Monday, November 16, 2009

California Inaction

For my friends in the Central Valley, or who are from there, Mother Jones has published an article by Josh Harkinson called "The New Dust Bowl." It focuses on the plight of migrant workers and undocumented immigrants, who are some of the least protected when an economy collapses:
The sudden collapse of the Central Valley's economy illustrates how climate change can push a fragile region over the edge. Already vulnerable from rampant housing speculation and a dependence on industrial agriculture, the valley never prepared for a prolonged spate of bad weather. In 2008, local bankruptcy filings jumped 74 percent—from about 15,300 to 27,000—a rate of increase twice the national average. Three of the valley's counties were among the nation's six worst for foreclosures, with nearly 85,000 houses lost. The drought is expected to dry up a billion dollars in income and 35,000 jobs, adding to a statewide unemployment rate that recently hit 11.9 percent—the highest since the eve of World War II.
I'm not sure this is the most appropriate place to bring it up, but there's not much the state can do about this, due to its greatly restricted budgetary process (For its effects on the CSU system see here, although it has been noted elsewhere that there have been cuts even during 'good years'). Part of the blame rests on Prop. 13 (see Paul Krugman's take) and various other measures that have screwed up the discretionary power of Sacramento, which while that can be a good thing sometimes, has largely contributed to a political 'culture' of passing the blame around to other people.

Of course, the Governator can't really deal with these problems, being that neither Democrats nor his own party take him seriously. So, aside from a statewide garage sale, and appeals to the federal government, what have his people been up to? From the Wall Street Journal:
As of July 2009, California's budget shortfall was 49.3% of its general funds. States have considered drastic options to fill such gaps.

"I looked as hard as I could at how states could declare bankruptcy," said Michael Genest, director of the California Department of Finance who is stepping down at the end of the year. "I literally looked at the federal constitution to see if there was a way for states to return to territory status."

Territory status for one of the world's largest economies? Now that's true California politics inaction.

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