Obama Takes Southern California


There's a great deal of truth in Los Angeles magazine editor Kit Rachlis's complaints in its new issue, that Los Angeles folk tend to be uninterested in politics. But when the freshly-minted leader of the Free World comes to town, it's pretty big news for everyone, from all my friend's Facebook updates about overhead choppers and street closures accompanying President Obama's trip last week around Southern California, to media coverage of what his visit--and more importantly, what his administration's current stimulus plans--will mean for us here.

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The Los Angeles Times got to the heart of Obama's California influence baldly:

Obama...holds the upper hand by virtue not just of his popularity, but also billions in federal money....Obama has not been shy about advertising his administration's largesse.

....his two-day stop was replete with offerings. On Wednesday in Costa Mesa, he said his stimulus plan would promote an additional lane on the ever-crawling 91 Freeway. On Thursday in Los Angeles, he announced that the state would receive $145 million in housing grants to help communities threatened by home foreclosures.

The White House released a compendium of "funding for California in the first 30 days" since the stimulus package was signed. Included: $8.6 billion for schools, $2.6 billion for highways, $2 billion for Medi-Cal relief, $1.1 billion for housing, $1 billion for mass transit and billions more in smaller disbursements.

The state of California has created its own web site, tracking how much federal largesse is coming the state's way, and where it is going. The Times also reports on how even supposedly locally targeted stimulus spending will likely have whatever effect they have outside the locality, since "city officials are not allowed to give preference to local firms when using federal dollars."

Regardless of federal efforts, UCLA economists are predicting at least two years of economic stagnation for the state, "with job growth finally rebounding to pre-recession levels in 2011....the labor market [expected] to shrink 2.6 percent this year and 0.6 percent in 2010 before expanding by 1.8 percent in 2011."

For some background on how the state got into its current fiscal troubles such that the federal money Obama promises seems so vital, see former L.A. Times editor, and currently editor-in-chief at Reason (where I work as a senior editor) Matt Welch on how Gov. Schwarzenegger hasn't turned out to be the tough fiscal conservative he promised when he ran against Gray Davis's supposed profligacy.

The image associated with this post was taken by Flickr user Calijbrown. It was used under user Creative Commons license.

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