By Roger Hedgecock
In a blast from the past, California voters bucked the national voting trend and returned Democrat Jerry Brown to the governor’s office he occupied in the 1970s.
All other statewide offices went Democrat. Voters also removed the two-thirds vote requirement to pass the state budget, handing the heavily Democrat state Legislature a blank check.
California is now a one-party state. The voters want it that way.
California voters refused to suspend the state’s first in the nation cap and trade global warming law, paving the way for skyrocketing utility rates and a lower standard of living. Green groups supporting the state’s cap and trade law were funded by crony capitalists ‘creating jobs” in heavily subsidized “alternative energy” companies. These “entrepreneurs” (L.A. Times) outspent the oil companies whose traditional energy sources are viewed here as evil incarnate, even as Californians continue to outpace the country in miles per person driven every year.
The national press also made much of the defeat of Proposition 19, which would have legalized pot. They missed the real story.
Pot is readily available everywhere in California. With the collapse of the timber and fishing industries (driven out of business by the greens), Northern California pot growers are now the backbone of the local north coast economy. Legalization would have opened up pot growing all over the state, threatening the profits that are protected by marijuana prohibition. Local city councils and even local sheriff’s in Northern California opposed Proposition 19 and campaigned against it.
The Mexican drug cartels, growing pot in south and central California state and federal forest lands likewise opposed legalization for the same reasons.
The vote against Proposition 19 was not an anti-drug conservative backlash; it was a business decision by the growers of the state’s most valuable agricultural product to protect their profits.
These election results played out against the backdrop of a collapsing economy.
The California Constitution requires the yearly state budget to be balanced. It is not, and has not been in many years. The annual deficit now runs about $20 billion. Unemployment is high (over 12 percent) and climbing. The state’s population is about 37 million, but 10-15 percent of that is here illegally. Illegals vote here because the citizenship requirement to vote is not enforced. State welfare benefits are the most generous in the nation. State worker pay, benefits and retirement are the best of any state and cannot be sustained.
The public employee unions are the most powerful political force in the state. They got that way because, in 1978, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed the law allowing public sector workers to unionize. These unions funded Jerry Brown’s recent campaign and own nearly every elected official in California.
And that’s the (relatively) good news.
The really bad news is the exodus of private employers, driven out of California by high taxes, an anti-business culture, excessive fines and fees and oppressive regulations.
For example, California once boasted over a dozen vehicle assembly plants. Chrysler, GM, Ford — and later, Toyota — built-cars and trucks here. The last one closed last year. The auto parts suppliers — the rubber, glass, plastic, etc., plants — have all left too, taking their high-paying jobs with them.
The aerospace industry once employed tens of thousands of highly paid workers. My father and my wife’s father both worked at aerospace companies. Douglas, Lockheed, Convair — they’re all gone now. The giant machines used in the airframe and rocket assembly line at General Dynamics, San Diego, were auctioned off when the plant was closed —bought by the Chinese and shipped to China. And, again, the many smaller firms who once supplied that manufacturing process are gone too.
So far this year alone, 85 California companies have closed plants, relocated part or all their business to another state or designated another state for future growth of their business. 51 California companies did the same in 2009, and only 43 in the years 2006-2008. The exodus of jobs is increasing.
“High tech” firms were supposed to replace the “old economy” with new 21st century jobs. Hasn’t happened.
One of those 85 California companies was Solexant, a start-up solar manufacturing firm that announced it’s relocation to Oregon where it will build a manufacturing plant employing 170 people to start. Even “green” companies are fleeing California.
Companies of all types are reducing their California presence. Google, Hilton, Thomas Bros. Maps, DIRECTV, Facebook, Apple, Yelp — the list is growing every day.
The “Golden State” was a once a beacon of opportunity. It is now reaping the rewards of “government gone wild.” Welcome Jerry Brown — your last stint as governor began the destructive processes that have led California to the brink of disaster. What do you have in mind for “Jerry Brown, Act II ?”
Roger Hedgecock is a former mayor of San Diego and is a nationally-syndicated radio talk show host.