California Crackup

California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It

JOE MATHEWS
MARK PAUL
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pph96
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  • Book Info
    California Crackup
    Book Description:

    Is California beyond repair? A sizable number of Golden State citizens have concluded that it is. Incessant budget crises plus a government paralyzed by partisan gridlock have led to demands for reform, even a constitutional convention. But what, exactly, is wrong and how can we fix it? InCalifornia Crackup, Joe Mathews and Mark Paul provide clear and informed answers. Their fast-paced and often humorous narrative deftly exposes the constitutional origins of our current political and economic problems and furnishes a uniquely California fix: innovative solutions that allow Californians to debate their choices, settle on the best ones, hold elected officials accountable for results, and choose anew if something doesn't work.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94708-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PROLOGUE. OUT OF LUCK
    (pp. 1-4)

    Every Californian who lives along the San Andreas Fault knows the moment. The house shudders, the doors rattle against their jambs, the glasses clink on the kitchen shelves, and the question rides out across the city at the speed of the P wave. Is this, finally, the Big One?

    It is the same question Californians are asking themselves about this civic moment. They ask not just because the state is in crisis. California has never been far from crisis but has always found a way out, perhaps accounting for what the philosopher Josiah Royce, writing in 1886, called Californians’ “extravagant...

  5. PART I BUILDING AND BREAKING CALIFORNIA
    • 1 CRISIS WITHOUT EXIT
      (pp. 7-15)

      What’s the worst thing about California’s current fix?

      The worst thing is not the decline in its once great public schools. It’s not the tuition hikes at state universities that make college unaffordable for too many. It’s not the cuts to health programs and parks and local governments. And it’s not the decaying state water system. Nor is it that the prisons are so overcrowded and unhealthy that the federal courts have stepped in to oversee them. It’s not the endless cycle of elections that never seems to leave time for governance. It’s not the billions in borrowing that will...

    • 2 HISTORY AND THE CONSTITUTION
      (pp. 16-34)

      The end of the decade was a rotten time in California. Speculative bubbles in real estate and investment had burst. The public had lost confidence in the banks. No one could remember the last time unemployment had been so high in the state. California’s infrastructure didn’t match the needs of its population. Its prisons were overcrowded. A severe drought was drying up farmers’ fields.

      This was not the first decade of the twenty-first century but the second half of the nineteenth. It was the morning of March 3, 1879. The 135 men who gathered in the Assembly chamber, inside the...

    • 3 EMPOWERING AND SHACKLING SACRAMENTO
      (pp. 35-57)

      Throughout the 1960s and 1970s they had been telling their stories at neighborhood coffee klatches and at tax protest rallies, to elected officials and newspaper reporters, to anyone who would listen. They were people like George and Mary, who told their story, minus last names, to theLos Angeles Times.

      A disabled victim of a car crash, George received about five hundred dollars a month in disability benefits; Mary was laid off when the aerospace plant where she worked closed down. They lived, with their six children, in the one-bedroom Venice house they had bought for $19,500 in 1962, when...

    • 4 FROM TEACHERS TO JANITORS: Direct Democracy Demotes the Legislature
      (pp. 58-76)

      William “Sandy” Muir, a political scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, has an unusual method of academic study. When he wants to write a book on an institution, he takes a job inside it. So in 1975, Muir, eager to do a book on how state legislatures work, wrangled a job as a consultant to the California State Assembly’s powerful committee on finance, insurance, and commerce.

      The experience was eye-opening. A rare Republican in the academic world, Muir had worked previously for Ronald Reagan’s successful 1966 campaign for governor and for the Oakland police department. Muir understood better than...

  6. PART II THE CALIFORNIA FIX
    • 5 BUDGETING WITHOUT SHACKLES
      (pp. 79-104)

      How does California extract itself from its self-imposed calamity?

      For many Californians, the way out starts (and for some Californians ends) with money and budgets. And with good reason. The contrast between California as an economy—rich and dynamic—and California as public fiscal manager is too stark to ignore. California has been an economic powerhouse of the Information Age, driving key sectors of the national economy into the future—information technology, software, communications, biotech, entertainment. It has also been, with increasing frequency, a fiscal wreck.

      State budget emergencies have rolled in, one after another, like the breakers at Huntington...

    • 6 THE ARCHITECTURE OF POLITICAL FRUSTRATION
      (pp. 105-125)

      The old-timers in California politics remember a better day in Sacramento. “We were there to govern,” writes William T. Bagley, a Republican who represented Marin County in the Assembly from 1961 to 1974. “Trust and longtime friendships trumped the relatively few ideologues and, thus, provided the legislative glue. There were no partisan aisles in the chamber. We sat together, ate together, and played together,” he remembers, the word “play” being his euphemism for what were often more alcoholic and libidinous pursuits. “What has happened to moderation and compromise?” he asks. They are fallen, he answers, before the political reform rules...

    • 7 REMAKING ELECTIONS AND THE LEGISLATURE
      (pp. 126-150)

      In much of the rest of the democratic world, and particularly outside the former British colonies, nations have rejected single-member plurality electoral systems in favor of proportional representation to elect their legislative bodies.¹ They have found that proportional representation (PR) “is better at ensuring that the maximum number of citizens are represented, that both majorities and minorities have a say in government, that all parties have their fair share of seats in legislatures, that seats change in response to changes in voter views, that the majority rules, and that policymakers faithfully reflect the political views of the majority of the...

    • 8 GOVERNMENT FROM THE BOTTOM UP
      (pp. 151-165)

      California has never squarely faced the question of scale. “The experts now forecast that California will show an additional gain of 2,650,000 in the 1950s,” Carey McWilliams wrote in 1949 about the state’s burgeoning postwar population. “It is expected that 20 million people will eventually reside within its boundaries.”¹ His experts were off target by only a factor of two. California would add 5.1 million new residents in the fifties. “Eventually” has not yet arrived, but the state had 38 million people within its boundaries by the beginning of 2009, on its way to almost 60 million by 2050.²

      Despite...

    • 9 A MORE DIRECT DEMOCRACY
      (pp. 166-184)

      Darrell Steinberg had to decide whether to betray himself.

      In February 2009, Steinberg led the California State Senate as its president pro tem. But he was locked in negotiations that made him feel like a hostage. The country’s economic collapse had caused a historic collapse in tax revenues. California faced a budget deficit in the tens of billions. The state had no cash in its main accounts and had already raided more than 650 of the special funds scattered around the treasury to pay its bills. The world’s credit markets were so damaged that borrowing short-term cash was prohibitively expensive....

  7. EPILOGUE. GOOD RULES TO MATCH ITS MOUNTAINS
    (pp. 185-192)

    In 2009, the Pew Center on the States surveyed forty-nine states with this question in mind: how closely did their governing systems and economic challenges resemble those of California? It went without saying that any resemblance to California was a sure sign of peril. “California’s problems are in a league of their own,” the Pew study said in its introduction. “But the same pressures that drove it toward fiscal disaster are wreaking havoc in a number of states, with potentially damaging consequences for the entire country.”¹

    California is America writ early. Its civic diseases cross the Sierra Nevada or the...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 193-210)
  9. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 211-216)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 217-225)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 226-226)