Tuesday, July 23, 2013

California and Rhode Island: Two States in a Bad State

Why does a California Conservative insist on dishing on politics in Rhode Island? He has not yet set foot in the state, but he would love to visit and share a cup of cocoa with Rhode Island crowds, if they let him. Some think that I am a “crazy evangelical in a cult”, that I should mind my own business in my own state.

Some think that “goLocalprov” has lost its bearing in letting “a right-wing nut” contribute.

Frankly, even though I have not visited the Ocean State, as a resident in California I have recognized that both states face the same state of dependency, political turmoil, and economic malaise. In a sense, I feel that I practically live in Rhode Island, since the same political and cultural plaguing my state mirror the upheavals in Rhode Island, although not as badly (so far).

Let’s get the obvious differences out of the way for the sake of argument. California is the largest state, taking up nearly one thousand miles of oceanfront property along the West Coast. The rugged terrain in the North, the deserts in the South, and the refreshing sea breeze for South Bay residents like me cannot depict a more disparate geographical landscape. California residents can experience all four seasons in the same month, if they wanted to. Still, Californians have shared that the most temperate climate wafts its way in my neighborhood. Are you jealous?

Rhode Island is the smallest state, at least in terms of geography (Wyoming has the smallest population). Rhode Island experiences all four seasons during those seasons. Deeply connected to US History, Rhode Island was one of the Original Thirteen Colonies, the first state founded on absolute religious toleration, the last colony to ratify the United States Constitution. California is the thirty-first, birthed in a fraught compromise which kept the South from seceding ten years earlier. And California was founded on the quest for gold following Mexico’s defeat in the Mexican-American war. Rhode Island has Roger Williams; California has Aimee Semple MacPherson. Both filled with the Spirit, so to speak, one was kicked out of Massachusetts, while the other founded churches established in the Charismatic Movement.

Now let’s consider generic comparisons. Both states have great beaches and great food. We love to eat ice cream, but Californians would rather spoon some flavored Greek-yogurt and let the Rhode Islanders take the Number Two spot for ice cream consumption. We both have a rich immigrant heritage, one which first represented Southern European communities, yet which has now shifted toward a heavily Hispanic cohort.

Our states are currently governed by sons of former governors. As of now, both Governors are Democrats (Oh Brother!) More importantly, both fathers were Republicans. While Edmund “Pat” Brown became a Democrat following the rise of FDR and the New Deal, John Chafee remained true to his party, then his son Linc became Independent before joining the Democrats.

Both states have a supermajority Democratic powerbase in the statehouse. California lingered with a strong, anti-Democratic Republican minority, which was able to block tax increases and rate hikes. Rhode Island has suffered with Democratic one-party rule for eighty years, and counting. Still, both states now have nothing but Democrats in every statewide office, yet once in a while both states elect Republican governors to restore order. Both of our House Speakers are openly gay, and voters like me are not “gay” about their being in office. California speaker John Perez served himself and his interests as a state assemblymember, and before that he represented Los Angeles union interests. Gordon Fox represented union interests as he entered politics with the Democrats, and he beat Perez as the first openly gay Speaker by one month (Yawn.)

Both states have struggled with state-wide, public sector pension problems. David Boies, the attorney who represented Rhode Island and counseled General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, first helped out the Bay area city of San Jose, California, located in Silicon Valley, where voters overwhelmingly approved massive pension reforms, despite heavy campaigning by the public sector unions. San Diego also passed an initiative to curb pension obligations, yet remains in legal limbo following strenuous appeals from union interests.

Both states still contend with a heavy union presence, one which intimidates voters with lies and distortions in order to prevent meaningful tax and spending reforms. Both states have huge welfare populations. While California has the largest, with one third of the country’s recipients, based on scale and proportion I would imagine that Rhode Island handles a comparably similar number. Both states struggle with bad schools, in which union interests have superseded the public interest, and especially the students’ interests. Both states have powerful teachers associations which prevent long-term, meaningful reforms. Both states are following the regressive-progressive model of tax rich and pay everyone else: i.e. government workers.

No wonder Travis Rowley described California as “One Big Rhode Island.” At least now I can write that Rhode Island is “A Mini California.” Here’s to a robust resurgence of freedom, liberty, and recovery for the Golden State and Ocean State, a comparison I would like to see.

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