. That’s typically 12-15%, which still isn’t chump change.

  • JJ

    I live and work in the 10th highest and highest taxed counties in the nation, respectively, just north of NYC. I’m not positive our state government has a majority rule for taxes and budgets, but NY is a prime example that majority doesn’t matter as much as the party holding it. Mostly Liberal Democrats have held the NY majority for quite some time, until a few months ago, and taxes have only gone up during that period, along with stupid programs that waste taxpayer dollars and political grid lock holding up any positive progress. My guess, the 2/3 rule was enacted when one party held a majority in the state so they could divulge power from the other party. However, it’s the representatives that matter, not the majority number, so 2/3 could be a blessing or a curse.

  • Joe

    Let me start by saying that raising taxes in a recession is generally a bad idea if you can help it. But so is dramatically cutting social services. Given the fiscal multipliers involved, social service cuts would be worse on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

    I’m not so worried about Tom in AK’s argument about businesses abandoning California. That’s very difficult to do. The state has a lot of leverage – its a big market with a long drive to get from the population centers to other states. Maybe you can locate your CEO in Nevada, but the distance between there and San Fran is the size of Ohio – you lose a huge market if you move out there more generally.

    Contrast with Maryland, which did lose a lot of millionaires. The DC suburbs, Maryland’s economic engine, can be commuted to from DC, WV, and PA, not to mention DC itself. And and DE.

    The problem with California is the initiative system. Too many people vote based on whether it sounds like a good idea, and interest groups can make a terrible idea sound like a good idea if you’re not paying attention. Not to mention they’re error prone. (The text of the Texas anti-civil union amendment technically bars straight marriage, though no court will interpret it that way. And Prop. 13 essentially lets corporations sell property without having the property reassessed, taxing some corporate property that has been sold many times at 1980s value).

  • Joe

    JJ,

    “Mostly Liberal Democrats have held the NY majority for quite some time until a few months ago, and taxes have only gone up during that period, along with stupid programs that waste taxpayer dollars and political grid lock holding up any positive progress.”

    Republicans controlled the New York Senate from 1966 until 2008 and the governorship for 12 of the past 15 years. The only branch Democrats have controlled for quite some time is the state assembly. So you might want to rethink your critique.

  • JJ

    My mistake, I meant Federal representatives in the House and Senate, and they continue to maintain the majority today. However, the state legislature is highly dysfunctional as well.

  • http://vacua.blogspot.com Jim Harrison

    As in the country at large, the people who talk the most about the rights of the minority are the same ones who have been the most hostile to them historically. In fact there is only one minority this minority gives a damn about and that’s the minority they belong to. Forget it if you’re black, Hispanic, gay, native American, or atheist. Indeed, for many Conservatives, what freedom means is the freedom of traditional elites to go on oppressing somebody, for slave holders to retain the liberty to enslave, for religious zealots to maintain the right to control the behavior of everybody, for corporations to lord it over their employees. Which is why right-wingers actually favor the growth of government when it involves increasing the number of soldiers, cops, or prisons instead of frivolities like schools, infrastructure, or hospitals.

    Can majorities be irresponsible with money? Obviously. It is not clear to me, however, that the 2/3rds rule has led to good financial behavior on the part of the state. We’ve had that rule for decades now, after all, and the results are not encouraging. The rule doesn’t guarantee economy. Instead, it gives a handful of legislators the power to extort all kinds of pork by holding the state hostage. And many economies are false economies. Starving the University system in this state makes about as much sense as cutting the balls off your only bull.

  • JJ

    California and all the other states in financial distress should take notes from those that successfully weathered the economic down turn and continue to maintain budget surpluses.

  • Joe

    JJ,

    I will happily concede that the NY Legislature is entirely screwed up. But its not a Republican or Democrat thing. Its an Albany thing.

    As for the congressional delegation – you’re right, Dems have controlled it for a while, but I don’t see how that could impact policy all that much. After all, Republicans controlled Congress, with a brief exception, from 1995 until 2007, and had the whole federal government from 2001 to 2007. New York’s delegation being mostly (D)s couldn’t much impact the bills they passed!

  • Karl

    Oh sure it’s stupid to cut off the balls of your only bull I agree. But you would of course use technology to improve your herd, would’nt you. The current education system is like going to the village well for water. Sure you get to socialize but you waiste alot of time and trips to fill your bathtub one bucket at a time. I’m sure you would use the semen from only the best bull right? And you would rather use plumbing to heat and transport the water for your bath, Right?
    Well digitizing and centralizing the education system is not much different. Ohh it’s not tradidtional true. But niether were Turkey basters for insmenating cows. The greatest portion of money in the UC system is used for administration and sports. I propose neither are neccessary in today’s world to the extent we see now. I love sports but let’s get real the money spent is to get more money to spend. And the problem is as simple as the fact that enough, no more than enough is already spent. Restructure and then we have a system open to the world regardless of thier geography. If we have the greatest program for education at any level then the free market will make the new streamlined campuss theory work for all.

  • Joe

    Karl,

    I don’t seem to get your point on sports spending. We should cut it even though it is profitable? Wouldn’t it make more sense to cut the inefficient spending and use the sports profits to drive down tuition or pay state debts?

  • joel rice

    JJ does not have to revise his critique – what you get is a plethora of political plum
    jobs paying over 100,000 grand, and guess whose taxes go up to pay for all these
    plum jobs, and what do we get for it ? NOTHING. Do they lose their jobs – hell no,
    we do. Frankly, New York and California should be kicked out of the USA, just because
    they have risen past their level of incompetence.

  • Karl

    The problem that you are overlooking with the sports issue is a simple thing. Does the state need to invest in the school system for sports if their is no return for the investment? The money spent literally goes into a Bureaucratic black hole. And the Black hole only feeds itself. The money made is waisted on title 9 and 12million dollar contracts for coaches. Not to mention all of the diversion from education to build a stadium and facilities for training, and transportation. How about we only invest in academic endeavors and let the NFL and NBA invest in making players great.
    The money you are talking about never benefits anybody but lawyers that sue the UC system for violations of conduct within the precious sports programs. Fresno State has alone paid in excess of 30 million in the last 5 years to coaches with some complaint or another. And players sue as well! So why play? The game of the “We have to have it for the support of the previous graduates.” It’s all a waist.

  • Tuatara

    The 2/3 majority was a major component in the implosion of California much the same way that the 60-Senator filbuster could bring down the country. Checks and balances are necessary, but they can cripple a nation or state if they become too overbearing. Just look at the Roman Republic. Majority rule is always the way to go with legislative bodies. Otherwise, they cannot change laws fast enough to keep up with the times. The executive and judiciary are enough of a check to keep a country or state from falling apart.

    Also, it is absolutely ridiculous to govern 34 million people with direct democracy. I propose we introduce a referendum to end all referendums. If passed by a simple majority, no new referendums could be introduced. Further, all previous referendum would then be voted up or down by the legislature. Then finally we could have some control over the budgets again.

    If California wants to survive for the long-term it must make drastic changes like these.

  • JJ

    I really can’t stand either party in NY to be honest, but I’d rather have the right wingers hold the Federal majority over the left wingers, with the exception of the Blue Dogs. I’m Libertarian for the most part and I’m sick of higher taxes, for which I see no improvements in my local community. A lot of it goes to increasing pay of government jobs, as Joel mentioned, or gets wasted on programs that nobody favors and yields no significant return to the people. It’s a matter of taxation without representation in NY and CA in my opinion. My town has a bridge in need of repair that resulted in the closure of a major traffic route. Work was started, but stopped when the economy went south and the contractors couldn’t get money to finish. It has been closed for almost 2 years now and we haven’t seen a dime of the Federal stimulus funds that were supposed to be designated for such jobs. Instead, much of it went to businesses or organizations that aren’t in dire need of funds. This is a microcosm of NY and CA’s government.

  • http://radical-moderation.blogspot.com/ TheRadicalModerate

    I find it simply incredible, John, that you were able to write this post and not mention the need for cost reduction a single time. I think that places you firmly in the bubble on the Venn diagram that carries the label, “Part of the Problem.”

    I lived in California from 1980, when Prop. 13 had just passed and Howard Jarvis was making cameo appearances in Airplane!, to 1998, which was about 5 years after I noticed that kids working in retail had suddenly lost the ability to make correct change. I believe that those two phenomena were causally related, so I’m not unsympathetic to your complaint that California’s constitutional amendment system is well-nigh to full-blown bat-guano crazy, and has enormously complicated the task of governance. But California’s problems have a lot less to do with that than the fact that you guys never learned that, as the Rolling Stones say, “You can’t always get what you want.”

    I moved to Austin, so I now have experience with two states that have lousy school systems (CA has 8th grade NAEP scores that rank 38th, 44th, 50th, and 47th for writing, science, reading, and math, respectively, while TX ranks 33rd, 36th, 37th and 18th), but radically different approaches to the role and funding of state government. Seems like you guys pay $2392 per capita in taxes for pretty much the same outcome for which we in Texas pay $1368 per capita. Of course there are other differences: Texas is an extremely bad state in which to be poor. And California is very pretty, with a lovely climate. Have I missed any important ones?

    And your considered solution is that you should raise taxes. I’m gobsmacked.

    California has always been the United States’ most important social laboratory. The rest of the country learns from your successes and failures. I want that to continue. So I say this with no rancor and as little schadenfreude as humanly possible: The rest of the country needs California to fail, preferably quickly and spectacularly. Then you can finally clean up your own mess, while the rest of us watch you do it. I’m terribly sorry that the UC system will probably go down the tubes with the rest of the state, but we need your example, pour encourager les autres.

  • steeleweed

    Does it ever occur to anyone that California is basically being governed by ballot initiatives?
    The overwhelming majority of CA’s budget is not under control of the legislature or governor – it’s carved in stone by some plebiscite or other.
    Democracy is fine for establishing and controlling an environment that safeguards public interest, but it’s a terrible way to run an enterprise. That’s why corporations are not democratic.

    “Democracy – the amazing trust in the collective wisdom of many individual idiots”.
    What California should do is eliminate the ability to run the state by public referendum.

  • Cynthia

    Don’t just decriminalize marijuana, go ahead and legalize the darn stuff and then tax the stew out of it! Taxing pot could work wonders on helping California get back into the black. But as long as fascist capitalists are in power who are profiting mightily from the war on drugs, and as long as social democrats, such as myself, who greatly cherish our civil liberties, remain on the fringes of power, hell will freeze over before pot becomes legal.

  • http://vacua.blogspot.com Jim Harrison

    Libertarians weirdly believe that the Republicans are the party of fiscal probity even though the only administration to run a budget surplus in the last several decades was Democratic. The Democrats care about the fiscal health of the state because they think the state can, in the words of an old leftist pamphlet, “promote the general welfare.” Many Republicans would like to destroy the credit of the Federal government, believing, as they apparently do, that the Mad Max movies pictures a Utopia. The projected libertarian paradise has a lot in common with the no-longer lamented worker’s paradise of the Communists, the last movement that based its politics on a priori reasoning.

    Higher taxes are not the end of the world. Nobody likes to pay ‘em, but the great question is not their level but what you get in return for your money. A California that doesn’t dry up and blow away is worth something, at least to me, even though I don’t like writing the check to the Franchise Tax Board any more than you do. I just don’t want to live in Mississippi.

  • JJ

    Jim, you need to read up on Communism and Libertarianism. Libertarian views couldn’t be further from Communism. Libertarians are for small government, social freedom, fiscal responsibility, strong defense, free markets, and individual liberty. In summary, Libertarians are socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Communism is similar to socialism, in which the government controls everything and redistributes wealth, therefore yielding very little freedom. Liberal Democrats actually have the most in common with Communism and Socialism. Democrats in general are for higher taxes, bigger government, and redistribution of wealth. These are facts, but don’t take my word for it, look it up for yourself.

  • TomInAK

    I think what’s interesting in the link that Carl included in # 16 is found in the graph “CALTOTLTAX” on the second page. with the exception of a roughly 10% drop during the recession in 2001-2002, state tax receipts have been trending steadily upward since 1992 (as far back as the graph goes). What this tells me is that CA’s budget woes are not the result of fanatics keeping the government from getting it’s rightful pound of flesh. It’s more a matter of increasing spending beyond the rate of revenue growth.

  • Bruce the Canuck

    >Liberal Democrats actually have the most in common with Communism and Socialism…

    Let’s try that on, using an emprical measure: Tax revenue as a percent of economic activity. Define communism as 100%, and pure libertarianism as 0%. Note first that the democratic party in the USA is roughly as far left as the Conservative party in Canada.

    In the united states, we get 28% (doesn’t change much with Democrats in power, except that the money goes to different people and the economy grows faster). Canada is at about 33%. Sweden, 49%. So Canada, who’s political center is further left than the US’s democratic party, isn’t even really socialist; Sweden is right in the middle, and so probably is (everybody knows what a hellhole that place is!). So your model fails. Democratic governments in the US haven’t even been remotely close to socialist.

    >Libertarian views couldn’t be further from Communism…

    You’re right, libertarians would give us totalitarianism via psychopathic corporations and huge wealth disparities, with no middle class. Two forms of dystopia…but both involve the vast majority of people suffering greatly.

    I would go take a hard look at the list of countries where the % of tax revenue vs gdp is under 20%. It’s a list of failed states, oil kingdoms, and places where people are “disappeared”. Libertarianism as a personal ethic is one thing – it’s just a declaration of selfishness; but applied to governing, it’s every bit as much a psychotic fantasy as communism. Jim’s comment is dead on. Any ideology that “base[s] its politics on a priori reasoning” is closer to a dangerous cult than a practical worldview.

  • JJ

    Bruce, thanks for your totally radical and grossly false presentation. I didn’t say Liberals were socialist, I said they have the most in common, meaning they share certain views that coincide with socialist views. This is a fact. Liberals favor big government that controls energy, health care, and the economy. Libertarians would not eliminate taxes completely, but would do away with the Federal income tax, allow people to keep more of their own money, and stream line government spending for only the most essential programs, like schools, cops, etc. If you work hard, you can be very successful. This is what America was built upon, maximum freedom and no taxation without representation. Markets would face as little regulation, only what is necessary to protect public interest, not complete anarchy as you describe. Libertarianism promotes a free market full of opportunities and emphasizes personal responsibility and accountability in one’s actions. Also, you cannot compare the American political to those of other countries because the politics are quite different. For example, conservative in Canada is not the same as conservative in America. America’s founding fathers were Libertarian and they crafted the Constitution based on those principles in response to the oppressive rule of Great Britain. Socialism and communism are oppressive forms of rule, see Venezuela, Cuba, and China.

  • John

    TheRadicalModerate (34): California *has* failed, and failed spectacularly. What more do you want? The state is issuing frickin’ IOUs to its creditors that banks won’t honor. Do you want (even more) people starving in the streets before making the changes necessary? “As examples for the rest”? That’s pretty sick.

    As far as cost reductions go, you are right that I did not talk much about that in my post. But I am coning from an organization where over the past two years we have hit the brakes, hard, on spending. We are all wondering what else we can sacrifice just to meet our primary missions of research and education. Many of us look at the dramatic increase in the size of the UC administration relative to the faculty and student sizes, and wonder how to reverse that trend.

    In the state in general, I have yet to see in any of the comments above any particular programs or expenditures that people think should be cut. You really have to ask yourself whether we really afford as a society to abandon our young people, in K-12 education and in higher ed, and expect the California socioeconomic future to be bright. The incarceration rate is out of control, and has eaten far too much of the people’s taxes. Because we *have* failed our children.

    Bruce the Canuck, you rock.

  • John

    Regarding raising taxes during a recession: clearly that’s off the table. What I would envision is that the 2/3 rule ends as of January 2011, possibly in time for the next budget cycle, by which point a true recovery is underway. We all hope it will be anyway!

    The taxes I proposed raising are just examples of where California is either way out of sync with what is working just fine elsewhere, or (in the case of legalizing marijuana) examples of where California could take the lead. (And, by the way, I am not a pot user…don’t really like it.)

    Taxing gas/oil has simply got to be part of our state’s energy and environment policy.

  • John

    Here is a great set of statistics on California’s incarceration rates. We pay 28% more than the national average on prisons.

  • JJ

    I would start by cutting back on programs for inmates. I’m all for legalizing and taxing marijuana too, but then people are going to just grow their own and the sole purpose will be a bust. Cutting back on spending and waste is the most logical option before resorting to higher taxes. Unlike NY, which actually increased it’s spending and taxes last year as tax revenue and the economy were on the decline. NY’s leadership is @ss backwards.

  • http://vacua.blogspot.com Jim Harrison

    It’s JJ who needs to take some courses in political philosophy and, even more urgently than that, some serious courses in the history of the last 150 years. Libertarians, addicted as they are to deductive reasoning, have a hard time learning from experience. They simply “know” that free markets will bring the Age of Aquarius just as traditional Marxists simply “know” that capitalism bears the seeds of its own demise, etc.

    What experience should teach us is that there are dangers to allowing the government too much or too little a role in the economy. That’s the hell of it. One simply must make judgments about individual situations because there is no simple rule. You might as well claim that the secret to safe driving is to always hit the accelerator or always bear left or right. I’m in favor of staying on the road myself even though that involves staying awake and steering the goddam car.

  • JJ

    See Congressman Ron Paul, his platform basically summarizes the level of Libertarianism for which I am referring.

  • http://vacua.blogspot.com Jim Harrison

    Ron Paul is either abysmally ignorant of American history or simply cynical How do y0u pretend, as he does, that governmental action has always been bad for the country? Are you down on the Erie Canal, for example, a private/public partnership that made New York the great city it is today? How about the Post Office and the subsidy it provided for newspapers? How about the railroads or the Internet or the Interstate highway system? We wouldn’t have any of these things without governmental action or at least we wouldn’t have had them yet. The point isn’t that the Federal government has always been wise or helpful. Who believes that?The point is, as I keep repeating, a priori rejection of public action ignores the history of the country and the often positive effects that government can have.

    Here’s the deep irony. The Communists believed that he state would eventually wither away. They were officially as hostile to state socialism as any Randian. Meanwhile, though the Libertarians are supposedly hostile to the expansion of government power, in the last several decades, they have supported the Party that in fact expanded government power. As for me, not that it matters, I don’t favor the expansion of the government for its own sake. It simply appears to me that in certain specific areas—health care, education, and scientific research—the government has an indispensable role to play because experience has shown that markets don’t deal with these things at all well.

  • JJ

    I agree the government can do good, but for the most part should remain small and out of affairs pertaining to individual liberty and choice. I wouldn’t base decisions simply on ideology as you allude to, but evidence. I’m a scientist, I need evidence to make decisions and the government has a long history of waste and corruption, which fuels my skepticism. I base this view on my life experiences, not a priori justifications. As long as the 2 party system exists, people will become corrupted by partisan politics. I say do away with political parties and deal with issues as individuals.

  • Braemar55

    Same old problem the pilgrims faced in Massachusetts. Sharing equally the bounty of labor meant the downward spiral to too many eaters and not enough energetic workers.

    I suspect the lure of California for immigrants and low level workers is more than the well paid workers can float. The cost of services, including public education, has overwhelmed your system. Too few taxpayers for cost of services for all…

    The climate, proximity and services offered were too enticing for those not able to help you pay for them. And yes, those who are mobile and pay the most will leave as fast as they can, without a goodbye. The higher the tax the less you will collect.

    I wonder why past experiences in these tactics is not researched before enacting.
    And no, voting on every measure won’t work as those who benefit will vote for what they want and are not the payers. back to those pilgrims who only allowed those who paid for services to vote on how their money was spent.
    Sounds draconian, but soon you’ll have votes from those who benefit (and don’t pay taxes) for things that can never be paid for.
    Look at FREE health care! Who gets it free?

  • http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/categories/27286 Carl Brannen

    Having lived in California and Washington States, and known my share of immigrants, (of all economic and social classes, both foreign and domestic, English speakers and Spanish only), I am quite sure that it isn’t the immigrants that have destroyed the California economy.

    More to the point, my company laid off a bunch of people a couple years ago (in Washington State). One of them turned out to have faked his documents; he was an illegal worker from Mexico. He was one of our best employees. The result of getting laid off was that the State took a closer look at his documents, and while they’d been good enough to allow him to pay into the unemployment insurance, they weren’t good enough for him to collect out of it. So to save him from financial devastation, the boss gave him money (as a “contract” worker) until he found new work elsewhere.

  • Anonymous Snowboarder

    John,

    Have you done any research on California’s governmental outlays over the past decade? If not, check http://reason.org/files/a2ec7caccc5d660e870c4a21526ef5f8.pdf for what is a more reasonable solution to your state’s problem than the one you propose.

  • Jimbo

    California, once the driving force of the future, could transform the legalization of cannabis (lets stop calling it pot: Calif has already `gone to pot’)into a stepping stone for transforming our economics, energy, textile, judicial, & agricultural realities overnite. Most profoundly in need of overhaul is CA’s horrible imprisonment problem, in which 30-50% of inmates are incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses, costing the taxpayers billions of dollars, and perpetuating the sad state in which America imprisons a larger % of its citizens than any other country in the world. This tragic reality speaks volumes about the lack of political leadership, and perpetuation of lies that have become status quo thinking over the last 4 decades since Nixon declared `Prohibition II’ aka, the `war’ on drugs. This legacy has poisoned CA & America, and the time to end it is NOW. If the governator can step up to the plate & take bold action, he will cement his place in history, and save the golden state from economic & spiritual meltdown.

  • Karl

    Uh Jimbo what is the exact % of Cannabis only violations in the prisson system and then after we take out the one’s in prison for cultivation and sales. Is there any left and surely Meth is the state prison issue. Not cannabis, cannabis happened to just be an additional charge in most cases.
    Let’s not pad the issue’s either way.

  • Pingback: Can a failed state be fixed? « A Man With A Ph.D.()

  • joel rice

    Mr Harrison – there was no problem with health care back in the 50s and 60s
    until Ted Kennedy and his idiot pals got their fingers in the pie in the 70s.
    And all in the name of good intentions. when i was a kid we collected dimes
    so researchers on polio could get the needed electron microscope.

  • http://vacua.blogspot.com Jim Harrison

    “there was no problem with health care back in the 50s and 60s…” = my family was OK or at least that’s what I remember.

    Basic fact: the American health care system is pathetically inefficient. It delivers second-class results at incredibly high prices. This sad state of affairs didn’t begin a week ago Tuesday and blaming Ted Kennedy for it is about as rational as blaming a comet for the death of the king.

  • Low Math, Meekly Interacting

    steeleweed pretty much nailed it.

    It’s a lesson I’ve been absorbing slowly, and its full implications I have yet to come to terms with: Democracy is not always good. In fact, while autocracy has its own fatal flaws, the more completely democratic a political system, as all evidence indicates, the more dysfunctional it becomes. Apparently a balance must be struck, and it may lie much more closely to the model of the Founders (a representative democracy, where the influence of the vox populi is minimized, and the “representatives” could rightly be described as enlightened aristocrats).

    I hate thinking this way. My entire educational and cultural background tells me it’s wrong to think this way. But the evidence seems to say otherwise. The American experiment has been yielding some pretty disturbing results of late.

  • Karl

    Overall I agree with Mr PH.D. The frog can’t jump out of the pot! The time is already past that, the water is far too hot and his muscles are cooked! And his Brain too!! California is that frog. Maybe Prince Barrack will give it a kiss, and transform it into a meal for his glory of Amrerica’s destruction.

  • John

    Anonymous Snowboarder, you have provided a truly wonderful example of how to lie, egregiously lie, with statistics. If you look at the charts in the report you linked to, none of them, except one, makes any attempt to relate the increases in spending with increases in state population, or domestic product, or anything that takes into account the increase in the size of the state economy! It’s laughable. And the one plot that does show per capita expenditures doesn’t adjust for inflation!

    And look at the source – the Reason Foundation, the Libertarian/Objectivist/Ayn-Randian outfit…are we surprised?

    If you want a truly rational look at state funding, take a look at the state of Califonia’s Legislative Analyst’s Office (sort of like the CBO is to Congress). There you will learn that, in fact, adjusted for inflation, the state budget has been pretty damned flat at about 9% of personal income for the past twenty years.

  • Jimbo

    Karl,
    You can dig up the percentages yourself (NORML.org), and while you do, perhaps an English book on how to write clearly ? Marijuana arrests and subsequent sentencing constitute the majority population of inmates.
    You miss the entire point: the cure (prison) IS the disease, regardless of drug.

  • DP in CA

    From a previous comment:

    “Alaska is one of the most republican states in the Union. And thanks to its resource tax there is:
    a. no sales tax.
    b. no income tax
    c. a $1000 check is mailed to each and every resident each year.”

    I would just like to point out that the vast majority of that tax, that provides checks to every Alaska resident whether they had anything to so with energy extraction or not, is paid by people in OTHER states. Everyone who uses petroleum from Alaska, no matter where they live, pays part of the price to someone in Alaska. Now, this model might be a reasonable way for California to get out of the financial hole it’s in, or it might not, but participants in the discussion ought not try to hide the fact that it’s a tax on residents of other states.

  • Kaleberg

    “Yea it flies in the face of every economic theory to raise taxes during a depression.”

    That’s bogus. There is a lot of economic theory that argues for raising taxes on high income individuals who save rather than spend to prime the economic pump during recessions. In fact, this strategy has worked well in the past, so there is not only a theory, but a fair bit of evidence for its effectiveness.

    “My understanding is that businesses and high-income individuals are fleeing CA like the Okies fled the dust bowl.”

    Actually, high income individuals flock to high tax states. People pay a premium to live in high tax areas, probably because those are also areas with better business opportunities. If you plot housing costs against tax burden, you can see that this is a hard and fast economic relationship. Taxes are lower in Mexico, but there are a lot more Mexicans heading north than Californians heading south.

    Like physics, a lot of economics is counter-intuitive. Yes, light has both a wave and particle nature, and yes, higher taxes cause economic growth.

  • The Real Deal

    Matt said: “Though I’m 100% behind you on 75% of your article, I gotta ask: Why? Why is this on Discover Magazines website?”

    Because discovering the universal law ‘simple majority rules’, for a state of 30m+ people, claimed to be educated and civilized, is indeed a discovery of historic proportion.

    Next on the discovery agenda: The people and government of California discover prudence, sense, balance and rationale in matters of society!! Since these are 4 things to discover, given education cuts, it would probably take 2 decades to happen.

  • Anonymous Snowboarder

    @John: Are you a climatologist? You ignore the report because of its source? “My god, its a libertarian think-tank report! It *has* to be wrong. ”

    Lets take a look at your source, in particular the charst 9 and 10 which claims real spending has only grown 18% over the period 1998/99 thru 08/09. the 128.8B total for 08/09 compares to “On August 21, 1998, the Governor signed the 1998-99 Budget Act, which along with various implementing measures (trailer bills), comprise a budget package that authorizes total state spending of $72 billion” or 1.79X. higher What inflation rate does that give? 128.8=72*e^11r or a 5.3% compounded rate. Or you could use any inflation calculator on the web to get: “What cost $72 in 1998 would cost $94.69 in 2008. ” NOT 128.8B. (in fact, bls.gov says that same 72 in 98 is worth 95. 6 in 09)

    Looking a population growth, 1998: 32.987M, 2008: 36.757M or 11.4% which is still well below their claimed 18% REAL growth.

    You have also made the specious argument that the budget should scale in a linear manner with population. That is in effect, to put it on business terms, to say all costs are variable and none fixed.

    As a scientist I expected a little better – at least a willingness to look at other arguments concerning the root causes of problems in California.

  • John

    Anonymous Snowboarder, I note that you are not defending the Reason.org report. And I am not sure what you are talking about with respect to climatology…

    The state budget is almost totally dominated by personnel costs. The number of personnel for education, health and human services, business and transportation, legislative and judicial services, etc. all scale with the amount of economic activity, which is highly correlated with population. This is far from a specious argument, it’s simply a fact.

    I think it is imperative to look to the root causes of the present financial crisis in the state. Failure to plan for the inevitable economic downturns is one main one, which I did not address in my post. But allowing our incarceration rate and the cost per inmate (nearly 30% above the national average) to balloon out of control is another, and giving huge corporations a free ride that no other state does is simply stupid.

    Anyway I am always willing to consider alternative arguments – but they have to actually make sense or I tend to ignore them. Libertarians’ overly simplistic approach, and the utter coldness of the whole Ayn-Randian philosophy have turned me off for many years now. But, as they say, if you aren’t conservative at some point in your life you don’t have a brain, and if you aren’t liberal at some point, you don’t have a heart. I guess I consider myself a fiscally conservative progressive. :)

  • Count Iblis

    Decriminalizing marijuana will also be good for physics. It will lead to more interesting articles.

  • Dan Mitchell

    The anti-tax zealots want people to think this is about wasteful overspending and overtaxing by the state of California. But when one looks at the tax situation as a whole in California and compares it to other states, this argument simply doesn’t hold up. (I fully expect one of “them there zealots” to post a rebuttal and name one or two taxes that are higher in California, or point out how state X has no sales tax or no income tax or whatever. But the real question is, “Overall, how much of their income do typical state citizens pay in taxes to their state?”) The truth is that overall Californian’s don’t pay more than all the other states – they overall taxation rate puts the state in roughly the middle of the pack.

    California is a case study in what happens when demagogues pull a fast one on the electorate, and what happens when the electorate isn’t careful – and the end result is what happens when simple-minded approaches to complex questions win out. While some like to imagine that “California has gotten worse as spending on public institutions has gone up,” the reality is mostly the opposite. Few of these folks would argue that the state is better now than it was in the past. But if you look at that past you find that – in the context of the current discussion – funding for education from K12 through graduate school in California used to be much better and much more coherent. The state master plan for higher education – the model for an integrated approach to developing a successful and educated citizenry – came from those “good old days” that these folks imagine were so wonderful. The education system was “more wonderful” then in many ways – but not because the taxpayers of the state felt that they were not worth supporting. In fact, the exact opposite was the case.

    To those who think that spending on education is wasted I like to point out that the experiment has already been run and the results are in. The time when education funding was at its best in the state was also the time when the state prospered the most. The time during which the state gradually began to dismantle public support of education has not demonstrated any improvement – in fact, the opposite is true.

    California’s problem is simple to understand though it will be politically very complex to fix:

    1. The requirement for a 2/3 vote to pass budgets has led to an undemocratic minority rule in the state. (It could even be argued that this is “un-American” since the federal government doesn’t give budgetary veto power to the minority nor do almost any other states.)

    2. Redistricting has led to safe districts for the most radical candidates, especially on the right-wing side. (There is some hope that this may diminish soon.)

    3. Term limits have ensured that few legislators have a thorough understanding of and dedication to the issues of education – and that many begin campaigning for their next office as soon as they join the legislature. (Here we now live in a world where “experience” implies only that one has been elected to a second term.)

    4. Proposition 13 has shifted the tax base away from relatively stable and progressive property taxes and towards unstable and regressive sales and other taxes and fees. In addition, it has shifted the remaining property tax burden more towards individual property owners (read “home owners”) and away from the traditional corporate property owners.

    5. The state refuses to implement logical and obvious revenue sources such as oil severance taxes. There is plenty of precedent for this being a no-brainer – it is done in George Bush’s Texas and Sarah Palin’s Alaska!

    Combine these realities and even though almost everyone in California who understands effective government understands what is going on it becomes almost impossible to stop the descent into budgetary and infrastructure chaos, at least as long as the minority party seems happy to see the state self-destruct.

  • coolstar

    The link John pointed to that shows data incarceration rates for CA vs the rest of the country is very interesting. Some of the things that stand out to me is that the incarceration rate is CA is close to the national average. This severely undercuts the argument that adding another legal intoxicant to the list will seriously decrease the number of people incarcerated (hey, I’m all for doing that, by means that preserve personal freedoms and public safety). The link also shows that most people in jail or prison in CA are there for property crimes, which is consistent with the rest of the country (though there is more violent crime in CA than in the country as a whole, on average). The one place where CA stands out is the COST of keeping people incarcerated in CA which is 30% above the national average (as John pointed out above). That’s entirely consistent with CA prison guards being paid at a rate considerably higher than those in other states (which anyone who has lived in the state for more than 2 seconds will tell you is a consequence of the political clout of the prison guard union). It seems that this can account for no more than roughly 10% of the current CA budget shortfall. While this is clearly significant, “fixing” the prison system is hardly going to solve CA’s budget problems (which is NOT an argument against prison reform, btw).
    As an aside to this post, while I agree with most everything Dan Mitchell said above, he’s demonstrably wrong on the individual tax burden in CA, it really is about 10% higher than the national average (which again, is NOT an argument against raising obvious corporate tax rates)

  • Gary

    A native Oregonian, I’m amazed that so many supposedly smart residents of CA, having so screwed up their own state decades ago, moved to my state and screwed it up too in even more record time, and now wonder what went wrong.

    I’m really amazed that so many more supposedly smart Californians who stayed in CA still haven’t figured out how the place got so screwed up as it now is.

    And can’t fix it.

    Time to sell Oregon and California to Hugo Chavez. Californians have already done all the hard work for him.

  • Dave

    What is the real reason behind California’s reticence to tax energy extraction?

  • Pingback: Bolsas para pós-graduação em física no Brasil e nos EUA « Ars Physica()

  • joel rice

    with the oil seeps off the coast – they could clean up the beaches and generate power
    and cut costs. Instead of taxing dope why don’t they grow hemp as a biofuel ?

  • Philos

    Dan @66 wrote:
    California is a case study in what happens when demagogues pull a fast one on the electorate, and what happens when the electorate isn’t careful – and the end result is what happens when simple-minded approaches to complex questions win out.”

    It is important not to forget the institutional arrangements that enabled this. The current situation in Washington with e.g. health care and climate change, as well as California’s problems, show that government by a super-majority is not feasible.

    Jim@46 wrote:
    “Libertarians, addicted as they are to deductive reasoning, have a hard time learning from experience. They simply “know” that free markets will bring the Age of Aquarius just as traditional Marxists simply “know” that capitalism bears the seeds of its own demise, etc.”

    You don’t know the half of it. Libertarians are often devotees of the Austrian School of economics, which explicitly rejects empirical inquiry on the grounds that the data might not confirm their theories. They even have a word for it: “praxeology.” This means deductions from “self-evident” truths, which is in their opinion the only valid method of economic investigation.

    It was opined above:
    “John: Are you a climatologist? You ignore the report because of its source? “My god, its a libertarian think-tank report! It *has* to be wrong. ”

    The brilliant Daniel “dsquared” Davies has lamented the lack of a fancy Latin term meaning “the fallacy of giving credence to known liars.”
    Ad hominem argument is logically insufficient, but in practice, in a world of limited time and information saturation, it’s a virtually indispensable heuristic, with a very high success rate. It certainly worked well here.

  • Wil

    Well, I have lived a long time, and now I’ve seen everything.

    Dan Mitchell (#68 above) you have absolutely, positively lost your flippin’ mind.

    Simply unbelieveable. I am at a loss for words.

  • John

    Actually, Wil, I think Dan Mitchell was right on the mark…

    And it appears our governor has started to get the message: no cuts to education, including higher ed.

  • Brian Too

    As an outsider, generally uninvolved, it seems to me that California has more than it’s share of problems these days. That makes me sad. I mean, wasn’t California sort of a promised land of sun, fun and beautiful people? As a kid I wanted to be part of that.

    Now it’s all deadlocked government, payrolls that can’t be met, and fires burning everything up.

    I have to say that I don’t understand the 2/3 majority thing. Those are supposed to be reserved for particularly important decisions, like amending the constitution and such.

    One poster above made an important point. It’s not about the absolute cost of government; it’s whether you get your money’s worth that matters. And while the private sector has efficiency going for it, you have to ask the following: If the private sector simply won’t deliver, then maybe it’s worth some government inefficiency to achieve your objectives.

    I cannot fathom certain quarters who blanket reject government action. I worked in government and know the problems from close up. However look at the Global Positioning System. Would the private sector have delivered that? Maybe for paying customers, but it wouldn’t be global, there would be multiple incompatible systems and it wouldn’t be cheap to use either. I think a valid comparison would be the current situation with cell carriers.

  • http://www.trivalleydems.com/CA4D.htm Ellis Goldberg

    http://www.trivalleydems.com/CA4D.htm is the place to join Dr. George Lakoff and Californians For Democracy. We need petition circulators.
    This is your chance to rescue & save the California we love.

    Ellis Goldberg
    Northern CA Field Director
    Californians For Democracy
    http://www.trivalleydems.com/CA4D.htm
    925 451 4303 cell
    925 831 8355 office
    EllisG237@aol.com

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »