22 July 2009

10 Earnest Proposals for Fixing California's Habitual Budgetary Mess

I deem the following decalogue (small, "d", so as not to confuse with the actual Decalogue) "Earnest" proposals rather than the usual modest or immodest ones found hereabouts, cause I think these are real, workable (though not always politically viable) solutions that would provide both immediate and long lasting relief for the budget mess California suffers from on a habitual basis. These ten aren't presented in order of importance, and any combination of these reforms will help our situation, but I think all ten taken together could do amazing things for our state, and propel us back to being the premiere place to live in the nation, if not the world.

1) Drill, baby, drill. It's a simple mantra, one scoffed at by a variety of folks, but California has an unknown amount of oil off our coast (no modern survey with the latest tech of possible oil reserves have been done, cause oil companies know there's massive political resistance to exploiting what's out there waiting to be tapped), but it's easily worth billions of dollars per year over many decades. Why reverse decades of off shore drilling prohibition? First, the tech to exploit it is better, safer, and cleaner than ever before. The problems that offshore drilling caused in the 60s, have been minimized since, if namby-pamby Euroweenie countries like United Kingdom and Norway can drill their seas, than dammit, so can Californians and still be able to call themselves 'progressive'. Second, our energy has to come from somewhere, and oil is going to be part of the energy mix for at least the next 30-50 years, so that being the case, the greenest energy is energy that is transported the shortest distance. California should feed all of its domestic demand with its domestic supply, that would make our utilization of this resource significantly less CO2 producing, and would do so much more effectively than any pie in the sky solar or wind program based on non-existent future technologies. The third, and most important reason to exploit this resource while it still has value is just that. At some point in the next 50 years, it seems likely that oil will no longer have value, so it would be beyond foolish not to drain every ounce of productivity, and every dollar available before that resource becomes worthless.

2) Fund prisons in Mexico, all Mexican nationals convicted of felonies in California will serve their time in Mexican prisons, and those felons will remain in Mexico upon the completion of their sentences. These convicts currently cost California billions a year (some estimates as high as $9B annual). Maintain some sort of supervisorial role over these places so that they aren't pits of degradation and human rights violations, but keep the staff local (and far cheaper than comparable staffing would be on this side of the border). The Mexican government would be compensated for taking over this responsibility, but any terms set would still be cheaper than what we now pay to house illegal alien felons. This reform would benefit Californians as a whole, but it would especially be a boon for law abiding aliens if they knew that their felonious cousins were less likely to find their way back onto the same streets after their sentences ended.

3) Legalize Marijuana. It would take some help from the federal government to do so, but surely the progressive President we have in office, and all those wonderful progressives we have in Congress will see the wisdom of letting California experiment with full legalization and taxation of marijuana to see if that'd be a wise thing to do nationwide. It may work, it may fail, but most likely it would save millions wasted in enforcement, garner millions in taxation, which would more than offset any additional losses in productivity should abuse of that drug increase.

4) Abolish the state income tax. It may seem crazy to try and solve budget constraints by abolishing a major source of income, but our income tax puts us at a huge disadvantage when compared to other large states that make do without (like Texas and Florida). The outflow of Californians, and more importantly California businesses, from the state to other states has been steady over the past 30 years (partly made up for by the inflow of people from around the world, but in large part we've been replacing well educated high earners with ill educated low earners), abolishing the state income tax should help reverse that trend, and in the long run could improve our state's coffers as we attract wealthier folks to our state, rather than repel them.

5) Legalize sports betting statewide. The illicit economic activity generated by wagering on sporting events is staggering, and it seems that the current ban on sports betting in all but a few states would not hold up to a serious constitutional challenge. Oregon backed out of their scheme for state run sports betting, but the NCAA and NFL had much more leverage over a relatively small state like Oregon. California's size makes it much harder for us to be bullied into not allowing this activity to come out from the shadows and become legitimate. Sports betting may be as high as $40B a year in California, if the state just took a 1% vigorish from that action, that'd be $400M in revenues that weren't previously being captured, and that's not assuming more action would be taken should people be able to do so openly.

6) Build dozens of small nuclear power plants across the state (but concentrated in the desert, with a few on the coast). Expanding our use of nuclear power will be a critical component in providing cheap, clean and reliable energy for our state, to the point where we can export that energy to our neighbors at a profit. Also, the coastal plants could be used to desalinate ocean water (if India can do this, so should we), as well as cleanse and reuse agricultural runoff, so that we could reduce our importation of water, and secure a nearly inexhaustible supply of a critical and often rare (locally) resource. There are some great designs ready to be deployed that reduce the amount of nuclear waste generated, reduce the possibility of accidental radiation leaks, and can be built smaller, more economically, and more urban friendly than older designs. It only takes funding and the political will to speed the approval process and untap the cleanest and potentially cheapest source of energy currently available.

7) Redistrict based on geography first, demography second, irrespective of party affiliations. A large part of the problems in Sacramento have to do with the grossly gerrymandered nature of our political boundaries. There've been attempts in the past to adopt a more sensible approach, all have failed in the face of the self interested incumbent party which dominates both sides of the aisle. It will take a popular uprising, and constant outcry against the results of gerrymandering, or a well funded and narrowly worded ballot initiative to change things (there've been two recent initiatives about redistricting reform, but other things were thrown in the mix which made them unpalatable for voters).

8) Money for pupils must go to families, and not districts, force districts to compete for students, and we'll see our education funding spent far more wisely, while this may not save money (though it probably will long term), it will produce smarter Californians, better citizens, and make us a more attractive place to raise a family.

9) Liberalize our conceal carry laws. Converting California from a 'shall issue' state to a 'must issue' state would show people from outside our borders a new willingness to abandon the usual infringements on personal liberty found typically in a populace 'blue state' and signal that California recognizes personal liberty, and a libertarian minded interpretation of the 2nd amendment are key components in encouraging a safe populace able to pursue their happiness as they see fit.

10) Create the Department for the Elimination of Redundancy Department. We've got layers and layers of overlapping red tape in this state. Reduce it, refine it where necessary, eliminate it where prudent. There's no reason why we can't be a model of regulatory efficiency, rather than a nightmare of regulatory glut. Give the DERD a broad mandate, and a fixed time table, creating a permanent department of waste cutting is a sure path towards perpetuating that waste, instead give them broad powers, but a short leash, and a finite term, along financial incentives to produce results, and maybe we'll see much needed reforms to our byzantine network of state and local regulations that have created a negative atmosphere for businesses with few rivals amongst the other states (NY, NJ, MA, IL are the only other states that come close in my opinion).

While much more needs to be done than what's encompassed in these ten Earnest Proposals, the nature of these ten will set the tone. That tone setting will be crucial in remaking California into the envy of the world it once was. We've got glamour on our side, that glamour can be reinvigorated with a vigorous application of libertarianism (and other common sense moves). We can be great again, we remain great even hobbled as we are by terrible governance, but we will achieve best when we free our people the most.


chickenlittle said...

I like your 1,2, 6-9. But you're way to pragmatic and reasonable.

By chance do you follow Exurban Nation?

Rob Dawg is a bit of a crank, but I've seen and heard some amazing things over there. His political focus is almost exclusively CA.

Jason (the commenter) said...

I liked 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7. You guys also need to look into making California more business friendly, by chucking lots of your rules and regulations (not just rationalizing them as in 10).

blake said...

And for his next trick, XWL will stand athwart the juggernaut and stop it with MIND BULLETS!

Seriously, if we were capable of rationality, would we be in this mess?

XWL said...

Hey, I've learned from the Underpants Gnomes.

Phase 1: Collect and disseminate rational ideas.
Phase 2: ???
Phase 3: Problems solved.

Phase 2, that's for others to figure out, I'm all about Profit, errr, ahhh, problem solving.

At least my version's better than the Obama administration's homage to the Gnomes

Phase 1: Propose sweeping socialist changes.
Phase 2: ???
Phase 3: Utopia

blake said...

Hey, solutions are easy, pal.

It's implementation that's the bitch.