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ilbegone 12-18-2009 08:14 PM

Week's events show we're in big trouble
Dan Walters: Week's events show we're in big trouble


By Dan Walters

Dec. 18, 2009

You have to string together a series of seemingly unrelated events to see it, but this week painted a powerful picture of California's chronic inability to govern itself.

As the week began, a legislative committee heard state Treasurer Bill Lockyer describe, in blunt terms, why the state finds it increasingly difficult to market its bonds. Briefly, its budget is chronically unbalanced, it has floated too much debt, and it's now forced to pay higher interest rates on its debts than many Third World nations.

Counterintuitively, state schools chief Jack O'Connell a day later urged the Legislature to approve a big new bond issue for school construction, followed quickly by a warning from economists at California Lutheran University that the state may have to default on some of its existing debt.

State officials quickly and vehemently rejected the notion of default, of course, but their credibility is not high these days. A new poll found record-low approval ratings for the governor and the Legislature, who had just enacted an $11.1 billion bond issue for water.

About a fifth of the nearly $50 billion in unsold state bonds would finance a proposed bullet train, but that $9.95 billion bond issue is less than a fourth of the train's projected costs, a newly released "business plan" said.

The document raised project costs and lowered ridership estimates but still insisted that it's economically viable. However, ridership numbers still appear high, and the projected fare structure is based on airline fare data that don't square with what airlines actually charge.

Meanwhile, a commission that hands out stem cell research money from a $3 billion bond issue tripled the salary of its part-time vice chairman, former Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres, to $225,000.

Later in the week, The Road Information Program, an advocate of transportation spending, released data indicating that California is falling nearly $11 billion a year short on rehabilitating and maintaining its highways, bridges and public transportation systems. We have the nation's most congested highways, and we're second only to New Jersey in having its roughest roadways a plight that was underscored by a legislative hearing into mysterious metallurgical failures on the Bay Bridge.

Finally, the state issued new population numbers, declaring that California has 38.5 million residents, 4.6 million more than the 2000 census counted. Although growth has tapered off, it's still likely to be 5 million for the decade, and California is heading toward 50 million residents circa 2030.

So we're squandering our limited debt capacity on nonessential things such as stem cell research and bullet trains while our existing infrastructure is crumbling, demand from an increasing population grows, politicians' credibility is almost nil, and bankers deservedly treat us like a Third World country.

Way to go, California.

Don 12-19-2009 05:54 AM

Amazing article. So often I get the sense of pre-Revolutionary France where decadent, self-absorbed aristocracy gossiped about the affairs of the French Court and complained about their servants. There was a tidal wave coming that they didn't even see until it swept over them.

The French Revolution, rightly or wrongly, has been portrayed as an uprising of the "common people" against a corrupt ruling class. Unfortunately the new American Revolution would seem more like the consolidation of power of a corrupt ruling class over what's left of the American common people. It's not always easy to be objective about a tidal wave that's sweeping over you.

Jeanfromfillmore 12-19-2009 02:30 PM

Maybe some of you remember my complaining years ago about the 20 people living in garages here in Fillmore, yet paying nothing in taxes to support the infrastructure. I pay over $100 a month for water whether I use one drop or that 5 baths a day. Those same people living in that garage, who flush the toilet 20 times more than I do and have not paid their share to upgrade the sewer system, and use 20 times more cars on the road, who use up the infrastructure 20 times faster, are not paying anything to replace it. This is happening all over California. I along with many of you, knew that it couldn't continue forever. Now, there are people who are surprised at the results. What my question is, is where were they living, and how ignorant are they that they didn't foresee this? Yet these are the same people who want the illegals here and keep doling out entitlements to them. Even today they don't see the correlation. When it is said that liberals are stupid, I do agree, just look at what little common sense they have.

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