Which Germany will California be?
The image, as my one demented reader will know, is of my favourite and beautiful aeroscraft. I found it here.
Weimar, Hapsburg or Hitler-lite? The Golden State has been living beyond its means for some time. California, once one of the world's largest economies, had a debt rating last March worse than that of Kazakhstan. This in itself is not surprising since Kazakhstan is one of the doors to central Asia's oil riches, but it is, I suppose, symbolic. Given that ratings agencies and the credit-default market are not only unreliable but perverse, one should also be careful to distinguish projections from reality.
There are, however, other straws in the wind. California's unemployment rate is around 12%. That may go down a little given federal census hiring and the lingering effects of the stimulus, but it's way beyond the glory days. California's budget process, too, is not generally inspiring confidence. The state is $19 billion in the red. Its response? The big money seems to be on massive cuts to aid for children and working women, and the unemployed. Now I know why the budget is released in the summer; sleeping on beaches and in the streets doesn't strike the conscience then, I guess.
In the face of all this, one would politics to go nuts. It did in the past. During the last Depression, California was a hotbed of reform. In some ways, it was at the leading edge of both progressivism and fascism. Upton Sinclair's socialist response to the 'permanent crisis', the 'EPIC' programme, won 37% of gubernatorial votes for example. But for a progressive candidate, Sinclair's ideas would probably have been put into action over there.
A far darker vein was mined by Catholic media antisemites, in league with a reformed KKK and attached to pro-Nazi silvershirts. The not-so-underground appeal of the darker parts of the white id led to more than a few moral fiascos. Some two million Mexicans were deported by 'hack' administrations desperate to garner grassroots support, for example.
All quite depressing. It's interesting to note how many major American figures emerged from this milieu, though, such as Earl Warren, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, as well as Pat Brown, to name a few. These names, I suppose, are signs to the historian that better days can emerge from troubled ones. You may be surprised that I put Nixon in there, but he was a Keynesian who took on the major international financial interests, built up welfare, introduced detente, and ended the Vietnam war, albeit in a messy and dishonest way. You match that with the record of many of the fake candidates since.
So what's happening this time? We've learned, right? I mean, people have grown. The response to the last depression could never be repeated.
It so happens that California is at the minute a primary state. Governor Schwarzenegger, for whom I have some affection, is to be replaced. The challengers on his own side include a race-baiting anti-immigrant candidate and a fabulously wealthy silicon valley liberal who had barely bothered to vote in the past three decades. She has pumped some eighty million dollars, a large part of which is her own money, into the political race.
In the Senate race, another fabulously rich woman whose risible campaign attack ads seem to involve dressing up as sheep and lying, is challenging a hack and a Tea Party person called Chuck. Chuck was a college student in Lebanon a long time ago, and because he witnessed some shooting from a safe distance and has worn a military uniform at weekends he is pretending to be some sort of Horatius at the Golden Gate. I suppose Horatius was accompanied by Spurious. By Chuck's reckoning, I have been involved in several gunfights in DC and the drug scene in Harlem. I had an uncle in Derry who was on the toilet when a bomb went off decades ago, and am therefore a survivor of trauma too.
Meantime, on the Democrat side, a 72-year old Carter era survivor once known justifiably as Governor Moonbeam is being treated as the heir presumptive by Business magazines. Ronald Reagan, like George W Bush, spent like a drunken sailor and just escaped before the proverbial eschatology hit the bevelled concentric device for the circulation of air; the most that can be said for Jerry Brown is that he did it less.
What a mess. With a political system like this, are Californians taking control of the system for themselves? The answer is no. The reason is the unholy trinity that distinguishes this depression from the last; debt, the political-media class, and a much more alienated, disorganised citizenry.
Debt is a fantastic social control device. People focus on the basic drive to raise money to keep their unearned homes over their head, and to pay off interest, rather than focussing on wages and payments. Debts stop people organising, and mass action to refuse them is practically impossible. Usurers now control our governments.
Do you have any idea, reader, how many Americans are drowning in an unpayable sea of student debt, which cannot be defaulted? The figures are shocking.
Politicians and media types schooled in the incestuous and circular world of the political science and economics classrooms, with their accepted and faith-based verities, won't offer any solutions that involve undermining it; and forty years of social dissolution and narcissism mean that very few people outside of the working class and immigrant groups who are shut out anyway have the moral strength to do anything about things.
That's the contrast with the past that most strikes me. Still, at least no one is talking up the Klan. I notice that Glenn Beck has effectively alembicated Coughlin and the Strasserites though.
Oh, I don't know. California will probably save itself; the state that produced both Napoleon Hill and Emperor Norton is probably fairly hard to kill. America has always been about sorry slates of candidates, and the people have been the ones who saved it, time and again. That's why the Congress was invented, as anyone who has read the Federalist Papers knows--not to concentrate virtue but to corral vice.
Those Americans have their work cut out in California this time.