California vs. New York

dodgers-brooklyn-los-angelesUCLA professor Mark Kleiman asks, “What’s the difference between California and New York?” He answers, “Both states have governments that are hideously dysfunctional. But in New York, there’s still enough of an Establishment to try to do something about it. Not so in California.”

The linked article informs us that former NYC mayor Ed Koch, now 85 years old, is organizing “fellow alumni of public service, business associations and good government groups” to . . . well, er, um . . . do something about the awful situation in Albany.   Apparently, that something is to field candidates against the current incumbents.

But, if one takes comfort in that sort of thing,  Jerry Brown is apparently sailing toward the Democratic nomination for governor in California.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. kth says:

    NY periodically elects bad people, as all polities are wont to do. But CA has a uniquely bad constitution, quite beyond the ability of “wise old men” to repair. It will probably have to get far worse there before it gets better.

  2. DC Loser says:

    I grew up in NY and lived in CA for almost a decade. NY has old fashioned machine politics for both parties and political patronage is a given. It’s essentially two states with NYC and Upstate, and there’s always fighting at the state level for resources and representation for the rural areas. CA is just too many special interests that gridlock the political process (unions, businesses, anti-tax activists, ethnic groups, etc.). Add to that their ballot initiatives which paralyzes and circumvents the legislative process, you have your recipe for disaster. The NY problems are much smaller than the CA problems as far as I can see. In CA, there’s just no easy solution for the budget mess with the 800 pound gorilla of Prop 13 on top of everything else artificially depressing tax revenues.

  3. just me says:

    I do think the ballot initiative system in California causes more problems, but I also think Californian legislators and citizens both got to the point where they thought money grew on trees and that philosophy was fine as long as there were good times.

  4. Pete says:

    What worries me is if CA convinces the Feds to bail them out. (Too big to fail) I would expect states’ rights activist groups to then grow exponentially. BTW Dc Loser, while Prop 13 can be accused of exacerbating the problem, it is SPENDING that is the problem. Same as in your family: spend more than your disposable income=deficit. What is so hard to understand?

  5. DC Loser says:

    Pete – Prop 13 is a problem because it artificially caps the major source of revenues at the 1978 level. No government can run on that amount. CA wants to be a world leader in education, infrastructure, business, etc. It can’t do that with this kind of albatross hung around its neck. It’s okay if it wants to be Mississippi, but the people want more than that and expect to have it but without the desire to pay for it. Something’s got to give.

  6. kth says:

    IIRC, the three-strikes law (and resultant explosion in prison construction and staffing) and maximum classroom size were both passed, like Prop 13, by referendum. Basically CA voters have repeatedly voted themselves goodies yet expressly denied their government the means to pay for them.

    Maybe CA could institute PAYGO for ballot initiatives: you want something (including tax cuts), you find the money for them.

  7. Steve Plunk says:

    The government loves to blame citizen initiatives for financial problems, Oregon does it just like California, but like Pete says the government fails to adjust to the citizens will. I mean who works for who here?

    There might be more California prisons but that doesn’t mean they had to over pay the guards and let them all retire by 50. The public employee unions are mostly to blame for the crisis. Pay is high, benefits extreme, and retirement age is obscene. The unions pushed over the Dems in control and have now bankrupted the state with contractual obligations they can’t get out of. It’s just like the federal government wanting to let others face the music for promises made.

    The citizens should now attempt constitutional changes that would allow adjustments to those obligations and claim sovereignty when the federal courts intervene. With no provisions for state bankruptcy why not try something?

    Government, not the people, have screwed this up and I doubt government can fix it.

  8. E from California says:

    DC Loser wrote Prop 13 is a problem because it artificially caps the major source of revenues at the 1978 level

    Prop 13 isn’t the problem. As Pete stated, it is SPENDING that is the problem. If it wasn’t for Prop 13 a lot of people couldn’t afford to own property, “let alone live in California.”

  9. steve says:

    On a per capita basis, California is 8th in state taxes and 12 in state spending for 2007, the most recent year I could find for both data sets. If you include state and local spending they go to 4th if I read the charts correctly. An unappreciated part of the problem for California taxpayers is federal taxes. For every dollar they send out, they receive about $0.78 in fed money back, as opposed to places like Alaska and Mississippi where it approaches $2.00.

    Steve P- So if the voters pass an initiative that requires new spending, that is the fault of the government? At some point a system that works that way will require cutting spending in another area where spending has been mandated by an initiative. It does not sound like a sustainable kind of government. It would make much more sense for spending initiatives to include offsetting, specified and mandated cuts. If the people want the responsibility of spending, which is their right, they should also have the responsibility of directing the cutting, which is their responsibility.

    On a larger scale, isnt this the whole problem with the Republican approach to budgeting? Republicans want to take the easy and popular stance on cutting taxes. No one, even Michael I bet, really wants to pay more taxes. But, when it comes to spending, no one wants to make that decision. Just blame government or the other party.


  10. Pete says:

    Don’t hold me to this, but I believe the “artificial cap” on RE taxes dissolves when the property owner dies. Then the heirs are left with the prospect of trying to sell a property with substantially higher RE taxes, which could serve to depress the sale price, which would depress the capital gains tax, which, one might posit, cause an offsetting revenue loss to the RE tax gain. I know these taxes fund different things, but I do find a bit of irony in the comparison.

  11. Dave Schuler says:

    What’s the difference? Suntans. These days Californians are New Yorkers with suntans.

  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    Our politicians are circus clowns and our voters, with their endless referenda are meddling cretins, but you know what I was wearing yesterday? Jeans, a t-shirt and a hat to ward off the sun. That’s right: I had to apply sunscreen.

    So granted we’re idiots, but we’re idiots at the beach while New Yorkers are idiots ass-deep in slush.