Sunday, January 27, 2013

Jerry Brown vs. Orange County

Jerry Brown has been on something of a victory lap, having declared the state budget to be balanced after years of red ink - and if you look at the numbers the right way, and assume he will collect all of the new taxes "we" (don't look at me, paleface) have have just levied on ourselves, he might be technically right. But, question him about how spending actually increases under his "austere" budget, and it's bash-the-GOP time:

Something has changed, even as our society has become wealthier. Sure businesses have to comply with regulations and millionaires need to pay taxes, but somewhere we’ve shifted from honoring success to envying it, from viewing government as a limited tool to achieve a few necessary things (infrastructure, enforcing the rule of law) to seeing it as the be-all and end-all of our society. 
Why is it assumed by these moralistic Affluence Police that the rich are mainly greedy people who spend their money on luxury goods? Charities and non-profits are funded by wealthy people. Real capitalists invest millions of dollars into ideas and often create good jobs in the process. I have no idea what Mickelson does with his money, but it isn’t any of my business. Given California governmental attitudes, one can’t blame him for looking elsewhere. 
For instance, during a recent Capitol press conference, the Orange County Register’s Sacramento reporter asked Gov. Jerry Brown about the spending increases in his supposedly austere budget. Brown joked about there being no hope for Orange County readers, according to a Register editorial. Then he mocked “this doctrine that government is the problem,” which he said is promoted by the “Orange County Register or whoever all these people are.”

Har! Har! Look, "Jerry" (first name Edmund), I know state liberals have been dumping on Orange County and the Orange County Register for decades. That's not surprising, as O.C. has long been a conservative enclave and the OCR one of the few reliably right-leaning newspapers of any note. And, certainly the California GOP has not covered itself in electoral glory over the past 15 years, but there's something about Orange County, and similar right-leaning communities in California that you might not want to hear about:

They work a hell of a lot better than the rest of the state, which has been in the hands of Democrats and Democrat-lite Republicans for the better part of two decades.

Now, it may be I know more about Orange County than you do, "Jerry." The Free Will grandparents lived there for decades. The Free Will Father lived there Richard Nixon-style; meaning he grew up in a house his father built. Heck, for all I know, I've visited Anaheim/Orange County more times than the current governor of the California. As far as I'm concerned, the Republican hellhole of Orange County has always been orderly, clean, and decent; the proto-typical suburban community where you would want to raise kids. Not only that, it was always more reflective of the Republican Party as the party of hard-working strivers than the cartoon image of the GOP as a plutocracy riding snake handlers and bigots to election day victory.

I hadn't been down there in several years until this past summer when the family made a pilgrimage to Disneyland. I was curious how Orange was doing after so many years of state-wide economic distress. Well, I shouldn't have worried. De-plane at John Wayne Airport, get in your rental car, head out to the highway, and what do you find? Some of the smoothest, most sophisticated highways in the world. We're talking 12-lane highways with elaborate lane markings, no doubt developed by some of the most forward thinking traffic engineers in the world. "Green" Bay Area highways have car pool lanes that are restricted during rush hour. "Evil polluter"  Orange County has car pool exits with miles long off ramps. The car pool lanes are permanent, of course, set off by special lane markings. And the traffic flows smoothly. I drove into morning rush hour traffic heading to LA, and moved quickly towards my destination.

I'm sure there are "crappy" parts of Orange County, and LA sophisticates will be happy to point them out to you, but I went through a number of towns - Torrance, Long Beach, Newport Beach, & Anaheim to name a few. Each one looked safe, clean and well-organized. There is a certain sterile quality at work, which generally means (1) no gaudy "landmarks" or public art and (2) no hipster neighborhoods* with their attendant restaurants, and drunks. Frankly, I know where to go if I want to find either of the above

But, here's the best part:

When you cross the border from Orange County to LA County - that's glamorous, progressive LA County, mind - everything changes. The six-lane highway immediately narrowed to four. Traffic came to a complete standstill. The bright, shining communities suddenly turned gray and cluttered. Smoke seemed to belch all around me. The radio switched from "Fun, Fun, Fun" to "Hell's Bells." And, the traffic didn't let up for one minute of the day. It's no wonder so many Hollywood types are convinced that global warming will destroy the world. They are living in a hellhole.

LA County, in other words, doesn't "work" as well as the dread Orange. I could say the same for Santa Barbara and the Central Coast, which are also filled with Republicans, and which are also orderly and prosperous. I'm not even going to discuss the Bay Area, whose highways and public services are simply pitiful compared to what they do in "you didn't build that" Orange County.

Orange County certainly isn't perfect, and it's not nearly as Republican as it used to be, but it's clear that right-leaning governance - or at least governance that operates efficiently and economically - can work better than the grim, re-distributionist liberal model. Maybe you can gin up a crowd in the ghetto/barrio/trailer park, and get them p***ed at "the rich," but those poor people would be better off in Anaheim working at a McDonalds than they would be in LA collecting a check.

Jerry Brown and other liberals can make all the snotty comments they want about the market, the OC Register and "Tricky Dick from Yorba Linda," but they can't get away from the fact that they can't do their jobs as well as the people they disparage.

* I was amused to drive by the Vans corporate HQ, complete with checkboard facade and Warped Tour bus parked out front. Do they play the Circle Jerks over the PA system?

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