Californiafication: A Good Idea (for Conservatives)

There’s been much talk of the “Californiafication” of Washington in recent days. Rich Yeselson summarizes the idea: “We are living through the Californiafication of America—a country in which the combination of a determined minority and a procedural supermajority legislative requirement makes it impossible to rationally address public policy challenges.” Kevin wrote about this on Friday:

All I can say is this: for years I was basically uninterested in Sacramento politics because it was such a cesspool.  It made Washington DC look like a model of good government.  But no longer: Sacramento is still a cesspool, but DC is catching up fast.  If we keep it up much longer, the entire country may end up in the same mess we’ve made for ourselves here.  That would be decidedly not a good thing.

Actually, if you’re a conservative, it might be a good thing. The Californiafication strategy makes it much easier to achieve otherwise-unpopular conservative policy goals like slashing health, education, and other popular government programs. (Remember, the largest parts of the federal budget—Social Security and Medicare—are also among the most popular. If you really wanted to drastically reduce the size of government and the tax burden, that’s where you’d go.) The strategy goes a little like this: first, make it politically or structurally impossible to raise taxes (check). Next, allow liberals to enact their policy goals—but without raising taxes to pay for them. Then, when a recession hits, revenue on existing taxes will crater and the budget deficit will explode. Spending will have to be cut drastically since it’s impossible to raise taxes—even more impossible now that there’s a recession. Voila: you’ve reduced the size of government. This seems like a great way to get around the fact that a political agenda centered around the idea that government shouldn’t try to solve people’s problems isn’t actually popular.


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