If California were a country, they’d be in the G-8. Yet California’s budgetary mess has been largely ignored by the mass media of late, in favor of more flashy stories about how Obama is going to murder our grandparents from the right and stories about how Roman Polanski isn’t really all that old from the left. Poor, poor California. Lost, alone, bankrupt, and not particularly newsworthy. Yet, the reasons for California’s bankruptcy aren’t just the usual despicable forces that cause a US deficit. In fact, the reason for California’s mess is that untouchable beacon of hope, that all powerful benevolent force that we Americans have come to know and love: our Democracy.
When California first when bankrupt, no one was surprised. Bankruptcy was the natural result of bills proposed by voters that directly allocated money to specific funds, and bills that directly limited their taxes. In essence, voters voted themselves money that didn’t exist. When the state goes bankrupt, this leaves no one at fault. Legislators couldn’t reallocate money without breaking the law, and so while they were sometimes blamed, there was no real accountability. In desperation, legislators resorted to stealing money from the funds that voters had given to other programs, the theory being that by the time the lawsuits came through, the state would have found some more money. Obviously, the state didn’t find more money. The tune of these ‘stolen’ funds reached 3 billion dollars when the most recent set of lawsuits came through.
Now, you might just throw this off to some weird liberal problem of California’s, but Colorado, among other states, is now following in a similar path, voting for increases in education funding that the state doesn’t have the money to pay for.
Not to put too fine a finger on it, but this is a path of doom. Voters are voting to give themselves money where money doesn’t exist. When people vote for a free program, someone is still paying for it. When they further vote not to raise their own taxes, someone’s going broke. This exemplifies the problem of Democracy. Nothing is preventing voters from making poor, infeasible, or even impossible choices. I could propose an initiative to provide research to study the negative effects of the overhunting of unicorns, and if enough people voted for it, my bill would become law. Feel free to think that such things never happen, that the average American is smarter than this…feel free to ignore Californiacation.
The majority has never always been right, and right now, California has seen just how wrong they can be.