Friday, March 19, 2010

California Dreamin’

I don’t know about you, but the IDEA of California for me has, for a long time, represented the great possibilities of America.

Maybe it was Grapes of Wrath in 9th grade or the idea of Tinseltown.

But, I suspect, in the American psyche that California holds a special position among states.

And, building off that, the citizens of California bought into the vision in an effort to create an American Utopia.

California, in my mind, was always a glimpse of where America would be in 5-10-15 years.

Usually, that was an exciting or good thing.

Now, it’s not.

I was in LA for three days and discovered a state where the surface still looks good; People, beautiful weather, activity, but underneath, the structure is rotting.

My hosts own a construction company that does work for the state. Their chief complaint? Unions.

“I can hire an electrician for $14 per hour, but if I am doing a job for the state, I have to use someone from the union. Know what they make? $71 per hour!

I don’t care, really, because the markup is the same, but that $57 per hour per electrician that the state is paying out of taxpayer money that they don’t have to. It’s just a huge shame.”

Then, he pointed out the other side of the equation (for him). “Illegal immigrants.”

“50% of the people in this area are illegal. They are consuming services, but not paying taxes. I don’t care,” he said, “about the message it sends if we just make everyone legal. At least this way, we’ll get the money. Right now, fewer and fewer people are paying to support more and more people. It just doesn’t work.”

So, on the one hand, less revenue. On the other hand, more expenditures to support more services. And, add a hugely inefficient union-centered state system and you have a recipe for disaster.”

This wasn’t one person’s rant alone. It was repeated again, and again, and again.

So, what happens?

As one woman said to me, “well, either we figure out a way to get more money, spend less….or, well, we’re screwed.”

Not the California Dream of yesteryear.

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