Has Newsweek just admitted to something the rest of the press knows but won't acknowledge?
In promoting its insufferably fawning portrayal of California Governor Jerry Brown, the weekly magazine tweeted that Brown is "arming California to meet an economic recession head-on." Recession? What recession?
Two passages from reporter Alexander Nazaryan's the writeup inadvertently make a mockery of California's true degree of preparation for the recession no one else will acknowledge could be on the horizon, but which Newsweek apparently believes is imminent (bolds are mine):
... Some on California’s vociferous left have called on the stingy governor to spend more on social programs that might benefit the young, the sick, the homeless and the poor. “California has turned the corner. But not every Californian is feeling it,” complained a Democratic legislator from San Diego earlier this year. Brown’s critics can rest assured that he has heard them; he just won’t heed them. When I bring up this line of complaint, Brown quickly counters that the next recession could cost California $55 billion, so to spend now for new programs would be foolish.
... The (recent State of the State) speech Brown delivered was short and relentlessly dour, fixated on the downturn sure to come. And whether caused by Chinese currency devaluation or the deflation of Silicon Valley’s bubble or maybe some other force malevolent and yet unseen, the downturn was as certain as a traffic jam in Los Angeles. Illinois would not be ready and probably Florida would not be ready, but California would be, with its projected rainy-day fund of $2.23 billion by the end of June 2017.
How the state can weather a fiscal storm of up to $55 billion with a rainy-day fund of $2.23 billion is a mystery Nazaryan, who was clearly on a mission to create a positive impression of Brown, facts be damned, didn't explore. It seems quite likely that he didn't even detect how ridiculous his California-is-ready meme is.
By comparison, Ohio's rainy-day fund balance in July 2015, the last time the Buckeye State made its annual transfer to or from the fund ("to" during most years under Republican Governor John Kasich, and "from" during most years under his Democratic predecessor Ted Strickland), was $2.0 billion. Ohio's population is only about 30 percent of Califonia's. For California to be as prepared as Ohio (which is also arguably unprepared if Brown is right about the calamity which approaches), it would have to have about $6.7 billion in its rainy-day fund — and even that obviously would not be nearly enough to weather the storm Brown envisions.
Here are other examples of how Nazaryan glossed over reality to benefit Brown:
Brown is the rare progressive who can balance the books, who can sell fiscal restraint to Bay Area liberals and gay marriage to Orange County evangelicals.
Brown balanced the budget largely by raising taxes, a point which Nazaryan celebrated elsewhere. One phrase nukes his howler about "fiscal restraint": "unfunded $100 billion bullet train." Brown's brand of "fiscal restraint" in other matters means leaving government programs on autopilot.
Although Brown signed a bill this spring implementing the highest minimum wage in the country—$15 per hour—he did so only at the prodding of labor unions. The move is revolutionary yet cautious, in that it doesn’t actually take full effect until 2022.
So if the unions demanded that he do it, Brown gets a pass, because as we all know, the unions always look out for the best interest of all workers. (That's sarcasm, folks.) There's nothing "cautious" about arbitrarily increasing many employers' hourly payroll costs by 50 percent (and doubling them since 2007).
It is true that people are leaving California and that the cost of business is, indeed, much higher there than elsewhere. The taxes are higher too, in part thanks to Brown. But his approval rating stands at a very solid 60 percent.
Well, that's what happens when the tax-takers, including public-sector employees and their households, start to outnumber the tax generators and private-sector job creators. The generators leave, and the takers like the gravy train — and do all they can to make it last as long as possible, future consequences be damned.
Recent data indicates that California's population of about 39 million has:
- 12.3 million participating in Medicaid.
- 1.83 million enrolled in traditional welfare as of September 2015. That's 44 percent of total welfare enrollment nationwide in a state which has 12 percent of the nation's population.
- 4.4 million people on food stamps (as of January 2016; that's actually a lower percentage than many other states, but hardly makes up for the previous two items).
- 492,000 households (number of individuals not determined) receiving federal housing assistance.
- 2.5 million employed at all levels of government.
Of course people at the public trough like a governor who won't meaningfully address the high cost of entitlement programs. Of course the state's legions of public-sector employees like the fact that Brown is pretending that its looming pensions crisis is not the grave threat that it really is.
Jerry Brown will dump a long list of serious problems on the state's next governor, but he'll be able to console himself by going back to fawning paeans like Nazaryan's.
Meanwhile, the poor sap who follows him will have to deal with and deliver the bad news about the wreckage his predecessor left behind and the dire consequences which will result.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.