NEWS BLOG (WSAU) I will try not to be depressed about the political scene for 2010. But it's hard to be optimistic in the face of the latest op-ed from David Ignatius (read it here: http://tinyurl.com/yfn7jg9) on the "Californiaization" of government and politics. And, he points out, when you factor in Wisconsin's population, state economy, and overall state finances, our budget shortfall was worse than California's.
Ignatius' comments don't go far enough. Many of the trends in California are spreading across the country. There's no state that has more arduous business regulations that California. Regulations have been increasing elsewhere. The language-gap is a huge problem in California, with entire neighborhoods and communities where almost no English is spoken. The number of non-English speakers is increasing elsewhere. The gap between government services that are promised or demanded by voters, and the ability to pay for it is growing wider.
In the past, I've tried not be be alarmist over deficits and national debt. The outlook always gets better when the economy rebounds. Boom years like we saw in the early 90s can generate enough economic growth to wipe out the entire deficit. But several factors are changing the equation. We are adding a new entitlement program (health care), we will have new demands on existing social problems (Medicare and social security as more baby-boomers retire), and taxes on businesses and the wealthy (investment drivers) will be higher.
I suppose there's good news and bad news. Good that states have to balance their books from one budget to the next. They have a day of reckoning, however painful, at the start of every fiscal cycle. Bad that the U.S. government does not have to balance its books. For our nation, the day or reckoning is still coming, and the results will be more painful.
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