California Dreamin’

By Alex Biles, University of Michigan

Texas, with its rich, conservative heritage — a Tom Landry tinge of burnt orange — is often cast by critics as a hyper-right-wing desert of ignorance and oil fortunes surrounding the oasis of tolerance and understanding that is Austin. The Lone Star State’s unabashed love for firearms, capital punishment and questionable interpretations of history, coupled with its proud legacy of unpopular Republican White House aspirants make it a frequent target of ire for liberals.

But what about the other (definitely not stereotyped) extreme? Could America the Beautiful be harboring a land of full of stinky pot-smoking pinko commies, living in the United State of Sin, alongside Rosie O’Donnell, Roseanne Barr, all the gay sex in the world and swaths of “former” KGB spies?

Well, it depends who you ask, but yes.

In the last three days, California governor Jerry Brown has signed off on just as many ridiculous pieces of legislation, seriously begging us to ask, where is the most incompetent state government?

First of all, the good governor co-signed a bill to prohibit the use of tanning beds by all minors, in spite of a number of measures already put in place that were obviously working marvelously. Clearly, the existing restrictions needed to be strengthened to work even more marvelously. Reuters reports that “Previously, California had banned minors under the age of 14 from using tanning beds, but allowed those between 14 and 18 years of age to use tanning beds with parental consent.”

Needless to say, there can be no doubt that the new legislation will strike unrelenting fear into the hearts of high school girls, who will shiver at the prospect of using tanning beds illicitly, or even worse, taking advantage of the UV rays found on myriad beaches located on California’s 840 miles of coastline.

As if that weren’t enough, Brown vetoed legislation this week that would require local and state police officers to obtain a court warrant (of all things) to search the mobile phones of suspected criminals at the time of any arrest. The legislation made its way through the Assembly unanimously and received only 4 nay votes in the state senate.

Wired breaks it down:

The Sunday veto means that when police arrest anybody in the Golden State, they may search that person’s mobile phone — which in the digital age likely means the contents of persons’ e-mail, call records, text messages, photos, banking activity, cloud-storage services, and even where the person has traveled.

Constitutionality aside, Brown’s curious veto follows a torrent of receipts amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars from police unions across the state since 2010. Among the united were the California Association of Highway Patrolmen and the Sacramento Country Deputy Sheriff’s Association, which combined to donate over $160,000 to Brown.

To top it off, Brown outlawed the open carry of handguns on Monday. This lifesaving piece of legislation now requires those who really want to blow your brains out to hide their firearms. Forget the freedom of the responsible 99.9 percent of gun owners.

While a good liberal may be keen to praise Gov. Brown for his activist approach to governance and insulation of people from all of life’s monsters, the state’s progressive penchant hasn’t come without a price.

A low estimate from earlier this year pegs the state’s unfunded liability for public sector pensions at $136 billion. Take into account annual budget shortfalls that have plagued the state for years, and the burden on taxpayers is projected to increase to somewhere between $325 billion and $500 billion by 2021.

The stranglehold that unions have established in California makes substantial budget cuts all but impossible. Indeed, the state now supports more than 15,000 retirees whose annual pensions exceed $100,000. To support Brown’s government spending spree, the state will be forced to raise revenue from a tax base that already has to cope with the highest sales tax in the nation (8.25 percent plus local sales tax) and from businesses that pay the highest corporate income tax in the West.

In 2011, California’s business climate ranks 49th. And in August, only Nevada ranked worse than California’s unemployment rate of 12.1 percent.

In other words, Jerry — you dingus — where are your priorities?

Is it surprising then, or simply ironic, that your state is losing population, with Californians overwhelmingly choosing Texas as their new home?

Alex Biles is a co-founder of The New Student Union. Follow him @newstudentunion and @alex_biles



The New Student Union is an online magazine run by and for college students covering the issues we care about. Self-starters with great communication skills and a passion for writing should email to get involved. Official site will launch in late 2011.


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