The Golden State has many problems at this moment in time, with the economy being one of the biggest. And it’s seeing minimal progress at best:
California’s labor market continued its slow improvement in March as employers added jobs for the eighth straight month.
Payrolls grew by 18,200 jobs last month, according to figures released Friday by the California Employment Development Department. That’s on top of a revised 38,600 jobs in February.
The unemployment rate increased to 11% in March, up slightly from February’s 10.9% rate. Still, improving job prospects have encouraged more California workers to reenter the labor force, driving the jobless rate higher, said Dennis Meyers, principal economist for the state’s Department of Finance.
The gist of it is that the housing market is still quite weak, which is hurting construction. A propos, it wasn’t until I started looking for new places to live (I’m temporarily in a new apartment with the SO, looking at buying a house) that I realized just how fracked up the housing situation has become here. I lived in the same place for about three and a half years, basically just a studio apartment, for $800 a month. Around 2008-ish, a single-bedroom unit where I work was going for about $1090 or so, which I thought was needlessly expensive. Now getting something comparable in the area would run you $1600 or more a month. Seriously! In terms of rent, we’re all San Franciscans now. I was able to find something modestly less expensive ten miles away, but still. Rents really have gone nuts in the East Bay, which believe it or not was one of the LESSER-HIT areas of the state economically over the past few years. I wouldn’t even want to know what a one-bedroom in SF would go for. It’s all about demand, of course. I used to be fairly cool to buying a house, which I thought was needlessly expensive and confining. Now, increasingly, the opposite is true–if you don’t stay in a complex forever you’re going to get thwacked with a big rent increase when you leave, and paying a mortgage on a 1500 square foot house costs less per month than renting a one-bedroom apartment. The economy appears to be on the mend, which is much better than the alternative. But we’re still a long way from healed, especially in my state.
I guess Michigan's voters soured on Santorum quicker than I figured. Understandable.
In any event, I think this is really cool, and I hope it has an effect. California is nothing if not a leader among the states. We're forcing the U.S. to deal with global warming, now we're doing the same with civil liberties too. We'll do whatever we need to do and bring the rest of y'all along for the ride. I do love this state, and think its flaws are well outweighed by its virtues.
Is it strange that I’m proud of this?
Public Policy Polling, as is its habit, has a cool, unconventional poll up on its site right now, measuring the favorable/unfavorable ratios of the 50 American states.
Overall, it shows (in order) Hawaii, Colorado, Tennessee, South Dakota, and Virginia on top, and (in reverse order) California, Illinois, New Jersey, Mississippi and Utah at the bottom. The last five states are the only ones with net negative ratios (though Louisiana is close with a tie). [...]
You can wander around PPI’s crosstabs from this survey for many hours, but the factor that does jump out is political ideology. California’s dismal ranking is basically driven by its heavily negative ratings from people self-identifying as “very conservative” (10/74) and “somewhat conservative” (12/65). Texas, ranking 38th, draws ratings nearly that dismal from self-identified liberals (22/56 among “very liberal” folk, and 17/59 among “somewhat liberal” respondents), but that’s offset by the ecstatic opinion of the Lone Star State among conservatives (62/9 for the “somewhat conservative;” 68/7 for the “very conservative”). Basically, conservatives love TX and hate CA more intensely than liberals feel about either.
Strange that New York has completely fallen off the radar as the conservatives’ scapegoat for all the ills of America. Back during the ’90s it would have been inconceivable that any other state would have been as hated by them. But times change I guess.
Informally, though, I have noticed the shift. Many of my red-state relatives are prone to insulting California in front of people who actually live there (i.e. us). One of my aunts kept bringing up that creep Richard Ramirez for years after he was caught, as some sort of proof that California is a twisted place. This was apparently ignoring the fact that the Plains and Midwest generate way more serial killers per capita than the West Coast does. My experiences hint to me that California hatred among right-wingers is based mostly on fear of the large and politically influential Hispanic population in the state. Ironically, Texas has much the same thing going on, but the process there is far less advanced and white folks are still largely in firm control of things. Texas is about where California was politically in the mid-1980s, so far as I can tell. And while Rick Perry has been smart enough to avoid a Prop 187-like suicide for the party among Hispanic voters, he’s not going to be there forever, and it’s only a matter of time until the fundamentals demand it happens.
In any event, I’m proud of this poll. To get that kind of hatred, we must really be scaring them.
Take it from a practicing lawyer, this quote from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is the entire argument for marriage equality in a nutshell:
Although the Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently.
Recently, I’ve been flexing the old activist muscles (been too busy with life changes to really do much before) with the SAFE California group that is working to put a question to the voters on dropping the death penalty in favor of life without parole. It’ll save the state as much as $100 million off of an $8 billion deficit, which isn’t going to fix everything but it’s a patch at no cost to anyone. Anyway, I’ve mostly just been asking people I know as well as asking in friendly venues to gather them, and so far it’s been going pretty well. As of last Friday we need about 190,000 signatures to get the question on the ballot, averaging over 50k per week. With a bit less than four weeks left it seems doable, though obviously some signatures are going to be invalid. It’s going to be close is what I’m saying.
I reckon, if we can get it on the ballot, it has a decent chance of coming to pass. I’m not sure which interests would really be threatened by ending capital punishment in the state. Sure, perhaps there’ll be some nutty right-wing billionaire who will bankroll a vicious smear campaign (there always seems to be one of those), but in terms of the stakeholders I don’t see it. The one company that manufactures the chemicals used for lethal injections went bankrupt a while ago, and to the extent that law enforcement considers execution a useful tool (not a universal view), I’m not sure they want to miss out on the part of the initiative that redirects some of the money used on executions to fund cash-strapped police departments (a savvy inclusion on the part of the organizers). If law enforcement signs on to ending the thing when put to the voters, I’d go so far as to say it’s favored. And, certainly, Governor (and former Attorney General) Jerry Brown and current AG Kamala Harris can make a strong argument for why it’s not needed to keep people safe (both oppose capital punishment). Looking at the polling, this really seems like the best chance to drop the practice in the state, and take one step toward humane correctional practices.
Also, on a related note, Jerry Brown really has been doing a pretty good job in office, much better than Schwarzenegger ever did. Arnie can keep his swaggering macho bullshit, it takes real guts to stand up to the prison guard unions in this state. Or to stake his political capital on a tax hike initiative (to forestall even more spending cuts, of course). Arnie was deathly afraid of doing either one back during his days in office, and Ol’ Moonbeam took him to toughness school on both. Pretty impressive, actually.
I happened to read that California won’t be getting rid of the death penalty through legislative means anytime soon. This time, the idea was to put it to a public referendum, since simply passing a bill to repeal it was out of the question for some reason. The latter would have only taken a majority vote, the former takes a 2/3 vote. Since over 1/3 of the legislature is Republican, that’s pretty much that. Why not just repeal it outright? Glad you asked! There’s some hint in the HuffPo article about a fear of public backlash, but the idea that a majority-minority state would flip to the GOP over the death penalty is pretty farfetched for me. No doubt some remaining echoes of Tom Bradley and George Deukmeijan still linger somewhere, but still, that was 25 years ago. There’s no reason for this. Illinois did away with executions earlier this year, and it’s much less Democratic than California. And while I suppose it’s entirely possible that an outright repeal would be overturned at the ballot box next year, I just don’t see where the money is supposed to come from to finance such an effort. It would take millions of dollars to get all the signatures, there’s no real grassroots organizing to support capital punishment, and getting rid of it doesn’t really hurt anyone’s pocketbook. I don’t even think the LDS Church would have the heart to subsidize a campaign like that.
I mention that the state is majority-minority because it’s not news that minorities are sentenced to death more than white people. One would think that a state-level party apparatus that is propped up by minority support would be inclined to do right by these folks–seriously, take away Hispanic support and you’ve got a state that would be sending an awful lot of Dana Rohrabachers to Congress. And yet here, as with the marijuana initiative last year, the Democratic Caucus of the California Legislature pushed forward with the most gutless (and, ironically, most difficult) plan to roll back the excesses of “law and order” politics, and failed once again in ways that will make life harder for the people that power the Democratic majority in California. One could also point out the conscious decision not to field another amendment legalizing gay marriage in 2012. But the death penalty thing is a whole other thing. To be honest, I’m frankly shocked. I can sort of get the marijuana thing–there are questions of federal vs. state prerogatives that could have turned into a very dicey legal battle, so putting it to the people makes some amount of sense to have as leverage before doing it. And I can sort of understand letting the legal process play out in the case of gay marriage before plotting the next move. But to have or not to have capital punishment is not that way at all, lots of states don’t have it and if the public really objects to getting rid of it, then politics can take its course and vote opponents out. Which, thanks to very tight gerrymandering, is highly unlikely. The fact is that this is just the tip of the iceberg that is the bad faith behind the California Legislature, and I’m sure I’d be able to rattle off a bunch more if I paid closer attention. But you really don’t need to in order to grasp this essential truth. To be honest, if our state’s government only had a level of dysfunction similar to Washington DC’s, it would be a huge improvement.
This is why I’m actually really happy that the state’s independent redistricting commission has scrambled districts at every level, since it can only ensure more competitive districts and more dynamic politicians. Certainly, it can’t get any worse. I mean, honestly, term limits in the state are six years for Assembly members and eight years for Senators. It’s not like a twenty-term Congressional career is at stake here. So the risk is losing 2-4 years in state government in order to do the right thing? Those aren’t enormous stakes, if you ask me. But I do not work in the worst state government in the United States. That might seem harsh, but considering the problems we have here I feel I’m reining it in quite a bit.
I think I’m all tapped out on feeling emo about Obama, so I’ll move onto something else…
The death penalty is one of my big issues, and has been for over a decade now. I see it as indefensible and a bad idea for a lot of reasons that I’ve talked about before–go ahead and click the link below the post if you want to read those. Anyway, my state of California is debating putting the question of using the death penalty before voters next year with SB 490. It’s passed out of committee and will undoubtedly be voted on by the full Senate soon. This initially annoyed me, as this state’s politicians always do (why not just pass a damn law?), but the more I thought about it, the more I think it’s the smarter move. Sure, it’s politicians passing the buck to avoid being called “soft on crime”, but I’m hardly convinced that this isn’t a winnable battle with the electorate, for one simple reason: the price tag associated with the death penalty. With the state that our budget situation is in, saving $1 billion over a few years is not exactly trivial. Capital punishment has long had a polling advantage with the public, but I think the emotions around it have died down considerably–nobody really cared that Obama opposes it, etc. This means that the state’s political leaders–Jerry Brown, Kamala Harris, and our two U.S. Senators who all oppose the penalty–can make an argument against it based purely on fiscal conservatism. I have a feeling that it just might work (also, that there isn’t a financial interest in keeping the practice going really helps, as the company that manufactures the lethal gas used for executions recently went bankrupt).
The more I think about it, the more I like it. It’s going to be tough, tough work, but I can see a path forward on making it happen. It’s taken for granted that ballot initiatives are a territory of the right and of rent-seeking special interests. That’s often true. But in California it’s gone the other way as well–huge strides on, among others, insurance reform and the environment have come from ballot initiatives. They’re just a tool like anything else, can be used for good things or bad things. The bill hasn’t passed yet, but I am excited about the possibilities. After all, progressives have some money on their side, too–getting progressive ballot initiatives on the ballot would be a good tactic for us to use, especially in states where Republicans have thoroughly gerrymandered themselves into power.
I’ve opined before that death penalty opponents are winning, slowly but surely, so this seems fitting:
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