65. Waist deep in the Big Muddy

The California Legislature will adopt a 2009-2010 fiscal year budget on Thursday.

It will be a budget that commits the California to regressive principles of taxation that will further undermine the state's declining middle class. It will be a budget that enshrines denial of service as a principle of California governance. It will be a cowardly budget that will drain about $4.4 billion from cities and counties that are struggling themselves. It will be a budget that mocks President Obama's efforts at economic stimulus. It will be a budget that kicks the state's fiscal problems down the road "? and into a pothole.

Characteristically, the budget will represent the worst aspects of an ungovernable state. There will be no genuine public scrutiny of the terms of the deal in advance of a cynical up-or-down vote. There will only be disgust.

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Like a typical "failed state," California now looks only to the financial markets, not to the good of its residents, to define its purpose. Said Assembly Republican Leader Sam Blakeslee, "We want to have a budget which ultimately is going to meet the test the markets have."

Californians may have a different test in mind "? one with unknowable consequences. Rewriting the state constitution (last undertaken in the 1870s) is still seen as a possibility by many on both the left and the right.

Kevin Starr, who remembers with brilliant clarity the promise of the American dream in mid-20th century California, asked Patt Morrison of the Los Angeles Times recently "Why is it 50 or 60 years ago we had the capacity to lay down the physical, psychological, cultural, public infrastructure of a global mega-state, and today we are on the verge of being Honduras?"

Why? Perhaps because Californians have failed California.

The image on this page was taken by Flickr user Thomas Hawk. It was used under a Creative Commons license.

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