Most Baby Boomers, and perhaps some that came along on our coattails, remember California as it was in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
It was, indeed, “the Golden State.”
There were coastal areas, cities, mountain vistas, giant forests and landscapes as pretty as a traveler could find. San Diego, San Francisco, and Carmel by the Sea were high on all visitors’ lists.
California schools were the envy of the country. Law enforcement was at the top of its game. New trends began on the West Coast and eventually traveled to the East Coast of America, bringing changes in fashion, education, business development and, of course, beach music.
But times have changed and “the ole gray mare ain’t what she used to be!”
California is moving to the left faster than a wildfire and state officials want the United States to pay for it.
It’s a true story of riches to rags.
Those in power in California have decided they will make the rules and the United States government will play by California rules. That includes having the rest of us help finance their direction and choices.
Before you get on board there are a few things you need to think about with this “riches to rags” story.
Two years ago a study based on public financial disclosures listed the state as having a debt balance of $1.3 trillion. One report added an asterisk with an explanation: “That’s all the government admits to.”
Later, Gov. Jerry Brown said the debt was less than $14 billion. Keep in mind the governor’s nickname was “Governor Moonbeam.”
Other current problems include an electrical grid that has more issues than the ole mare had gray hairs, billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities and infrastructure that may be as bad as any in the country.
Highways are in terrible shape and California has a water distribution system that was built for 25 million people and is trying to serve 40 million customers.
Estimates for unfunded infrastructure repairs are estimated to be more than $737 billion. Government debt is somewhere between $1.3 and $2.3 trillion.
California even holds some responsibility for the terrible forest fires over the past several years because of restrictions that have prohibited the cleaning and destruction of the dangerous underbrush that has accumulated over several decades.
In 1991, an ember firestorm burned through Oakland and Berkley, and more than two dozen people died. Two thousand homes were destroyed in that fire. State fire planning personal issued warnings there could more similar fires in the future. The warnings were not heeded.
You need to know all of this because California really wants to be in charge and tell the United States government how to do things.
California passed a law recently, actually aimed at Donald Trump, requiring a presidential candidate to provide five years of tax returns in order to be listed as a candidate for a presidential election. That law is currently on hold because a federal judge has blocked it from being enforced.
The law violates the federal elections process, as well as the right of citizens and parties to associate and identify with their personal political choices. It also violates the First Amendment and the federal Qualifications Clause that describes the requirements to be a presidential candidate.
The California law doesn’t protect the voting process but rather sets California standards for qualification. If upheld, it would open a Pandora’s Box where persons could demand former school records, health records and other personal information.
The state law further denies members of a political party the right to vote for a candidate of their own choosing. The state feels it has the right to decide what laws it will follow and what guidelines will be required for presidential candidates to qualify.
The once “Golden State” has also taken upon itself to establish rules and guidelines in other areas that bypass current federal regulations. These actions include rules for the upcoming census, immigration policy, automobile guidelines, and health care, as well as gun rights and marijuana possession.
The West Coast state is challenging the power of the state against the powers of the federal government.
If allowed, the implications go beyond the federal government versus local government. California says it has the right to set its own standards as do more than a handful of other states, especially in the Northeast.
Andy Serwer, editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance, is concerned about the polarization developing between states and the federal government. Serwer says, “Polarization in Washington, translates to polarization at the state level, and seeps back into politics, that’s a dangerous development.”
The editor points out that “… one of the greatest societal and economic strengths of this country is our rule of law, which in most cases is one rule of law.” He shows concern that this battle will create more problems than answers by “…empowering states at the expense of the federal government.”
It might not be so bad if a state leading the charge had its act together. Unfortunately, California wants to be in the driver’s seat and it has proven to be an unsafe driver, if not just plain dangerous.