Thursday, June 4, 2009

California: Failed State?

    California, at least in popular culture, has always been a state of mind as well as a geographic location. Folk singers during the dust bowl, warned that California wasn't everything people feeling Hoovervilles were seeking. They warned, "If you ain't got that 'do-re-mi' you better go back to Kansas…" In the 1980's, the Gatlin Boys sang that "All the gold in California is in a bank in the middle of Beverly Hills in somebody else's name…"

    California is in the worst financial condition it has ever been in. It may go bankrupt by the end of July. We have heard dire predictions before, but this could well be worse than usual. In addition to the deplorable passage of Prop. 8, the anti-gay marriage proposition, Governor Schwarzenegger and the legislature are about to implement massive cuts to healthcare and education. The Governator has never liked the poor or the ill: he has twice vetoed statewide single-payer health coverage. He has vilified teachers' unions and nurses' unions. The California Nurses' Association is one of the most progressive organizations in the country, and has been fighting the good fight.

    Now the Governator has the opportunity to permanently cripple education and healthcare, no pun intended. The wealthy and the healthy don't have anything to lose. As usual, these cuts will affect the most vulnerable, children, the disabled, people with HIV/AIDS.

    In her masterwork, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein describes how governments use economic shock to cripple social programs. What is currently being proposed in California is textbook shock doctrine. We are moving ever closer to a society where the richest one percent, who can afford health care and private schools, can be safe in their gated communities and armored cars. The rest of us will be fighting over table scraps we find in their dumpsters.

    Schwarzenegger and the legislature are capitalizing on this current economic crisis to push through an agenda they could never have passed in normal times. No wonder those who are able are fleeing the state. This proves, once again, the wisdom of folk song--- all the gold in California is in a bank, in someone else's name.

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