Balkinization  

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Newsnotes from our "little laboratories of experimentation"

Sandy Levinson

Constitutional design buffs should certainly find much of interest in today's newspapers, especially with regard to the oft-argued role of American states as "little laboratories of experimentation." One state is offering us an example of American-style "constitutional dictatorship," while another demonstrates in spades the ravages of a dysfunctional constitution.

First, on "constitutional dictatorship," there is, somewhat surprisingly, Minnesota, where Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a favorite of the Repblican right wing (assuming there is anything else than a right wing in the GOP these days) is apparently going to use all of his powers under the Minnesota have exercised such powers, but Pawlenty's exercise in unilateral government seems to be of a different magnitude. Perhaps we should view Minnesota as having the equivalent of a Weimar Constitution Article 48, the "emergency powers clause" that allowed the president to govern by fiat. Throughout the 1920s, it was invoked more than 200 times to respond to the economic crisis. Pawlenty is sounding the same theme, as he prepares to slash spending on all sorts of public services. The fact that this will increase his attractiveness to the Republican Right, for the 2012 presidential race that has already begun, is, of course, an added benefit, since one doubts that he is banking on a political future within Minnesota itself (which didn't give him a majority at the last election; he was elected, as was Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, only because of the presence of third-party candidates). One might also look forward to whether he will refuse to certify Al Franken's election to the Senate even after the Minnesota Supreme Court, like all other Minnesota courts, says that he has won. Whoever thought that Minnesota would be the leading example of a 21st-century version of "constitutional dictatorship" among the American states?

Then there is California. The headline of today's story in the New York Times is "California, a Broke State, Reels as Voters Rebuff Leaders," detailing the refusal of the small minority of California voters who turned out to support a variety of last-ditch budget measures. Consider, though, the lead paragraphs of the story:

Direct democracy has once again upended California — enough so that the state may finally consider another way by overhauling its Constitution for the first time in 130 years.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger returned home from a White House visit on Wednesday to find the state dangerously broke, his constituents defiant after a special election on Tuesday and calls for a constitutional convention — six months ago little more than a wonkish whisper — a cacophony.

As the notion of California as ungovernable grows stronger than ever, Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has expressed support for a convention to address such things as the state’s arcane budget requirements and its process for proliferate ballot initiatives, both of which necessitated Tuesday’s statewide vote on budget matters approved months ago by state lawmakers.

California has been a "laboratory of experimentation" in all sorts of ways, most notably, probably, in the frequency of the use of the direct initiative and referendum. But it also, notably, has a two-thirds requirement to pass a budget, which has been fatal in the present polarized polity. What I, of course, find especially interesting is that more-and-more people realize tht the California constitution is seriusly dysfunctional and are willing to call for a constitutional convention. There appears to be increasingly little "veneration" for the 1879 constitution. Contrast this with our dysfunctional national Constitution, where not even policy wonks are willing to connect any dots and whisper about the possibility of assessing our 1787 Constitution. What will it take for the American citizenry to "reel" and consider the possibilities that even charismatic leaders (like Arnold Schwarzenegger?) cannot overcome a political system that is dangerously tilted toward stasis (save, of course, for Schmittian exercises of decisionmaking by the Federal Reserve Board)?

Comments:

Sandy:

Minnesota is not an example of a "constitutional dictatorship." In fact, Pawlenty is threatening to use an unallotment statute enacted by the legislature which empowers the commissioner of finance and the governor to cut previously alloted spending when there is a shortfall of revenues and the legislature has not yet acted to reduce spending. Pawlenty is not exercising a constitutional power.

As a staunch opponent of "constitutional dictatorship," I would have thought that you would be residing on the other end of the scale and support direct democracy in the form of the California initiative process.

Is your problem with the Governor of Minnesota and the People of California less the form of government and more that they both rejected additional taxes to fund your preferred welfare state?
 

The basic underlying problem with the California constitution is the exact opposite of the one you decry in the US Constitution. It is much too easy to amend. The ballot initiative has make constitutional amendments no more difficult than ordinary legislation. The California constitution has become so encrusted with amendments that it has slowly taken almost all discretion from the legislature and made California ungovernable.
 

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EL's comment highlights one of the significant problems with the CA Constitution, but there are two others which are even more important: the requirement for a 2/3 vote to pass a budget; and a requirement for a 2/3 vote to pass local tax increases.

While the initiative process is a case of perhaps too much democracy, the 2/3 rules are examples of no democracy at all. It's rule by a minority, and as Lincoln said, “A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible. The rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.”

I'd say CA is proving the truth of this daily.
 

Bart DePalma said:

Is your problem with the Governor of Minnesota and the People of California less the form of government and more that they both rejected additional taxes to fund your preferred welfare state?

I think this is the sort of thing that Orin Kerr (The Volokh Conspiracy) was referring to when he told Bart that “the quality of the analysis and your civility are both below average” and “I haven't banned you, but I've certainly read your stuff and cringed.”

Of course, we all have myriad examples of Bart’s cringe inducing posts here. Maybe it comes from spending so much of his time defending drunks.
 

Professor Levinson,

I think I can answer your question about "what will it take?" It will probably have to get so bad that the people who walk around with voices in their heads (and not merely ear-bud headphones tuned in to Rush) telling them how evil the Democrats are realize that something must be done.

We've had floods, we've had war, we're having pestilence now, all attributable or worsened by the operations of a minority party which stubbornly refuses to participate in government through compromise.

As majority leader in the state house Pawlenty pushed through the tax cuts enacted during the late nineties, which drained the "rainy day fund" in subsequent years, leading to the current situation, in which revenues have fallen far short.

His actions, no matter how well-intentioned, are going to be seen by a large segment of the public as dictatorial. This will inevitably extend beyond those who will be negatively affected by his slashing of services, such as the ability to get a reasonably-priced college degree, police and fire protection, and bridge and road repairs. Minnesota has a large number of people who just don't like prima donnas, and Pawlenty is positioning himself to don the biggest prima donna outfit in the state.

It appears quite obvious that he's given up on any political future in Minnesota and is angling to be the national GOP's next "strong man". It will be interesting to see how the citizens of Minnesota feel, in the next election, about being spun, rinsed, and hung out to dry by the GOP for federal electoral advantage. The Minnesota GOP may be committing a form of suicide, thanks to Pawlenty and Coleman.

It might be more possible to modify a state constitution to start. I suggest Minnesota, as a state that is generally willing to try something new. After having budgetary impasses in virtually every session, culminating in the elevation of Tiny Tim to dictator, we might reach the point where an alternative begins to be truly attractive.
 

A fundamental difference is that it's quite just to blame California's problems on California's constitution, because the state government is actually obeying it.

By contrast, there's a certain injustice to blaming the federal Constitution on our present difficulties, when it's observed so much in the breach.
 

Hank:

If you can find a common denominator in Sandy's Minnesota and California examples apart from a failure to raise taxes to pay for their respective welfare states, I would be pleased to hear it.

This seem to be the complaint amongst posters in response.
 

Is your problem with the Governor of Minnesota and the People of California less the form of government and more that they both rejected additional taxes to fund your preferred welfare state?The problem in California is that the citizens reject additional taxes to fund THEIR preferred welfare state.

In the end, you can have big government and higher taxes, or small government and lower taxes. But you can't have big government and lower taxes.

And that's why ballot initiatives aren't such a great idea.
 

Pawlenty has taken 40 percent of the total (for K-12 ed) off the table as untouchable, which means he'll cut more than 20 percent from the remaining sources. Of the funds to be cut, 1 percent represents welfare spending, so he'll need to cut welfare by 10,000 percent.

"Welfare state" indeed.

I like the sound of "Minnesota Parliament". I'd suggest that we get Jesse Ventura on the job. I think he'd enjoy the challenge.
 

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Dilan:

You will always find a majority support for government welfare when that majority do not have to pay for it. This reality is why Obama plans to borrow Trillions to finance his wildly expanded federal welfare state. However, California is broke and its credit rating is at junk bond levels. Thus, the state had to go to its People to pay for the welfare state and the People told them no.

C2H50H said...

Pawlenty has taken 40 percent of the total (for K-12 ed) off the table as untouchable, which means he'll cut more than 20 percent from the remaining sources. Of the funds to be cut, 1 percent represents welfare spending, so he'll need to cut welfare by 10,000 percent.

The welfare state includes all redistribution of wealth from the public in transfer payments and subsidies to politically favored groups, not just AFDC. Outside of infrastructure and police, most of modern government is a welfare state. For example, the largest expenditure for a state outside of education and by far the most rapidly growing is the welfare program of Medicaid. Start there.
 

You will always find a majority support for government welfare when that majority do not have to pay for it. This reality is why Obama plans to borrow Trillions to finance his wildly expanded federal welfare state. However, California is broke and its credit rating is at junk bond levels. Thus, the state had to go to its People to pay for the welfare state and the People told them no.You are missing the other side of this, though, Bart. Try getting through an initiative that repeals minimum spending requirements for K-12 education, or cuts highway or mass transit construction funding, or repeals Three Strikes.

We have voters who vote for a free lunch, every time. Higher spending, lower taxes.
 

Dilan:

Your current tax revenues more than pays for schools, transportation and prisons - all of which are services to the general public and not redistribution.

Your fellow Californians are not as stupid as you make them out to be. They know the requested tax increase was going to pay for your incredibly boated welfare state.
 

Bart,

The real problem is that everyone wants to cut wasteful government spending but no one wants their own program to be the one to take the cuts. Inevitably, people's protectiveness of their own program outweighs their hostility to government spending.

Try proposing a budget to the people of California (or any other state for that matter) that eliminates 100% of all government spending on anything but schools, transportation and prisons, and I am betting you would run into just as much resistence as to a tax increase.
 

EL:

Even Dems have to live within their means when manacled by strong constitutional requirements.

The Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights limits spending increases to inflation plus population growth and prohibits tax increases except when the citizenry agrees to raise the limits in an election.

Colorado's government went from red to purple to blue with all the Dem California refugees coming here. However, you can hardly tell the difference in the state government because the voters have shot down nearly every Dem attempt to raise taxes and spending under TABOR. Dems without other people's money to spend are simply "empathetic" Republicans.

Tellingly, none of the California Dems are leaving Colorado to return to the Left Coast because they miss the government services. They seem to do just fine managing their own money like adults.

Instead, there is a constant flow of economic refugees who are fleeing from states with punitive tax codes like California to low tax states like Colorado and taking their businesses and jobs with them.
 

Yet, oddly enough, Colorado does spend money on other things besides schools, prisons and roads. Tell you what. Why don't you run for state legislature on a platform of eliminating all spending except on these three items. You might win in a district like Woodland Park. But somehow I don't think your proposal would be too popular in the state as a whole.
 

EL:

Precisely.

Short of a truth in political advertising law requiring budget office certification of the cost of each program politicians promise on the campaign trail, strict constitutional caps on government spending, taxing and borrowing without a vote of the people is the next best solution to politicians promising government services for free.
 

Bart DePalma said:

If you can find a common denominator in Sandy's Minnesota and California examples apart from a failure to raise taxes to pay for their respective welfare states, I would be pleased to hear it.

This seem to be the complaint amongst posters in response.


Posters? That is true only if we count your multiple posts as different people. You are the only one complaining about “welfare states”.

Your political filter apparently only allows you to see things in extreme terms: “welfare states”, “lying bitch”, “traitors”, the list goes on.

The common denominator of Sandy’s examples is state government working badly due to laws that are on the extremes. In Minnesota, you have one person (the governor) with the power to unilaterally shape the budget. In California, you have a law that requires 2/3 majority to pass a budget, an almost impossible task, and a state initiative process that has run amuck.

The California initiative process, which had the laudable goal of giving citizens a direct voice in the government, is broken. I doubt that the originators ever conceived of there being anywhere up to 2 dozen initiatives on every state ballot. Most citizen do not have the expertise or the time to educate themselves on this many potential laws.

The initiative process has been taken over by special interest groups who hire workers to collect signatures, rather than the grass roots efforts that were originally anticipated. Many of the initiatives are either poorly written, or deliberately written in such a way that voters are confused as to whether a “Yes” or “No” vote will give the desired result.

Back in the 1960s, California was widely considered to have the best public school system in the country. Due to in large part Proposition 13, California’s public school system is now ranked in the bottom decile, below Alabama.

While you probably consider yourself a self-made man, I notice that you attended public universities, both as an undergraduate and for law school. You apparently have no problem taking advantage of the “welfare state” when it is to your advantage.
 

Bart DePalma said:

Tellingly, none of the California Dems are leaving Colorado to return to the Left Coast because they miss the government services. They seem to do just fine managing their own money like adults.

How do you know why they aren’t leaving Colorado to return to California? Have you asked all of them?

When I lived in California, the only reason I ever heard from people for leaving was the cost of living. They were not talking about taxes, but the incredible cost of housing. The fact that the California public school system is now ranked as worse than Alabama’s might also have something to do with it.
 

Your current tax revenues more than pays for schools, transportation and prisons - all of which are services to the general public and not redistribution.Bart, stay in Colorado and don't talk about California. It's not worth explaning to you and you don't know what you are talking about.
 

Hank Gillette said...

Bart DePalma said: If you can find a common denominator in Sandy's Minnesota and California examples apart from a failure to raise taxes to pay for their respective welfare states, I would be pleased to hear it.

The common denominator of Sandy’s examples is state government working badly due to laws that are on the extremes.

Working badly?

To this free marketeer, government appeared to be working well in both cases.

To believe that these are examples of government working badly, you must be upset that they failed to raise taxes to pay for their respective welfare states.

I think you proved my point.

How do you know why they aren’t leaving Colorado to return to California?

Colorado is a net growth state and the largest source of our new citizens is California.

California has been driving out its citizens for a decade now and replacing them with foreign immigrants, mostly illegals.

While I would love for the California Dems to go home and return my red state to me, it appears instead there will be more coming.
 

Prop. 13 would have had ZERO impact on California schools if it weren't for illegal immigrants. It's time to face that reality head on.
 

P.S. to Dilan: I've lived in California my entire life. I think that Bart is making some very good points about our State.
 

This is somewhat off topic, perhaps quite a bit, but Sandy's desire for a Constitutional Convention came to mind as I read John Gardner's "Can There Be a Written Constitution?" available via SSRN at:

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1401244

Beginning at page 26 he discussed problems or obstacles in calling an Article V Convention. The entire article has a bit of whimsy in discussing the "unwritten" British Constitution and the U.S. Constitution, including the selection of a SCOTUS nominee (that is discussed by other posts at this Blog without comments because of Justice Souter's resignation). At page 36:

"The only possible reason for choosing a textualist Supreme Court nominee over a purposivist, or an originalist-texualist over a strict-constructionist-textualist, or a original-intent-originalist, or indeed a baggist over a raggist, is that each of them, or at any rate each of them in combination with some like-kinded judges, will have the power to change the law of the constitution by giving the constitution a meaning different from the one that it would have under the authority of a judge or a combination of judges from some rival camp."

Then, at page 37:

"And since judges are fallible human beings like the rest of us it had to be that way. So even if one says, crazily, that judicial law-making is always erroneous, one cannot avoid reaching the same result: Any Constitution that provides for authoritative adjudications regarding its own application cannot but be to some extent a living constitution, i.e. cannot but contain less law at its inception than it comes to contain later."
 

P.S. to Dilan: I've lived in California my entire life. I think that Bart is making some very good points about our State....

Charles, it's not worth arguing with you either.

The history of California's initiative and budgeting process is well-established. And it supports the conclusion that the voters mandate huge spending programs and pass huge bond measures while also mandating no tax increases.

Bart (and apparently you) would like to believe the spending part of the equation never happened and in fact the California voters are a bunch of people who just want a small government. But there's no evidence of that. California is a liberal state which favors big social programs.

We have just managed to prove that budgeting by ballot initiative doesn't work because the voters are even worse than politicians at making tough decisions.
 

Charles said:

Prop. 13 would have had ZERO impact on California schools if it weren't for illegal immigrants. It's time to face that reality head on.

Are you saying that illegal immigrants were the ones who voted in Prop. 13? That is the only way what you are saying would make any sense.

Proposition 13 resulted in a 57% decrease in revenue from property taxes. How could that have zero effect on anything funded by property taxes?
 

Despite what many politicians say, total property tax revenues to local governments in California have increased at a rate exceeding inflation and virtually all other economic indicators, and, in fact, state and local governments have much more money today than before Proposition 13 passed, even considering inflation and population growth.

Proposition 13 is fair to local governments because it allows for periodic reassessment of property when it changes ownership. New construction and improvements to existing properties also are assessed at current value, which increases revenue to government. The property tax is a stable source of local government revenue — as predictable for the politicians as it is for property owners.

It's true that Proposition 13 has forced local governments to manage their finances better — one reason the initiative had such overwhelming popular support.

Most cities and counties have been very successful under Proposition 13. If some have failed, the problem is not Prop. 13. It's reckless spending, including on ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS!

http://www.hjta.org/
 

Dilan:

You misunderstand me.

1) A heavy majority of Americans will take whatever the government will give them so long as they think that someone else will pay the bill. This is more true with the left than the right and California is definitely a Left Coast state.

2) However, a heavy majority of Americans become born again supporters of small government when they are asked directly to pay for government services from which they themselves will rarely if ever benefit. California is no different in that regard.

3) If your (and Colorado's) initiative system has a major flaw, it is permitting enactment of spending increases without requiring corresponding tax increases to pay for them. If you put a price tag on mandated spending increases, most would fail.
 

Bart, we actually have a little bipartisan agreement here. You are quite right that initiatives should be pay as you go.

Where we disagree is that, at least in California, the public hasn't stopped wanting big government. They just continue to be in denial about what a fiscal mess we are in.

Even now, with all this talk about bankruptcy and federal bailouts and everything else, your typical Californian has no idea what is going on. All he or she knows is that those ballot initiatives on the next ballot guaranteeing a tax cut, or more funding for pre-school, or locking more criminals up, or whatever, all sound good.

We are a state of Neros playing the fiddle.
 

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1) A heavy majority of Americans will take whatever the government will give them so long as they think that someone else will pay the bill. This is more true with the left than the right and California is definitely a Left Coast state.


While those on the rigth will take advantage of government services and then pretend that they don't approve of taking advantage of government services.
 

"rigth" ???
 

oh yes .. the political right would never avail themselves of other peoples' tax money ..

that's why all the red states get more back than they pay in every year .. and then send anti-taxers to congress ..

it must be awfully cramped and dark under that rock ..eh ??

got credibility ??
 

Prop 13 is a homeowner's dream and a citizen's nightmare. And don't get me started on the subsequent lack of correcting market forces in the housing bubble...

I'm all for a constitutional convention, but I have to admit a certain lack of excitement when the process boils down to various business councils pushing through their preferred visions of our future.
 

Just a quick note of thanks to Hank Gillette for attempting to bring the conversation back to the implications of state constitutional provisions (and structures), independently of one's particular partisan views about the goodness or badness of Tim Pawlenty. The point is that Pawlenty, for good or for ill, is claiming the power that we often associate with dictators. The fact that it may (I don't know enough about Minnesota constitutional law to be certain) be perfectly constitutional is what would make Minnesota a "constitutional dictatorship," which is, presumably, preferable to a dictatorship produced by out-and-out-usurpation.
 

Short of a truth in political advertising law requiring budget office certification of the cost of each program politicians promise on the campaign trail, strict constitutional caps on government spending, taxing and borrowing without a vote of the people is the next best solution to politicians promising government services for free.Translation: Bart accuses Prof. Levinson of thinking Minnesota and California are dysfunctional for choosing less taxes and less services than our host sees fit. Meanwhile, Bart thinks the other states (including his own state of Colorado) are dysfunctional for choosing more services and more taxes than Bart sees fit. Bart is outraged, not over our host's purported attempt to dictate voter preferences, but over our host not dictating the voter preferences Bart favors.

(Sorry, Professor).
 

I have a question which I hope is on-topic.

First, some background:

The Minnesota constitution requires that the legislature and governor come to an agreement by a date certain or the legislature is required to adjourn. This would appear to be coercive to producing a compromise, but of course our politicians have found a way around. In past years (the majority of them, lately), the budget battles were not concluded, and the governor was forced to convene a "special session" to conclude the business.

I suspect that the Democrats in the legislature expected this to occur again, and so a game of political chicken took place. The governor resorted to his nuclear option (which, professor Levinson, will be constitutional or not, I suspect, only after years of litigation).

My question:

Clearly, while Minnesota's constitution was designed to foster compromise (unsuccessfully, in this case), California's constitution was not. What other state constitutions have provisions which are "better designed" in the sense of having a means of resolving, without resort to dictatorial -- and possibly unconstitutional -- rule?

I'm not interested, BTW, on what, taxes, spending, or other issues, are the font et origo of disagreement. I'm interested in the means of resolution.
 

Sandy:

How is an executive acting pursuant to statutory authority deciding how to allocate a shortfall of revenues to executive departments in the absence of legislative action in any way "dictatorial?"

Governor Pawlenty hardly gets the final "dictatorial" word here. The Dem legislature can enact a revised budget cutting spending in the departments it pleases to meet the shortfall in revenues. Instead, it wants to raise taxes, but does not have the votes to override a Pawlenty veto. Thus, the Dems do nothing, abdicating the decision to Pawlenty.

An irresponsible Dem legislative hissy fit does not make for a GOP gubernatorial "dictatorship."
 

C2H50H:

The unallotment statute is not a constitutional provision that is absent from other state constitutions. The Dem legislature can repeal what it enacted.

However, even if the unallotment statute did not exist, a governor out of necessity would have to decide how to allocate a shortfall in revenues absent legislative action. This is not dictatorial, but one of the duties we elect an executive to perform.
 

When you get right down to it, Bart's whole argument is a red herring. Suppose states did what he wants, limited spending to law enforcement, schools and roads and (naturally) had lower taxes as a result. What would happen when a severe economic downturn hit? Well, revenues would still fall as a result, so the states would still be faced with the choice between raising taxes and cutting services, just as they are now.
 

Bart,

Apparently you haven't thought it through. Sure, the legislature, with almost a 2/3 majority, could pass a repeal. Which Pawlenty would veto.

Obviously, if they could repeal the law, they could overturn the veto on the tax bill, so they wouldn't need to repeal the law.

I presume, from the dead silence in answer to my question, that no states have anything more likely to force a compromise than Minnesota's constitution. In that case, I suggest hoping that you aren't cursed with a governor with national ambition.

Or you can elect someone who hasn't signed a pledge that basically leaves no room for compromise.
 

Enlightened Layperson:

Suppose states did what [Bart] wants, limited spending to law enforcement, schools and roads ...

You have a point, but I suspect that Bart doesn't want to spend money even on education. The RW tends to say (as others have pointed out above): "It's myyyyyyyy moooonnnneeeyyy", and they want to spend [or not, as they're feeling that day] on things that personally work in their favour. And one thing that is personally not in their favour is educating Other People's children, who might then compete for college slots that belong to their children or get jobs that were meant for their own spawn.... No. Public education is not in the RW's list of civic virtues.

When it comes right down to it, the selfishness exhibited to the Nth degree by the RW -- which makes for the ever-present budget squabbles and schizophrenic fiscal gummint policy -- is what makes trying to run a gummint hard. They don't want to "get along".

Cheers,
 

Hank:

The San Diego Union Tribune had a great op ed yesterday pointing out all the reasons why the voters are not to blame for California's fiscal mess (except indirectly, I guess, by sending Democrats and RINOs back to Sacramento every two years).
 

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Enlightened Layperson said...

When you get right down to it, Bart's whole argument is a red herring. Suppose states did what he wants, limited spending to law enforcement, schools and roads and (naturally) had lower taxes as a result. What would happen when a severe economic downturn hit? Well, revenues would still fall as a result, so the states would still be faced with the choice between raising taxes and cutting services, just as they are now.

If you keep taxes, redistributions and regulations low, creating a favorable business climate, a state's economic and tax revenue downturns are less severe. Compare CA and CO for example.

However, under any tax and spending regime, a wise state will create rainy day funds to avoid imposing economy killing tax increases during a recession.
 

However, under any tax and spending regime, a wise state will create rainy day funds to avoid imposing economy killing tax increases during a recession....

Absolutely right. That's why George W. Bush was terribly irresponsible in decrying Al Gore's "lockbox" and insisting that it was immoral for the government to run surpluses with "your money" in 2000. We should have been saving money in the last 10 years as we were in the 10 years before that. Instead, Bush ran such a huge deficit that when Obama needed to confront a slowdown, he had to increase deficits even more to outrageous levels.
 

Dilan:

There is no provision in the US Constitution to maintain a rainy day fund as there are in many state constitutions. In the good old days of the Gingrich surplus, there was serious discussion of whether it would be lawful for the federal government to hold surplus revenues in a mythical Social Security lock box after the debt was paid off.

That being said, a provision for a rainy day fund in a federal balanced budget amendment would be a very good idea.
 

In the good old days of the Gingrich surplus, there was serious discussion of whether it would be lawful for the federal government to hold surplus revenues in a mythical Social Security lock box after the debt was paid off....

There was no such discussion. Actually, Bush-- who wanted to spend the Clinton surplus on tax cuts and Medicare prescription drugs-- had political allies argue that it would be UNWISE for the government to pay off the national debt because that would force the government to own private securities (despite the fact that it already does so).

But nobody EVER argued that setting aside government surpluses was illegal. And we should have done it. Instead, Bush tore apart everything that Clinton (and yes, Gingrich too) had so carefully constructed. And that has made our current problems worse.
 

Does our resident LLB* note:

"In the good old days of the Gingrich surplus, ...."

with his tongue in cheek - or elsewhere?

Details, please. Of course we know that Gingrich has had a trove of trophy wives over the years and that the Eye of Newt may still be roving. But exactly what is the "Gingrich surplus"? Were those the "good old days" of the Clinton Administration? Or was it Gingrich's surplus of chutzpah?

And by the Bybee, exactly why did Newt resign?

*Little Lisa's bro
 

If you keep taxes, redistributions and regulations low, creating a favorable business climate, a state's economic and tax revenue downturns are less severe.

This is a statement of religious belief which also happens to be egregious nonsense. Boom & bust cycles are more severe, not less, under laissez-faire regimes.

Bart's tenacious pollution of these comment threads is sufficient evidence of his mental illness.
 

**Whoops. Here's a cite to a quizzical speech by Charles Murray which serves to illustrate my point.
 

Mattski:

There are no laissez faire states. Rather, states with more or less onerous government taxation and economic restrictions - the relatively free vs. the relatively unfree.

Arthur Laffler wrote a report entitled "Rich States, Poor States," comparing the economic performance and migration patterns between 1997 and 2007 of the relatively free vs. the relatively unfree states and the differences are stark. The productive are fleeing unfree states to the free states and fueling far more rapid growth in the gaining states.

As for the ability to weather national recessions, compare the latest unemployment rates in Laffler's top ten free states and bottom ten unfree states:

MOST FREE:

1) UT 5.2%
2) CO 7.4%
3) AZ 7.7%
4) VA 6.8%
5) SD 4.8%
6) WY 4.5%
7) NV 10.6%
8) GA 9.3%
9) TN 9.9%
10) TX 6.7%

Avg. by State: 7.29%

LEAST FREE:

1) NY 7.7%
2) VT 7.1%
3) RI 11.1%
4) ME 7.9%
5) NJ 8.4%
6) OH 10.2%
7) IL 9.4%
8) CA 11.0%
9) PA 7.8%
10) HI 6.9%

Avg. by State: 8.75%

The only double digit unemployment rate in a top ten free state is NV, which was one of the handful of states that was part of the mortgages mess.

Also, the unfree states are very likely ameliorating their unemployment rates somewhat as even more of their citizens leave looking for jobs in more business friendly states.
 

Is it cherry-picking season already? When the data point chosen is a "top ten" versus a "bottom ten" using a carefully-chosen metric, it's pretty obviously cherry-picking that you are seeing.

After all, natural variance, and the differences between the industries and businesses among the state, couldn't possibly account for the tiny difference in a highly volatile measure like the official "unemployment rate" in the middle of a massive recession...

I'm sure the highly educated people working on the cutting edge of technology are flocking to SD, WY, and TN. I, myself, won't be leaving the local area to look for work there, as I know from long experience that the opportunity in those places is pathetic, but I'll wish my competition bon voyage.

While it will be uncomfortable to live in a dictatorship, it will pass in a couple of years, and the backlash is likely to present opportunities outside the culture of corporate greed that Laffer and Moore worship. (Bart, notice the spelling of the name of that first author.)

I'd like to thank Mattski for his link. That link led me to another link to an article which described "Donner Party Conservatives", which pretty accurately captures the soul of the conservative viewpoint as presented here by Bart -- although I think he's more of an "I got mine" conservative.
 

Two of my first blog posts were inspired by Murray's sppech.

http://justthinking-s.blogspot.com/2009/03/grass-is-greener-and-more-authentic.html

http://justthinking-s.blogspot.com/2009/03/well-that-was-rant.html
 

Paul Krugman's OpEd in today's NYTimes has some worrying thoughts on California's situation and its implications upon the nation.
 

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