Politics & Law

On October 23, the campus hosted a conference on the question of "What Ails California?" Legislative paralysis in the face of financial crisis has led many to suggest California's political system is broken. How can we fix it? (October 8, 2009)


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Vote NO on all initiatives

Michael Eisen

One of the biggest problems facing California today is the huge fraction of the state budget that is committed to funding or servicing the debt on initiatives passed by voters. While many of these are worthy when viewed in isolation, it’s a truly insane way to carve up what is a limited pot of money. The legislature – dysfunctional as it may sometimes be – needs to be able to craft a budget that represents the the true needs of the state and the spending priorities of its citizens, and not be held hostage to the free-spending whims of the … More >

Comments to "Vote NO on all initiatives":
    • tali professor eisen, i urge to read richard walker's blog post on a "new New Deal," which suggests that spending can actually increase market demand and health
    • trusts I agree with Ruchira. Vote no on everything? That doesn't seem to be a good way to run such a big state. What needs to happen in California is what needs to happen in America: Some people need to figure out how we came into such a large amount of debt. It's only the understanding ... More >

A New Approach on Public Safety

Jonathan Simon

Californians are beginning to appreciate that our prison system is deeply flawed and unsustainable.  But the prisons are only the center of a whole way of imagining public safety that has dominated California for nearly 40 years and which has left us badly positioned to confront the risks we face in this new century.  We need a new way of thinking about public safety.

Our current model places violent crime at the center of our public universe.  The swollen prisons now contain some 6X their population in 1980, nearly 170,000 adults. Built to contain armies of Charles Manson’s, and Richard Allen … More >

Comments to "A New Approach on Public Safety":
    • Alex Styles I agree with Micahel that it would be a mistake to cut back funding for prisons. Prisons are so overcrowded. Its important that public funds be expended to expand the prison system. This will help during these times of economic depression.
    • trusts It's true, California's political system is broken. Here's an idea: Why not just run state government from every state campus in California? Instead of having all the decisions made from Sacramento, rotate where the capitol is located. Could work and give people a better ... More >
    • Michael I Also, do you not agree that the threat of danger is greatly exaggerated? Perhaps once crime is seen for what it truly is, public safety is actually done very poorly, even when thought of independently from its costs.

A top ten list of what ails California with which almost everyone agrees

Robert Reich

What ails California? Let me count the ways:

1. A two-thirds voting requirement for new taxes and for budgets,

2. Legislative districts that are apportioned so that they’re either Democratic or Republican – resulting in the extremes running against more moderates in primaries, and summoning enough votes to get in,

3. Initiatives that, over the years, have mandated that certain items get funded regardless of other priorities,

4. A prison system that continues to grow, locking up ever more people at a cost of $45,000 each, even though many are non-violent offenders who are imprisoned because they’ve violated the law three times,

5. Public employee … More >

Comments to "A top ten list of what ails California with which almost everyone agrees":
    • Anthony Coleman I would like to comment on # 5. "5. Public employee unions that demand and take an ever larger share of the public budget," First of all, unions and the employer are governed by a set of binding rules which they use to negotiate salaries and benefits..Therefore, you are mistaken the ... More >
    • Brian Crawford This is a great article Robert! And thanks for the initiative you made to come up with these top 10. I'm impressed!
    • Pat I remember when Prop 13 was passed--people like my parents and their contemporaries were being taxed so high that they almost could not afford to live in their homes. I now pay the property taxes on the home, which is now a rental. My own property taxes are about twice that and ... More >

Repeal or Re-write Prop 13

Abrams Richard

California voters have a long history of shooting themselves in the foot.  Prop 13 is one calamity, especially the provision that requires a 2/3 legislative vote to pass a budget.  (The tax provisions are obscenely unfair, but that’s a different issue.)  Term limits is a second crippling measure.  What ails California?  In a nut-shell, lack of political statemanship.  Term limits deprives Californians of experienced leaders, knowledgable about law making, some of whom might occasionally put public interest above self-serving personal goals, and skilled enough to parry the thrusts of special interest lobbyists.  What we have in Sacramento is a bunch … More >

Comments to "Repeal or Re-write Prop 13":
    • Harry Flagle Tax, tax and more taxes that is the motto for California. If you think eliminating Prop 13 will lower your taxes, then I have bridge to sell you. Eliminating the 2/3 vote will allow the greedy politicians to go crazy on spending sprees with your money. Those of you who are buying ... More >
    • Cole Property taxes should be repealed altogether, otherwise you are just renting your home. If you don't pay, or can't afford to pay, the government will come in and take it. Lose a job, lose your home... The government has no title to your private property...legally, they shouldn't be ... More >
    • brad Prop. 13 is unfair in many ways, besides to newer homeowners. My neighbor inherited her house from her Dad, as well as his low tax bill. She pays $800 a year; I pay $4000. She acquired her home in 2011; I bought mine in 2000. I support lower-income Seniors keeping a low tax rate, ... More >

The representation gap

Irene Bloemraad

Californians will need to change the rules of the political game to get state politics back on track.  Allowing simple majority voting in the legislature on budgets and taxes is a good start.  Reforming the way we draw the lines around electoral districts could also help.  If political parties had fewer safe seats, they might move to the center to attract moderate voters, and be forced to compromise more.

Beyond the rules of the game, we also have to change and broaden the cast of players — and I don’t just mean who is sitting in Sacramento.  Currently, California has a huge … More >

Comments to "The representation gap":
    • Forex Robots The "older, richer and whiter" voters remind me the situation we had recently during elections in my country (I`m from Ukraine). The matter is that people who should really go and vote are already disappointed in their government
    • trusts Streamline voting so that people can vote from their phones or their computers. Increase citizen participation to near 100%.
    • James M. Silva, Esq Decriminalize, tax and regulate cannabis and industrial hemp. Empirically verifiable science proves that cannabis is non-toxic and that prohibition was originally motivated by corruption, greed and prejudice. Our state and federal governments literally spend TENS of BILLIONS of ... More >

Let’s tax and spend smarter

Ben Hermalin

The drop in state spending is exacerbating the recession. Beyond getting the states to spend more now, we need to think about how to make state spending more resilient to downturns going forward. A more sensible approach to taxes will help. More >

Comments to "Let’s tax and spend smarter":
    • Scott Zeeman Sorry Californiality...That is a dumb idea. We really need to reverse to 40 years ago. Then you would see a financial healing in CA.
    • Cheap Evening Dresses What would happen, ultimately, if California shocked the world by ending the state income tax? In the long run, we might end up with more businesses, increased spending, and a higher investment in California. A positive psychological
    • Tax Jobs Taxing the richer is the reaction many governments are considering in the recession to slowly close the deficit. This is bolstered by wider social support from some of the lower earning parts of society that have been affected by the recession. A higher tax for high earners has ... More >

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