Feature

Is California a failed state?

As the Golden State heads toward total dysfunction, debate breaks out over who’s to blame

The Golden State is so tarnished, said Paul Harris in Britain’s The Guardian, that we can’t dismiss Kenneth Starr’s warning: “California is on the verge of becoming the first failed state in America.” This matters because California is the world’s eighth-largest economy: If it were a country, it would be in the G8. But that economy is such a mess, "if it were a company, it would likely be declared bankrupt.” What happened to the “California dream?”

Liberals, said Victor Davis Hanson in National Review Online. Sure, there are the “usual symptoms” for what ails California—foreclosures, unemployment, “mega-state deficits,” layoffs—but also the things nobody talks about: High taxes with limited results, illegal immigration, overregulation, and rampant environmentalism that cuts off water to farmers.

This “alleged bastion of liberalism,” said Joseph Cannon in Cannonfire, has had a Democrat in the statehouse for only four of the last 26 years. And when liberal Jerry Brown was governor back in the 1970s, California, unlike the rest of the “recession-flattened” nation, was “incredibly prosperous.” What happened to California was “Bush’s ruination of our economy,” plus a state supermajority requirement that lets the GOP block all budgetary action.

There’s plenty of blame to spread around for California’s sorry state, said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial. Voters “don’t trust the Legislature to do the job properly,” and dedicate tax revenue to specific projects through ballot measures—then the Legislature, eager to earn that mistrust, “intentionally raids” those dedicated funds, hoping that the lawsuits won’t be resolved until happier times. That’s “a crazy way to run a state,” and it shows.

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