Date: May 20 2012
THE WORLD generally thinks of California as beautiful, sunny, and oozing with celebrities. What the world doesn't know, is that California is also in terrible economic shape.
Our financial fiasco got worse during the week, when our recycled Governor, Jerry Brown, (he was governor in the '70s and no one else wanted the job this time), announced our potential budget deficit was not the horrible $US9 billion he declared in January, but was closer to $US16 billion ($A16.09 billion). He said we have two choices - raise taxes, or slash government spending yet again.
In our wonderful state capitol - Sacramento - our state leaders are morons. Democrats refuse to cut spending, Republicans won't raise taxes, they need a two-thirds majority to do anything, and we don't seem to vote anyone out thanks to redistricting. These folks have been fiddling while the bonfire has raged.
Old Jerry wants to ignore the government, and put a tax hike on the ballot at elections in November. You can do that here, for some stupid reason. If we vote no, Jerry says schools will be closed for an extra three weeks a year, murderers will be released from prison, old people won't have health care, and the poor will starve and die. Even if we accept these new taxes, the problem won't be fully solved, so most of that horror will happen anyway. We're talking about an economy that, sizewise, is in the global top 10. We have a population closing in on 38 million people. And our state leaders are amateurs. Our former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn't even good enough to be called amateur.
So you get the idea. California big, California in trouble. And you know what I blame? Democracy. Not all of it - just the bit where voters get to decide on individual pieces of legislation, like Jerry's tax hikes. In the past, we agreed to freeze property taxes, so you can't raise them until a home is sold. We've demanded a range of other strict funding measures making it almost impossible to move this giant ship in any meaningful direction, other than straight at the iceberg.
I get to vote in November, and I'll approve the tax increases so my children have a shot at being educated. But what I'd really like is for the ''elected representatives'' to represent, so my fellow voters and I aren't forced to do their jobs. We don't know what we're doing - that's why we elect representatives!
Democracy is at a crossroads. What sane, smart, potentially great man or woman would enter politics in California or Canberra right now? Is it any wonder we have a washed-up governor here, and you have Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott?
California is an economic firestorm, and it won't truly recover until great minds are encouraged to serve the community, rather than secure a talk show on CNN.
Australia's economy is like a tinder-dry forest right now, so please don't make our mistake and let the politicians pick up their violins.
Tim is a writer, TV producer and proud former Canberra resident who has lived in Los Angeles since 1997. Twitter @timschildberger
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