In the Arena

California Bust

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George Will has a column today in which he deposits all that is wrong in California at liberalism’s doorstep. Certainly, there’s enough blame to go around–and the public employees unions in California have been an implacable force assuring that the state is run for the benefit of its employees rather than its citizens (and, once again, the teachers unions have been particularly reactionary–blocking experimentation and reforms proposed by Governor Schwarzenegger.)

But.

How on earth Will can write a column about the problems in California without even mentioning Proposition 13–the 1978 ballot measure that severely limited local property taxes–is beyond me. Prop 13 has distorted revenue gathering, severely limiting the amounts that localities can pay for schools and other public services, forcing the state to take on an increased burden. In the end, California is a Exhibit A of a public pathology that we’ve inherited from the Reagan Era: the public wants a modified welfare state, excellent schools, a clean environment, low college tuitions…but it’s not willing to pay for them. Over the past 30 years, Republicans fed the delusions that you can have low taxes and world-class public services, and Democrats acquiesced in it. It would be nice if we had an honest national conversation about revenues–and the sun-setting of many of the Bush tax cuts this year provides the perfect arena for it–but don’t count on that taking place.

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