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California needs a Republican

Bill Rinner | Friday, October 3, 2003

Thanks to the surprising move to save face by the infamous 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the gubernatorial melodrama that surfaced in the most predictable of states shall continue as planned next week. Unfortunately, Californian voters may shoot themselves in the foot by dooming themselves to continued democratic leadership.

What brought the state into the fine mess it’s in today? While virtually every Democratic leader in the country would prefer that we ignore the past few years of irresponsible policy and stick with their party, catastrophic consequences may ensue. Gray Davis, perhaps still swelling in the campaign contributions that brought him to power, pandered to anti-business groups in a state already with the highest tax rates in the nation, creating an atmosphere where businesses receive treatment similar to convicted felons and a budget crisis that would warrant IMF intervention if California were a sovereign country.

The tree-hugging lobby had a field day as even businesses with normally strong environmental records faced penalties, and Davis increased regulations to rewrite the rules in ways that would make Mother Earth herself raise an eyebrow. Pro-union groups reaped tremendous benefits and mandated pay raises during a period when most businesses were cutting jobs at will.

Absurdly high dividends taxes, a deflated technology industry and a staggering national economy had employers under the knife, yet Davis’ pandering made the incision.

Ironically, the result is one many bleeding-hearts decry: off-shoring of jobs to countries in East Asia and Latin America where foreign governments are so happy to see the businesses come their way they provide a libertarian’s dreamland in return. If you want to regulate past the point of positive productivity and also refuse the tide of globalization, then feel free to have your cake and eat it too while the rest of us acknowledge the simple tradeoffs that exist in the world.

Now that sensible Californians with a vested interest in the flourishing of the state’s economy have recalled the governor in hopes of replacing him with a more business-friendly candidate, one would assume Democrats could find a sensible alternative – moderate, daresay. Nope, bad idea. In fact, they not only oppose the recall, the lone candidate offered is Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante, whose political stances are so extreme that Darrell Issa, the man behind the recall, would rather have a few more years of Davis instead of his second-in-command.

Bustamante’s list of proposed methods to improve California appear to have been written by a defiant Davis, suggesting that the best way to combat the deficit surplus would be to raise taxes on businesses. I’m sensing a trend here. If the Democrats succeed in distracting the voters from Davis’ ineptitude and their power base remains, then other states will enjoy the revenues brought by moved businesses, and unemployment lines in California will lengthen. A few trees will thrive with a slightly lower level of pollution, and the minimum wage will look great for those lucky enough to earn it. The left coast deserves better, even the hippies.

At this point, one must wonder what motivates California’s Democrats beyond purely ideological stubbornness. In a word, power. No one in the party can stand the possibility of their strongest fortress suddenly allowing the governor to have an “R” next to his name. Such a change could spell crisis when the time comes for national elections and the leader of the state decides to stump for the avowed enemy Republicans. Can’t have that. All their hopes lie in a miraculous economic recovery in California in spite of the hostile climate towards businesses. Color me skeptical, but the national economic recovery is not progressing fast enough to rejuvenate California from its woes.

A Republican governor is the only sensible alternative. Occasionally, historical circumstances are such that one party’s policies are essential for the path of the economy. During the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt’s massive welfare state helped combat widespread unemployment after Herbert Hoover’s plans barely chipped away at the problem. Today in California, the land of fruits and nuts, a Republican must take charge like a parent disciplining a child to prove that even the best intentions can spell disaster.

The candidate himself does not particularly matter as long as he disrupts the firmly entrenched Democratic power base in the state. The idea of Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor makes many cringe, but he has enough vision and sound political advice to be viable alternative to Davis.

For at least a brief period of time, the road to socialism in California must take a conservative detour, even if it means bringing the pseudo-intellectual, neo-hippy, SUV-hating, Birkenstock wearing, radical liberals along kicking and screaming. In five years, they’ll all remember that electing a movie star as governor is not such a bad idea after all.

Bill Rinner is a junior economics major studying at the London School of Economics, a university founded by members of the Socialist Party to advance their political cause. His column appears every other Friday. He can be contacted at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.