Stay in California at Your Own Peril

My answer for a little while when people I encounter around the country ask me where I live has been, “Newport Beach”. When they say, “Oh, California”, I say, “No, Newport Beach”. My disgust with California has not affected my love of the city of Newport Beach, though sadly for my fellow Newporters, there is no effort I am aware of for Newport to secede from California. And sadly for the rest of America, there is no effort I am aware of for California to secede from the United States. But I digress.

Gov. Jerry Brown has managed to bring repugnancy to lower levels than previously thought possible. This week he audaciously claimed that “California is back”, and that “California is on a rendezvous with destiny”. And he is correct about the second part – as long as you define “destiny” as the mother of all bailouts, as 49 states get handed the bill for what will be the most predictable and despicable failure of fiscal management in history (and yes, I am aware that history boasts Greece, General Motors, and Lehman Brothers as well). He said that “California has done the impossible”, again getting something half-right. He is lying that we have done it, but he is certainly not lying that it is impossible. This state is doomed, and those who have played a part in it – from the Sacramento leadership cabal to the public employee unions to the voters themselves – have all left their fingerprints everywhere.

But this article is not about the one in five California children who live in poverty. And this article is not about the only state in the country to have experienced no growth whatsoever for an entire decade (despite the single greatest technology presence anywhere in the world). This article is not about $27 billion of short-term debt shortfall, or hundreds of billions of dollars of unfunded pension and medical liabilities. This article is not about the second highest unemployment rate in the country. And this article is not about the highest state tax rate of any state in the country, either. I’d love to write about this fantasy-land embarrassment they call “high speed rail”. If I wanted to write about everything that makes me cringe in the Golden State, I would never stop writing.

This article, though, is about the major thing sticking out like a sore thumb that even those accustomed to burying their head in the sand will not be able to avoid. And that is the hangover effect of A.B. 109, the Prison Realignment bill passed in 2011. The state prison rolls are way, way down, which makes sense given that we spend more per prisoner than any state in the country. In fact, state prisons have 27,000 less inmates than they did 18 months ago (bringing the number down to ONLY 132,000 people in state prison, or roughly 155% of our intended capacity). So where, you wonder, are these 27,000 prisoners now? Why, in various county jails around the state, of course. And how are these county jails dealing with the extra 27,000 prisoners (and counting) that have been dumped on them? With “community supervision release programs”, of course. Does that sound exciting to you? Because if so, you must be a prisoner. I know that if I were a prisoner entering various communities and being released from prison would be really, really exciting! But since I am one of those regular law-abiding guys living in a community with three children and a wife and still in anger management therapy over the 29% retroactive state income tax increase thrown at me by the whore voters of this state, you can see why maybe 27,000 extra criminals being dumped on the streets doesn’t thrill me.

I suspect that this is what is going to take to wake people up to the mess that has become of this state, and I say that with no glee or excitement whatsoever. A perverse and economically insane tax increase on the most productive people in California, a people already fleeing the state for greener pastures in mass, doesn’t seem to bother the rank-and-file folks who see no evil, hear no evil, believe no evil, about the golden state. But the ideological insanity that believes we can run $300 billion unfunded pension liabilities, raise taxes on job creators by 29%, and run a state school system into the ground, is the same ideological insanity that is going to put tens of thousands of criminals on the street for years to come.

Californians may not care what happens to rich people’s tax returns, but they will care what happens to their own neighborhoods. Mark my words.