California 2010: Athens-on-the-Pacific

Patrick Dorinson
Host of The Cowboy Libertarian Radio Talk Show in Sacramento

For those of us who live in California or as we like to call it "Athens-on-the-Pacific", things have never looked bleaker.

Last week, Governor Schwarzenegger released what will be his last budget to the
Legislature and the people. It projects a deficit of $19.1 billion and
will make drastic cuts in social spending.

Right
on cue the Democrats who have had a death grip on the Legislature for
decades began their whining and caterwauling about the destruction of
the safety net and that the "rich" weren’t paying enough and business
needs to pay more.

Here’s a quick lesson for the Democrats.

Business has been saddled with onerous regulations for years. It is a wonder anyone wants to do business here.

CEO
Magazine has given California a dubious distinction. It is the worst
state in the nation to conduct business. Congratulations Governor
Schwarzenegger and California Legislature, you finally have been
recognized for your handiwork.

The
number one state to do business? Texas, the state that urbane urban
Californians like to look down their noses at as some kind of "redneck"
paradise full of guns, conservatives and evil oil companies.

Well, at least they have some money in their poke, unemployment is in single digits and they have a bright future.  

But it is more than that.

Take
prisons and the prison guards union that are costing California
billions. We keep proposing new prisons and no politician wants to look
"soft" on crime. How about looking "smart" on crime?

In
Texas in 2007, Governor Rick Perry was told that his state would need
17,000 new prison beds by 2012 at a cost of $2 billion. As a first step
Governor Perry was prepared to announce that the state would build
three new prisons at a cost of $540 million.

But
before he made the announcement, a state legislator named Jerry Madden,
a self described " lock em’ up and throw away the key" conservative
Republican brought the Governor a new plan.

In
2005, Madden had become the Chairman of the Texas House Corrections
Committee which is in charge of the prison system. He had absolutely no
experience in criminal justice or corrections. But his analytical mind,
garnered from his time at West Point and as an engineer, went to work.
He reached out to experts asked the tough questions and came up with a
plan.

His ideas to reduce the need for new prisons and break the cycle of recidivism were as follows.

He
proposed a new model that would rely on additional beds for substance
abuse treatment; the creation and expansion of specialty courts;
additional probation funding to reduce caseloads; additional funding
for mental health care and halfway houses; the creation of short-term
jails for adults serving less than two years; a small increase in the
rate of paroles, and programs that would reduce the number of
incarcerated juveniles.

The price tag? $240 million.  

He
took his progressive plan to Governor Perry and he accepted the
proposal saving Texas over $300 million and putting it on a different
path than just "lock em’ up".

And no one has ever or will ever accuse Governor Perry as being "soft" on crime.

Other
states are making great strides in how they deal with their prison
systems. Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana are
rethinking old ways and coming up with new solutions. You know those
other "redneck" states California likes to scoff at.

All
these "backward" states also have the death penalty and they use it.
Unlike California, Death Row is not a holding cell for a 20 year
appeals process that only prolongs the grief for the victim’s families.
It is the holding cell for the death chamber to give closure to those
very families and they can see justice done.

And
to think Texas did it all with a part time legislature that meets every
other year instead of the permanent sclerotic legislature we have in
Sacramento.

Too bad we could not get an initiative qualified to return California to a part time legislature.

When
the budget was announced State Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg
summoning his best liberal talking points and anger said, "What kind of
civilized society maintains business tax breaks and eliminates child
care? That’s not the California that I recognize or take pride in
living in."

What
kind of a society spends itself into oblivion with no regard where the
money is coming from and tries to fund a welfare state?

What
kind of a society cripples its businesses with regulations, drives out
others with high costs, and relies on the success of its wealthy to pay
the state’s bills?

What
kind of a society annually sends its vendors of goods and services
"IOUs" putting folks out of work becasue the legislature is incapable
of doing its job?

What kind of society allows its infrastructure to decay to the point where the price for fixing it is unattainable?

What
kind of a society puts saving a small fish, the Delta Smelt, ahead of
the lives and livelihoods of its citizens as it chokes off the
lifeblood of any civilization–water?

Perhaps
we grew up in different places because that’s not the California I
recognize or take pride in living in Senator Steinberg.  

I
grew up in different California of public schools that were the envy of
the nation, a vast network of modern highways that connected the state,
an agricultural heritage that fed the world and the belief that things
would always get better.

California now looks like the ruins of ancient Greece, a nation we seem to be hell bent on  emulating.

When
American frontiersman Davy Crockett was defeated for re-election to
Congress in 1834, he famously said to his political enemies who had
engineered his defeat, "You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas."

I’m starting to think that might not be such a bad idea.

 

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