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California Conservative Confusion

In the Manhattan Institute's City Journal: California, Steven Greenhut offers an important essay in support of Governor Jerry Brown's plan to eliminate California's redevelopment agencies (RDAs).  In that essay, Greenhut recounts the patterns of abuse that have characterized the activities of these agencies and also offers numerous examples of corruption typified by cronyism and sweetheart deals.  In other words, RDAs offer all the things liberty loving Americans have come to know and loathe about government programs. 

It should not be imagined, however, that California Democrats are suddenly stumbling upon a revelation combined with a conscience on this front.  When it comes to the many ways that government programs and funds can often foster abuse, Brown and his friends remain deaf to arguments for eliminating them.  Brown's desire to eliminate the RDAs is merely a part of his (otherwise farcical) plans to take charge of California's budgetary woes (woes he and his party have, of course, largely created). 

While no political ally of Brown's, Greenhut shows that he may be even more annoyed with a particular kind of Republican--at least when it comes to the question of the RDAs.  Republicans, you see, are leading the charge at blocking Brown's efforts to eliminate the RDAs.  While happy to decry property rights abuses and aggressive exercises of eminent domain when those outrages loom large in the popular imagination (viz the Kelo decision), these Republicans have also been happy to overlook the potential for those abuses in their own communities.  This is particularly true when standing upon the principle of property rights means a decrease or an end to the RDA dollars upon which many local governments have become dependent.  And, as local governments struggle, there is even greater temptation to lust after the power of eminent domain for the purpose of bringing into a community businesses perceived as having more potential to generate sales tax revenue for a particular city.  You've got to make payroll somehow.  So there is principle and there is interest.  When government intervenes to make interest look even more attractive than it already is, some Republicans too readily turn their heads.

The arguments of these Republicans on behalf of RDAs begin to resemble the most frustrating elements of efforts to improve public schools:  "Our schools are great!" or "Our RDA is not abusive." It's always somebody else's community that is the problem . . . until it isn't. 

Republicans who are now engaged in this unseemly whining about cutting RDAs are not simply wrong to be concerned, however.  There is the very real problem that local governments in California--now virtually dependent upon RDA money for balancing their books--are going to take a large hit.  They certainly will.  But this fact alone does not mean that the RDAs should be preserved.  This fact, instead of causing folks to moan and grasp at the state coffers with even more animation, should cause them to demand a complete re-evaluation of the purposes and powers of local government entities and for more carefully defining the limits of the state's.  That means hard work at persuading voters and standing upon principle; something Republicans cannot do effectively if they engage in this kind of rhetorical hypocrisy.  Perhaps too many California Republicans are so beat down and tired from a half century of near total Democratic domination in the statehouse, that they can't summon the will to fight on principle anymore.  If that is the case, it is time for them to pack it in.  This is work that must be done if California is to remain the Golden State.  They cannot expect ever to win the larger argument if they too readily give in on specific aspects of it in the name of petty interests now.

It may very well be true that this effort is a cynical ploy on the part of Gov. Brown to make the public feel the pain of necessary cuts; to damage municipal government entities just enough to spread the misery and make people more pliable on the question of tax hikes.  Hit them where they live, and such.  Whatever the motive, however, the substance deserves applause.  And instead of hiding in a foxhole, Republicans should be leading this charge and taking the issue right back at Jerry. 

Categories > Conservatism

Discussions - 7 Comments

California Republicans believe in Small Government Socialism.

The Stupid State is slowly heading down the slippery slope.... Faster please.....

The California Republican Assembly, the major conservative group, is not as effective as it might be, as far as I can tell.

Perhaps too many California Republicans are so beat down and tired from a half century of near total Democratic domination in the statehouse, that they can't summon the will to fight on principle anymore

For the record, the governor's chair has been held by a Republican for north of 27 of the last 52 years.

A dear friend of mine who once held a position on the small research staff of the New York State Assembly offered me this taxonomy of legislators as they were, ca. 1962: "buffoons...poltroooons...and out-and-out-crooks. And every once in a while there was a wiseguy who was an honest man....There was a state senator from Monroe County. They took him out in a primary...why? oh, he voted his conscience. He had a conscience." So, the Republican caucus of the California legislature is shot through with the chronically obtuse and with careerists. The trouble is, we have no call to expect better.

"For the record, the governor's chair has been held by a Republican for north of 27 of the last 52 years."


However, The Stupid State has had the privilege of having the two worst governors in the history of the United States:

Edmund G. "Pat" Brown for 8 years and his son Jerry "Governor Moonbeam" (he was called that for a reason) for 8 years going on 12. Both have done more damage to and, given Jerry's actions, will do more damage to The Stupid State that any Republican Governor including Arnie could ever do. Pat was determined to turn CA into a socialist dream, but that dream was somewhat detered by Ronald Reagan. Pat's son, however, did a bang up job - Moonbeam is responsible for the State Workers Unions and the pension mess that we now have lingering over the taxpayers.

Art: I was referring to the legislature. Bill Voegeli makes much of this in the article of his to which I link above. I know who our governors have been.

Here is a great article on another reason why The Stupid State is on its way down the slippery slope which is scary than the RDA issue:,0,5252150.story

Drive to any Bass Pro Store in California and you will see the parking lot filled up. Walk into the the store and you will find the first floor where the boats, fishing and clothing departments are located empty. Go to the second floor and you will find the section for camping gear empty. Proceed to the other half of the second floor where fire arms, ammunition, bows and arrows are sold and it is ten deep at the counters to purchase those items.

One can only imagine where the Stupid State will end up.

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