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A Darker Shade of Golden
February 13, 2011 11:35 AM   Subscribe

As California goes, so goes the country, they used to say. Well, yikes. Golden State, an n+1 piece by Nikil Saval, presents a bleak picture of paralysis and conflicted interests that has rendered "The Bellwether State" all but inoperable. (via Arts & Letters Daily)
posted by Trochanter (97 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm no California booster but this piece reads a little shrill and hand-wavey to me. Also, Los Angeles hasn't elected a "right-wing mayor" since Sam Yorty. You'd think someone born there would know that.
posted by blucevalo at 11:46 AM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


But put it into context - nearly every US state has its own form of unhappy politics and painful budget deficits. Including Texas, the state that was supposedly going to replace California as the land of America's future. See e.g. Krugman's recent NYT piece.
posted by Philosopher's Beard at 11:52 AM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


You hit it right on the head. That's exactly what this piece doesn't do is put into context.
posted by blucevalo at 11:56 AM on February 13, 2011


This morning on Fareed Zakaria GPS, the head of JP Morgan Chase said that California's budget deficit is 1% of their GDP. So if they could manage to gain the political will to raise taxes by 1% they could close that budget hole. (I don't know if that is 100% true, that's just what he said)

The problem isn't their drunken-sailor spending ways, its mostly the fact that they want services they don't wan to pay for. Some part of it is the accounting rules that governments work under (different than the private sector's rules) that don't count future obligations (pensions). Its time to fix it all - politicians need the will to raise taxes (at least in the short term) along with working their books like private companies do, counting both present and future obligations.
posted by SirOmega at 12:04 PM on February 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


**CAUTION. CYNICAL, PROBABLY MISINFORMED, AND GENERALLY GROUCHY RANT ABOUT CALIFORNIA. THIS FOLLOWING RANT ALSO BLAMES RICH FOLKS WITH A VERY BROAD BRUSH, EVEN IF THEY MIGHT BE QUITE NICE PEOPLE AND NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR SAID PROBLEMS**

Moved to California 2 years ago from Helsinki. Lived in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, London and Cambridge before this.

I live in Los Angeles.. Marina Del Rey Specifically. California is the definition of a failed state. Broken at a fundamental level through graft, incompetence, political extremism at both ends, and just plain old fucking selfishness.

I'm a game designer by trade, and spent a lot of time on MMO's. Proposition 13 is the kind of rule that is a gamebreaker. Like something you can see a mile away and think, hmm... that's going to destroy everything at some point in the future. You simply don't do shit like that.

Combine it with a society/government/infrastructure that seems to be corrupt as all hell. Not just extremes like Bell, but it feels like everyone is feasting at the government money trough, doing absolutely the bare minimum to avoid getting called out. This isn't a rant about public unions, but more contractors and elected officials. The privatized fuckers who run the day to day operations.

Prop 13 moved the burden from property owners to every other person in the goddamned state. But we don't fix it. We fight about stupid shit, we refuse to consider that maybe, just maybe, people who own a 2 million dollar home should pay their fair share of taxes instead of soaking the poor. Instead, we fight about rv's parking in expensive neighborhoods, criminalization of being homeless, whether or not a black kid can go to school in Beverly Hills.

What we don't do is fix the infrastructure, address the root problem. Everything is focused on making sure you get yours, that rich can live in their comfortable and quiet enclaves while everyone else scrambles for scraps.

I write this while living in the shadow of an enormous high-rise condominium. It is, quite Literally, a fortress. 40 foot sheer walls with no handholds, followed by glass balconies going up to the sky. Armored gates blocking the entrance to underground parking, and multiple levels of security at the front. And this is in Marina Fucking Del Rey. We don't live in a warzone. Is it there for real security? Not really. It's to hide themselves from the grim reality that they are directly responsible for creating.

Is California more broken than other states? Dunno. Does it feel more broken than anywhere else I've ever lived? Most assuredly
posted by Lord_Pall at 12:20 PM on February 13, 2011 [40 favorites]


Florida has a similar pseudo crisis. Our new conservative governor wants to slash every budget he can get his hand on to cover our 3 billion deficit. This will almost certainly result in downsized pensions and benefits for police, firemen, teachers etc. and the loss of needed social services.

To put it in context there are just over 11 million working age persons in Florida (60% of our 18 million population are between 18 and 65). So the deficit works out to just $275 per person ($5 a week). Not exactly a ton of money per working person.

But we don't have income tax, we have home owner's tax.

So, there are 8.8 million housing units which means we could balance the deficit by adding roughly $340 in taxes per unit (3 billion divided by 8.8 million). Again not a ton of money; less than ten dollars a week.

The median household income is 47,802 so the per unit cost of closing the deficit would be 0.7113 percent of the median household income. (My calculations are, I'm sure, simplistic but I think the point is made.)

And yet the only solution that he can countenance is crippling the state.

Awesome!
posted by oddman at 12:29 PM on February 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


What we don't do is fix the infrastructure, address the root problem. Everything is focused on making sure you get yours, that rich can live in their comfortable and quiet enclaves while everyone else scrambles for scraps.

California is no different in this respect than any other of the United States, I can assure you of that. At least in California there is still some lip service paid among some of the political elite for the need to raise taxes, though the likelihood of it happening is not high with a Republican party that has "no new taxes" as its number one starting point.

Most other states have the starting point that taxes should never be discussed in polite company, let alone raised.
posted by blucevalo at 12:33 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem isn't their drunken-sailor spending ways, its [sic] mostly the fact that they want services they don't wan [sic] to pay for.

Uh-huh. Let's address the second part of your statement first: very few people actually want to pay more taxes (some, like Warren Buffett, realize that they should). That's not a special California thing. What makes California special is instead that those who don't want to pay for tax increases have the power to prevent them--Prop 13, voter initiatives and the whole very unique voting setup allows for it. Other states fail to get tax increases at the legislative level, but as is pointed out in the article, California fails to get tax increases at the voter level. Secret ballots lead to messy governing.

As for the first part of your statement, well, I don't even know where to start. Try reading the article, which notes that California has cut billions ($19 billion this past year alone, I believe) for several years in a row with profound impacts felt throughout the state. You should also realize that voter-mandated spending is a significant part of the California budget. K-14 spending is mandated by Prop 98 ("Proposition 98 is an initiative passed in November 1988 and amended in June of 1990 by Proposition 111. It provides a minimum funding guarantee for school districts, community college districts, and other state agencies that provide direct elementary and secondary instructional programs for kindergarten through grade 14 (K–14).") and it's not the only thing mandated in, by, or about the budget.

California, where I was born and raised, is a wonderful state and I loved living there almost enough to be ok with a job that required unpaid furlough days and salary cuts in the form of health care and pension increases. If the state could undo some of the things that are currently paralyzing it--2/3 majority for budget passing, incredible number of propositions mandating contradictory and impossible things, voter initiatives for every damn corporation that comes along (does anyone remember the propositions a couple years ago, I think it was something like 1a and 1b, that had virtually identical wording and totally opposite effects and the corporations were behind the first and community groups the second? Impossible to figure out which way to vote!)
posted by librarylis at 12:34 PM on February 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


--then it could be great again. Hi, Finish My Thought Fairy!
posted by librarylis at 12:35 PM on February 13, 2011


Yea, I live in a different California than Lord_Pall. The climate, environment, opportunities and people are fantastic. It's the center of the tech universe. I moved here from rainy damp dreary Ireland 20 year ago and I'll never leave.
posted by Long Way To Go at 12:38 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know, 12 percent unemployment doesn't seem to scream opportunity. I know what you are getting at, but there's something really wrong going on in CA.
posted by josher71 at 12:41 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Florida has a similar pseudo crisis. Our new conservative governor wants to slash every budget he can get his hand on to cover our 3 billion deficit. This will almost certainly result in downsized pensions and benefits for police, firemen, teachers etc. and the loss of needed social services.

My heart bleeds for the firemen and police. But NOT blood, because those fuckers voted across the board for Scott.
posted by notreally at 1:01 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I live in Los Angeles.. Marina Del Rey Specifically. California is the definition of a failed state. Broken at a fundamental level through graft, incompetence, political extremism at both ends, and just plain old fucking selfishness.

Perhaps "California is the definition of a failed state" is a tad hyperbolic. When I think of "failed state" I think of Somalia or Chad.

I grew up in California. As a kid we knew we were going to the best schools in the country and if we worked hard we could go to the best public university system in the country. If we didn't make the UC cut, there were the still very good CSU schools. And if not there, you could go the great community colleges -- that were free (except books, lab fees, parking, student body fees, but still cheap. We gave the world Apple and Atari! We gave the world movies. We had the best parks, mountains, and beaches. We had Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The California I live in now has lost that sheen the younger me remembered, but it isn't down for the count. Yes, the state finances are broken. Yes, we need to get rid of the 2/3 majority to required to raise taxes. We need to make cuts. I was happy to see Brown nixed the stupid selling of state office buildings in order to lease them back. I'm happy to see Brown makes cost saving gestures of taking Southwest and not traveling with an entourage. But it will take more than that. I'm not optimistic he'll be able to sway a majority of Californians to pay more in taxes.

I'm still optimistic for California's future. It is far from a failed state. California is not living up to its potential but it is still full of opportunity. Oh, and the weather is nice.
posted by birdherder at 1:06 PM on February 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


>: Prop 13 moved the burden from property owners to every other person in the goddamned state.

Sort of like it is in Finland, eh Lord_Pall? Across the Nordic countries property tax is low, income tax, and sales taxes ON EVERYONE is high. Sick high.

In the U.S. as soon as you start talking about income tax that does not hit only the top few percent, or increases in sales taxes, American progressives oppose them as "regressive."

In America the discussion over deficits seems to come down to liberals wanting to eat the rich and the rich trying not to be eaten. No wonder it does not work.
posted by three blind mice at 1:06 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


"secondary instructional programs for kindergarten through grade 14 (K–14).") and it's not the only thing mandated in, by, or about the budget."


Grade 14?

Anyway, pretty much every state is having a budget crisis. Here in Wisconsin it has apparently been decided that the way to close the multi-billion dollar budget gap is to cut corporate taxes to try to lure businesses away from Illinois and gut the state workers unions. Wisconsin was the home of the Progressive movement, now were trying to become Indiana. The worst part is that lacking any sort of Prop 13 like law all of the cuts made to business taxes will come directly from WI workers and homeowners. We're already paying stupid high property taxes (at least in the Milwaukee area) and now we get the privilege of potentially financing billions in corporate welfare. I understand the need to pay reasonable taxes but how did it become that the only "reasonable" corporate tax rate is 0%? Short sighted tax policy is killing more than one state and, of course, the solution proffered will be to cut taxes for the "wealth creators" and hope it trickles down like a stream of salty prosperity onto the heads of working folk across the state and country.
posted by MikeMc at 1:15 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem in California has nothing to do with prop 13, and everything to do with the fact that more that 60% of the Freshman at CSU are academically deficient in English or math. These freshmen are supposed to represent the top 30% of the high school students graduating form California high schools. Add 70% that weren't ready to begin with, add on another 18% and what we see is that 88% of the kids going to high school are going to be totally unprepared for the demands of the modern economy. How are these folks going to make good decisions as voters and drive effective public policy?
posted by humanfont at 1:23 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Grade 14" in this context refers to the sophomore year of college. (or it could be a typo.) I've seen the
occasional reference to "k-16 education".
posted by madcaptenor at 1:24 PM on February 13, 2011


In short: 88% of Californians starting high school won't be able to follow the mathematics in humanfont's comment.
posted by madcaptenor at 1:25 PM on February 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


One nice thing that has happened since the article went to print is that the state has repealed its two-thirds majority rule for budgeting. Not for raising taxes, however, which unfortunately makes budget cuts more appealing since they don't have to get as many votes. Still much work to be done.
posted by Weebot at 1:29 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also: the complete dismissal of Los Angeles political scene in this discussion is ridiculous. LA, with its deep labor influence and its powerful and still-growing Hispanic community, can arguably point more to the future of California than San Francisco can.
posted by Weebot at 1:36 PM on February 13, 2011


Grade 14?

Community Colleges used to be tuition-free.

The problem in California has nothing to do with prop 13, and everything to do with the fact that more that 60% of the Freshman at CSU are academically deficient in English or math.

Actually, that's nothing new. I graduated in the top 5% of my class in 1985 and had to take a "remedial" English class at the University of California. I was told at the time that a majority of incoming freshmen were required to take this course. In orientation the school went out of its way to say that we weren't deficient or dumb or we wouldn't be there. It was the baseline required by the university had topics that generally not covered in high school.

It isn't that the students admitted now are "deficient" in the sense they lack the basic thinking skills and command of English or math to be a member of society.

And that does have to do with Prop 13 in that it decimated the school districts' funding for things like advanced English and Math classes. I started to see it firsthand when I was in grade school. A generation later, I'm not surprised this continues.
posted by birdherder at 1:38 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Perhaps "California is the definition of a failed state" is a tad hyperbolic.

Nah, it's hugely hyperbolic. I was just feeling really ranty.

Hell, I wrote about living in the shadow of the giant fortress of the rich. Which now that I think about it is still pretty accurate.
posted by Lord_Pall at 1:42 PM on February 13, 2011


Sort of like it is in Finland, eh Lord_Pall? Across the Nordic countries property tax is low, income tax, and sales taxes ON EVERYONE is high. Sick high.

Yes, but wealth disparity is low and social services are phenomenal. Also, and more importantly.. You pay 22% vat on everything. It's factored into the prices. But that's it.

My cell phone bill was 14 euros a month for unlimited data. No fees, just 14 euros. My bill here 90 dollars. 20 of that is bullshit fees. It's not just cell phone, but everything is like that.

Hell, I pay 5 cents for a CRV on a plastic bottle here. I paid something similiar in Finland. The difference is that I could bring the bottle back and get my 5 cents. Here, fuck no. I get a fraction of a cent if I bring it to a recycling center. It adds up.

I pay more in taxes, fees, healthcare and nickel and dime bullshit here in the US than I ever paid overseas. The difference is, there, the burden covered everyone. Here, only the middle class and poor pay.
posted by Lord_Pall at 1:48 PM on February 13, 2011 [19 favorites]


This essay is uneven. I appreciated the history lessons -- I've only been living in CA for a year, and a lot of this was new to me -- but the overall tone really did nothing for me. I mean, you have lots of statements like this :

A crisis at least suggests a possible transformation; California’s problems seem terminal.


And I mean really, what's supposed to be the take-away from that? I mean, is the state just going to run out of money, and we're all going to leave and go our separate ways? How can you speak of a state having "terminal" problems? How do you kill a state, anyway? I know that Michigan has taken a beating in the last half-century, and yet it's far from "dead."

I'd be more willing to accept that kind of hyperbole if this were a proper jeremiad, but it really isn't. Where's the part about how "it's almost too late, but if we change our ways and follow this path, we may someday redeem ourselves?"

Also, I feel like the author has fallen into the same traps as the people he's blaming for the state's decline. All that derision for office buildings and information work. I mean, really? You wanna talk about economy, and yet you're going to criticize the one part of the CA economy that actually works? Really?

He makes the same specious claims as everyone before him : offices = yuppies = gentrification = "the city losing its soul." middle-class = organized labor = manufacturing.

I'm not saying that these ideas are entirely untrue, just that it's not a particularly nuanced point of view. For example, in more than one place, he decries SF becoming a "bedroom community for Silicon Valley." For one thing, that's not particularly true. I live in SF and work in tech, and I know very few tech people who make that commute. And even if it was true, then so what? I mean, just the fact that people WANT to live in the city is a reversal from the 70s/80s/90s trend of white flight and urban abandonment. Isn't that a good thing?

Anyway, there's really no center of focus for this essay, and I don't really think the author ever builds any solid points. Yes, it sucks when the money runs out. Yes, things were better when there was more money and natural resources. Yes, we have a spectacularly divided electorate increasingly driven apart by cultural wedge issues. How, exactly, does this make CA any different from the rest of the country?

As I see it, the only things that make CA unique in this mess is our brain-damaged constitution, and that we have an economy that actually produces something, even if that something is often physically intangible and exported through fiber optic line and not shipping containers.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:48 PM on February 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


On paper, California's problems seem major, but in practice it doesn't actually seem to be hurting the non-government part of the economy.

A poor person in Texas is far, far worse off then a poor person in California. In California, that poor person will get social services sometimes and the government can barely manage to pay for it. In Texas, that person gets no social services at all.

The problem with the "California has issues" storyline is that it ignores the fact that CA, while perpetually seeming to fail, actually does better then a "conservative" state like Texas.
posted by delmoi at 1:49 PM on February 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Grade 14?

Community Colleges used to be tuition-free.


Nice. I know they're quite different but I continue to see parallels between WI and CA. Not only in a reputation for Progressive politics but in education. Wisconsin has always touted its high quality public education from kindergarten through the UW system but now it seems that public employees, especially those in education, are the Debbil that has bankrupted the state. I've decide the new business development motto should be: "Come For Our Lower Taxes. Stay For Our Poorly Educated Workforce, Crumbling Infrastructure and Crappy Weather!".
posted by MikeMc at 2:10 PM on February 13, 2011


You should also realize that voter-mandated spending is a significant part of the California budget. K-14 spending is mandated by Prop 98

You made my point for me better than I could. Californians love to spend spend spend through ballot box-based rules and initiatives (didn't you guys recently vote for HSR?), but also have to face a 2/3 vote at the ballot box or in the legislature to raise taxes as well.

California is an example of "too much" democracy. Vote in your preferred elected official, and if you don't like what they did then vote them out. Not every tax increase or budgetary nuance needs to be up for a vote by the people.

If you want nice things you have to pay for them. Period. Either cut spending, raise taxes, or a mix of both. Repeal prop 13 (or certain parts of) if thats what it takes to have better funded schools, colleges and the like.

And I say all this as a government worker (but not in CA).
posted by SirOmega at 2:13 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Come For Our Lower Taxes. Stay For Our Poorly Educated Workforce, Crumbling Infrastructure and Crappy Weather!".

Many many states in the intermountain west have the same issue - low taxes but very poorly educated workforce and a poor higher ed system. They keep trying to attract businesses but all they get are low skill, low paying jobs. Gee, I wonder why?

They want to keep their rural, "self-reliant" sensibilities when the state starts to urbanize. It just doesn't work that way.
posted by SirOmega at 2:19 PM on February 13, 2011


As California goes, so goes the country, they used to say.

Who says this? Google says Westbrook Pegler and it shows up in a bunch of opinion pieces, but I've never heard it before. Are other people familiar with it?

And I thought "The Bellwether State" was Missouri?
posted by maryr at 2:34 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Re California's schools and students' "unreadiness" for college, two things:

First: Have you, "humanfont," (or anyone else here) spent any time teaching in California's public schools in say, the last ten years? Even spent a day as a substitute? Volunteered to show up at the library (if there's one left) and read stories to seven-year-olds?

If you have, then perhaps you can tell this former California teacher who has done all of the above what you would have done in the following situation to get a sixth grader "ready" for college. This is not a made-up scenario, but a real-life situation from the fall of 2007:

Late September, sixth grade math/science class at a "challenged" district in the Bay area, administrators add a new student to your roster of 29 students (which is an illegal stretch of the student/teacher ratio laws, but whatever, more the merrier, right?). This 11-year-old has a fairly valid excuse for why she is four weeks late for the start of school: Her mother's pimp raped her repeatedly and she's just spent the last month in labor and delivery of her baby boy.

Because of the abuse and pregnancy, she is now at least 3-4 years behind in math and understands basically nothing about science. She is harassed by … the more "grown up" boys in the eighth grade, because she is "experienced" now and "blessed" in certain ways, they tell me. She falls asleep in your class every day because her infant son keeps her up all night. She still sucks her thumb. Mom has disappeared; disabled grandmother is raising her and her child.

As I said, this case is not fictional, nor is it uncommon in this particular district, just 30 miles east of the gleaming, hip and glowing paradise of San Francisco. Oh, and I forgot to mention the spent shell casings we teachers found outside our dilapidated portables every morning, or the time I got to work and had to delay the start of school because of "police action" in the school yard.

Now, please tell me, "humanfont," or anyone else, what would you do to get this child ready for college if you had been her teacher? If she hasn't flunked or quit by now in the spring of 2011, she's a high school freshman. With a four-year-old child. How would you get her ready for admission to SF State … or De Anza Community? And how would you get her ready for her first day of classes there?

Oh, additional wrinkle. You will be laid off three times during her sixth grade year, and rehired three times, but probably won't have a job the next year, because folks like Schwarzenegger and the Pacific Research Institute think you should be a minimum-wage temp.

How will you accomplish your goal of student college readiness when you see this child just two hours per day for 180 days … to summarize, in other words, how will you get her (and 59 other students) college-ready in math and science within the 360 hours of classroom time you are allotted?

I note that I personally love a challenge and did my best ... this should not be misconstrued as complaining. I'm not. It was tragic, heart-breaking, and ... an invaluable education for me. I await a reasoned and interesting response just because I'm curious to see what armchair teachers would have done under the same set of circumstances.

And second: The link to research that claims California students are unready for college comes from the Pacific Research Institute, one of many such organizations dedicated to destroying public education, demonizing teachers, and making sure that the guaranteed-by-Prop-98, 50%-of-the-state-budget, guaranteed revenue flows to private corporations instead of public schools. They oppose health care reform, target illegal aliens, are partially funded by Philip Morris tobacco, and believe that California's water systems should be privatized en masse. In other words, their research has a corporatist agenda targeted, like so many others these days, at destroying the public square and social contract.

TL;DR: (Too long or you didn't read because your communistic, union-worshipping elementary teacher didn't teach you to read because she was too busy running to the bank to cash her swollen public dole check):

1. How do you get an 11-year-old, sexually abused, new mother ready for college in math and science with a maximum of 360 hours class time and ...

2. You really shouldn't rely on right-wing corporate PR pieces for information about complex social issues, especially public education.
posted by AirBeagle at 2:40 PM on February 13, 2011 [54 favorites]


Bit of a derail, but regarding oddman's comments about Florida upthread, I don't live there (now live in CA) but a friend of mine who does recently told me about Florida's new governor Rick Scott (who spent over $80 million of his own money running for office) and in particular the scandal surrounding his former role as CEO of Columbia/Hospital Corporation of America; this scandal (1997-2002), which forced him to resign, resulted in the largest fraud settlement in US history (14 felonies, over $650 million in fines, and ultimately costing HCA over two billion dollars).

Somehow I had missed this story, but I share it now b/c it it truly is a "WTF only in America" kind of political resurrection. With "leadership" like the deeply conservative Scott, a state like Florida, mired as it has been in the subprime real estate crisis, can expect to see the middle class very nearly completely eradicated in the near term.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 2:51 PM on February 13, 2011


Hell, I pay 5 cents for a CRV on a plastic bottle here. I paid something similiar in Finland. The difference is that I could bring the bottle back and get my 5 cents. Here, fuck no. I get a fraction of a cent if I bring it to a recycling center. It adds up.


Do what now?
I admit I didn't really bother to take bottles or cans when I lived down there (the recycling bin being much more convenient) but doesn't the CRV in California work like it does everywhere else?

You pay a nickel (or a dime for larger containers) when you buy something, then you get the nickel back when you bring the container for recycling. I've never heard of anyone get a "fraction of a cent".
posted by madajb at 3:00 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, I think in CA it goes by weight not individual item.
posted by josher71 at 3:08 PM on February 13, 2011


By the way, people keep mentioning the 2/3 thing. That now only applies to tax increases, not passing a budget. Admittedly passing a balanced budget w/o tax increases is going ot be hard right now, but it was at least partially fixed by Prop 25 last year.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:10 PM on February 13, 2011


I love living in San Francisco.

I have also lived in Boston. California feels less corrupt and the infrastructure less broken than what I found on the east coast.
posted by MillMan at 3:19 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


doesn't the CRV in California work like it does everywhere else?

It does. You get back full value on the CRV if you turn in items in small lots. If you are the sort who saves them up and totes them into the recyclers by the trunkful, the recycler can choose to pay by weight, which for aluminum is higher than the CRV value and currently for plastics, is under (it used to be higher too but supply has outstripped demand the past few years). Dunno about glass, I let the city recycling program take those.

If you really want to get your exact CRV back, go to one of those automated kiosks where you feed the containers in one by one.
posted by jamaro at 3:20 PM on February 13, 2011


"I write this while living in the shadow of an enormous high-rise condominium. It is, quite Literally, a fortress."

You must be talking about Marina Pointe since there are no other large towers in the area. It's hardly a "fortress." There are no "armored gates", just the standard gates with bars you see on every parking garage. That's to prevent car theft, a problem in pretty much every major city in the world. Yes, there are security doors -- also to keep out thieves and solicitors. Again, no different from most apartment buildings around the globe. And really that place isn't all that expensive. There are a few million-dollar penthouses, but there are also 2-bedroom units for less than $2000 a month -- affordable for most middle-class couples around here. It's a slightly upscale, very large, mostly ugly waterfront apartment building. No fortress for frightened rich oligarchs. Your hyperbole is off the charts.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 3:25 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Actually, that's nothing new. I graduated in the top 5% of my class in 1985 and had to take a "remedial" English class at the University of California.

According to my parents, who went to UCLA in the late 50s-early 60s, even then remedial English was a fact of life for incoming students.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:47 PM on February 13, 2011


Michael Lewis's next article (in his Vanity Fair series on financial crises around the world - Iceland, Greece, Ireland so far) will be on California.
posted by Bwithh at 4:24 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I originally got my information on the state of CSU Freshman directly from Chancellor Reed head of the CSU who gave a presentation at a recent conference I attended. I pulled a quick citation from the web, you don't like the source, fair enough let's look at some numbers directly from the CSU system As you can see 58% of Freshman needed remediation in 2009. So now we're just seeing that 87.4% of kids attending high school are unready for college. The good news is within 1 year 83% can get their skills to be ready for college level work.

You should also re-read my comment because NOWHERE did I say anything negative about teachers. I simply stated that the educational system is producing and outcome and that the outcome is not a recipe for economic success or informed voters.

Have you, "humanfont," (or anyone else here) spent any time teaching in California's public schools in say, the last ten years? Even spent a day as a substitute? Volunteered to show up at the library (if there's one left) and read stories to seven-year-olds?

I don't live in California, so that would be difficult. I do volunteer at a local preschool as a classroom aid. I'm also active in PTA for my older kids public school raising money for things and help arrange support for our teachers.

If you have, then perhaps you can tell this former California teacher who has done all of the above what you would have done in the following situation to get a sixth grader "ready" for college [pimp, raping 6th grader, baby]

Are you suggesting that the failure of 87.4% of kids to attain college ready math and English proficiency is because of this one girl or are you saying that 87.4% are failing because they are being raped by mom's pimp.

From some another commenter:

Actually, that's nothing new. I graduated in the top 5% of my class in 1985 and had to take a "remedial" English class at the University of California.

You were in the top 5% of your class and you needed remediation. I suppose we could say hey progress, the top 13.6% now is totally ready, and 25 years ago it was like 3%. Or we could just consider the fact that year after year we keep sending students out into to meet their destiny lacking a good foundation of skills necessary to thrive in the modern world.

Unfortunately movies like "Waiting for Superman" have taken what they admit is a complex problem and pointed the blame at one albeit dysfunctional group (teachers unions). This is only one group that is failing these schools. I'll point to the documentary director himself who drives past 3 perfectly good public schools to send his kid to private school because apparently being engaged in helping make his local schools better is something best done by stashing your own kid off in some private school because they are "magic". Or the fact that the DC Teachers Union held a vote on the union contract proposed by Michelle Rhee and it was approved. When so much of our school money is going to sweat-heart contracts to local construction companies, textbooks like Algebra II ($120/copy --serious WTF is algebra changing radically every year such that it should cost that much), and all the other really expensive things we do to put stuff in the classroom (smart boards at $7000 / classroom). 56% of teachers said they lacked the training to use the technology in the Classroom effectively, not that they lacked access to it; they didn't know how to use it. I do know from talking to many teachers that they have co-workers whom they do not respect; but no company can expect all its employees to be fully proficient and successful. There will always be 6% who are just fuck-ups. In the private sector we fire these people and find another 6%.
posted by humanfont at 4:48 PM on February 13, 2011


Bwithh: The funny thing about that is that California's ailes get misdiagnosed as a fiscal crisis, or as a result of the financial crisis, when in fact it is primarily a political crisis.

The only reason why people talk about the state becoming insolvent isn't because the state doesn't have the money -- we certainly do! No, it's because we have legislators who would rather watch the state default than raise taxes, and who are enabled by a completely dysfunctional political system.

In reality, the fiscal situation that California finds itself in could be fixed in a day if the 81 state legislators were so inclined. It would have saved us three years of handwringing articles about the end of California.
posted by Weebot at 4:56 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


You must be talking about Marina Pointe since there are no other large towers in the area.

No, he's talking about Azzurra. Or did you somehow miss the 19-story building which is NEXT DOOR.
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 4:56 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


You must be talking about Marina Pointe since there are no other large towers in the area.

Nosir. I'm talking about Azurra and the other 2 mega expensive condo towers. And I believe I mentioned that my hyperbole was extreme at the moment. So many grains of salt must be eaten.

The fortress aspect is really hammered home when you walk down between marina pointe and azurra. It quite literally is a sheer wall going up 4 stories. From the circle, much less so.

I can't find a good streetview. The only one I can find is from Admiralty, and it's too far away to be menacing.
posted by Lord_Pall at 5:06 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I find it interesting both that so many people here complain about the prop 13 and other impediments to raising taxes, and in the next breath about greed, corruption, incompetence, and special interests controlling the government.

Why should taxes be raised if California can't use the billions it already has with integrity?

I pay more in taxes, fees, healthcare and nickel and dime bullshit here in the US than I ever paid overseas. The difference is, there, the burden covered everyone. Here, only the middle class and poor pay.

Pure exaggeration. The rich do pay, even using the most generous assumptions, the largest share of taxes.
posted by shivohum at 5:07 PM on February 13, 2011


Another thing he gets wrong in this essay is misattributing the homeless problem to a housing shortage. In the year that I've lived here, not once have I heard this argument -- and really, it's kind of absurd. Don't get me wrong, building more low-cost housing would do a lot to improve SF's economic (and possibly racial) diversity. But it's pretty obvious that much of the homeless problem can be traced to the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill -- and the state's failure to replace the old system with something new and comprehensive.

The amount of "loud crazy" that you encounter on the streets of San Francisco is appalling -- and was shocking to me, even after living in NYC for 7 years and St. Louis for 7 years before that.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:10 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I grew up in California, did my pre-university in public schools, and went to a private college. I completed one advanced degree in at in-state public school and completed a terminal degree at an out-of-state public school.

Having lived substantial lengths of time in Virginia and Ohio, I know what passes for broken in California is sumptuous living in those two states. California is why I left my career as an academic (in Ohio) to begin my second career in technology.

These last eighteen months have been a dramatic improvement as far as my experience of public infrastructure and services go. (It’s been an improvement in many other respects, but that’s a bird singing a different song.) I love it here in California and am exuberant to have returned.

Even at the bottom of The Great Recession, California makes (at least two of) the other fifty look like country bumpkins.

Of course, there are things wrong with California. Private vehicles are still legal as they are in other of these United States. Republicans continue to assault their constituents by swapping public welfare for corporate welfare. There are pesky limits on immigration which keep people from gaining the protections taken for granted by documented workers. Technology workers are exploited because they are classified exempt and most tech workers--for all their smarts--are too stupid to recognize the benefits of collective bargaining. Yeah, yeah, etc.

But my direct experience of California’s existing businesses, the state of its infrastructure, the ethnic and communitarian wealth of its residents, the beauty of its state-protected wild lands, the revelrous decadence of its urban night life, and the crazy, beautiful aliens everywhere on the sidewalk, the streets, and beaches--this can hardly be considered broken or failed.

The California I know is a joyful fast-foward experiment in forward-looking awesomeness, and you California doom-and-gloomers can kiss my erstwhile Southern-and-Midwest black ass right up the middle.
posted by mistersquid at 5:16 PM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


In the private sector we fire these people and find another 6%.

I'm interested in knowing where these fuckup-free parts of the private sector are. Some of the startups I've worked at have been pretty lean and talented for the first dozen employees or so, but beyond that, a 6% rate seems like a small estimate rather than an inevitably replaced factor.

Pure exaggeration. The rich do pay, even using the most generous assumptions, the largest share of taxes.

It's true to say that in the realm of income, the rich who earn progressively pay progressively.

However, it's not exaggeration to say that capital gains are taxed less than the lowest income tax bracket, or that the payroll tax is essentially regressive (particularly if its proceeds are spent for anything outside of social security), or that sales taxes on essential goods are regressive, etc. Caping property taxes could also be considered regressive.

All of this is somewhat beside another important point that's always worth considering along with statements of the tax burden to/receipts from the rich: of course you're going to see a disproportionate "burden" there as long as you have a disproportionate income curve. When the top 20% control about 85% wealth, well, that's the segment of the population that's going to pay the most taxes... even if your tax code is completely flat.
posted by weston at 5:31 PM on February 13, 2011


You all do know that taxes in California aren't low by any means -- individual and corporate income tax rates are among the nation's highest. Property tax rates are pretty high, as well, if you don't have a Prop 13 grandfathering on your assessment.

I look forward to the state soundly rejecting Jerry Brown's tax increases and forcing him and the Legislature to start deploying some common sense, and aligning spending to real priorities, like encouraging enterprise instead of choking it, funding the education of the intelligent and hardworking ahead of the academic warehousing of the lazy and stupid, etc.
posted by MattD at 5:54 PM on February 13, 2011


To add to MattD's point, sales taxes are high too. In Oakland and Berkeley (where I spend most of my time) it's 9.75%. Wikipedia claims that the statewide minimum is 8.25%. Incidentally, Wikipedia claims that the sales tax rate is high in part because property taxes are low. I rent, so I wouldn't know.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:05 PM on February 13, 2011


aligning spending to real priorities, like...funding the education of the intelligent and hardworking ahead of the academic warehousing of the lazy and stupid, etc.

Are you seriously proposing that California cull under-performing children out of elementary/high school education to save money? Really?
posted by jamaro at 6:10 PM on February 13, 2011


No, he's talking about Azzurra. Or did you somehow miss the 19-story building which is NEXT DOOR.

My bad, I thought they were the same development.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 6:11 PM on February 13, 2011


madcaptenor: That's the thing about Prop 13 that people really miss when the complain about it. Most people focus on the supermajority requirement, which is awful but not the only thing that is problematic about the proposition. Once we destroyed our ability to effectively rely on property tax revenue, we restructured our entire tax base in a way that, because of its focus on income, sales, and capital gains tax, made it particularly susceptible to boom-bust cycles. It also increases the rates of the remaining taxes in the tax base.
posted by Weebot at 6:17 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I look forward to the state soundly rejecting Jerry Brown's tax increases and forcing him and the Legislature to start deploying some common sense, and aligning spending to real priorities, like encouraging enterprise instead of choking it

You don't actually live in California or make yourself a genuine student of anything that goes on there, do you?
posted by weston at 6:46 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


You don't actually live in California or make yourself a genuine student of anything that goes on there, do you?

I know people who recently tried to start a small business (a health care facility) in California. Their multi-page architectural plan was submitted to the relevant state health commission, only to be returned with an error pointed out on p. 1. Then, on resubmission, an error was pointed out on p. 2. This went on for seven submissions. This cost them an extraordinary amount of time and money and nearly drove the business to insolvency. Note that they employed consultants and architects supposedly familiar with the process, but the regulations are so burdensome and complex that errors can always be found.

What's really interesting is that they later found out they were charged by the state agency for each resubmission: that the process of error-finding seems deliberately made to raise revenue, in a kind of extortion.

I doubt this is an isolated case.
posted by shivohum at 7:05 PM on February 13, 2011


shivohum: And you don't make any connection between the fact that the state cannot raise taxes easily and onerous user fees do you?
posted by Grimgrin at 7:14 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


And you don't make any connection between the fact that the state cannot raise taxes easily and onerous user fees do you?

Yeah, I see the same connection as between the fact that someone can't raise money to feed their drug habit and their mugging someone. It's not an excuse.

It seems to me to be a reason to defang many of those state agencies which have become bureaucracies more intent on perpetuating themselves and being captured by special interests than serving the public welfare.
posted by shivohum at 7:30 PM on February 13, 2011


You were in the top 5% of your class and you needed remediation. I suppose we could say hey progress, the top 13.6% now is totally ready, and 25 years ago it was like 3%. Or we could just consider the fact that year after year we keep sending students out into to meet their destiny lacking a good foundation of skills necessary to thrive in the modern world.

humanfont, remedial math and English at the California university level ≠ being unable to thrive in the modern world. It has been 25 years but my "remedial" English course was about writing college papers.

Here is UCLA's remedial English course description from the 2011 catalog:
A. Introduction to University Discourse (0)
Lecture, five hours. Enforced requisite: appropriate score on Analytical Writing Placement Examination. Displaces 4 units on student's Study List but yields no credit toward degree. First course in reading university-level texts and framing written responses that employ range of rhetorical strategies from paraphrase to analysis. Emphasis on revision, developing syntactic variety and academic vocabulary, and editing for grammar and style. Completion of course with grade of C or better or demonstration of minimum competence on Analytical Writing Placement Examination is requisite to course 2. Letter grading.
Remediation is not unique to California. Some states require their community colleges to provide remedial coursework for the universities. Some systems dumb down freshman English to cover the same coursework.

But go ahead and equate remedial classes at the university level as being the same as the classes they throw kids into to learn how to read and practice their cursive. Would it be great if every high school graduate could step into university-level math and English? Of course. But it would also be great if urban high schools could get their graduation rate below 50% again. Again, this isn't California's problem, it is everywhere in the US. And with continued cuts in education everywhere, it will be even a bigger problem.
posted by birdherder at 7:30 PM on February 13, 2011


Let's see if I understand this, as a foreigner...

There's voter mandated spending (like Prop 98) that says the state must spend a certain minimum amount on A, B and C, and there's Prop 13 that says the state cannot get any money unless a majority of the people allows it to?

And instead of connecting the dots you're all nitpicking whether a certain condo is, or is not, a fortress?
posted by DreamerFi at 10:16 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


What's really interesting is that they later found out they were charged by the state agency for each resubmission.

What if the change made the entire business plan unattractive? Wouldn't a detailed notation of every error turn into a rant about excessive billing? And the solution to excessive bureaucracy is to transfer more of the work of preparing correct submissions to them?

And, of course, since they didn't find out they were being charged for each submission until later, either the submission fee was too minor to merit discussion or their architects were both not competent and not capable of fully informing their clients.


Yeah, I see the same connection as between the fact that someone can't raise money to feed their drug habit and their mugging someone.

Enforcement of health and safety regulations = heroin addiction. User fees = violent crime. Gotcha.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:39 PM on February 13, 2011


I love living here in CA. And in a paradox akin to reconciling matter with antimatter, I love both Los Angeles, where I live, and San Francisco. I love all of California, the beautiful nature, the landscape, I love the people, the huge variety of cultures, the diversity and the creativity. And I, the wild-eyed leftist, would not go back to live in Sweden, even with all the crazy political problems here. Also I'm an optimist and I see all these problems as solvable, if only we don't lose our nerve.
posted by VikingSword at 10:42 PM on February 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Yes, we need to get rid of the 2/3 majority to required to raise taxes."

Congrats, we just did in the last election. At the very same time, we voted in a new requirement to have a 2/3 majority to raise any fees. Wheee!
posted by klangklangston at 11:27 PM on February 13, 2011


This 11-year-old has a fairly valid excuse for why she is four weeks late for the start of school: Her mother's pimp raped her repeatedly and she's just spent the last month in labor and delivery of her baby boy....As I said, this case is not fictional, nor is it uncommon in this particular district,

I'm sympathetic to your plight, but clearly you are exaggerating or you remember incorrectly, as 11yr old mothers are very uncommon. Wikipedia lists 33 globally and none in California.
While I'm sure the school system needed lots of help, leaving factual errors makes it an easy target for opponents of that help.
posted by bystander at 2:23 AM on February 14, 2011


Congrats, we just did in the last election.

Yeah I was going to say... I thought you guys got rid of that in the last election. Then there were a bunch of comments in here about how it was still a problem, so I was a little confused.
posted by delmoi at 4:45 AM on February 14, 2011


Hmm... I did some research to figure out what actually happened in 2010 and it seems like prop 25 passed which allowed for a majority vote on budgets, but didn't actually allow tax increases. Prop 25 also cuts payment to legislators and the governor until a budget is passed, which is cute. But according to wikipedia a 2/3rds requirement would remain for raising taxes. But according to this wikipedia page the requirement has actually only been 55% since 2000. So, I really have no idea.

(Although if I had to guess it sounds like the requirement is 55% now, and before it was 66%. Hmm...)
posted by delmoi at 4:59 AM on February 14, 2011


What if the change made the entire business plan unattractive? Wouldn't a detailed notation of every error turn into a rant about excessive billing?

No, because they shouldn't have been billed huge amounts for a complete review of their document.

And the solution to excessive bureaucracy is to transfer more of the work of preparing correct submissions to them?

No. The solution to excessive bureaucracy is to cripple the excessive bureaucracy and simplify the regulations that sustain it. Just like the solution to a mugger is to jail him, not blame the victim.

Enforcement of health and safety regulations = heroin addiction. User fees = violent crime. Gotcha.

No strawmen here, no sirree. Enforcement of incredibly complex and unnecessarily burdensome regulations in an effort to extort money from small businesses who can ill afford it, make job creation harder, and perpetuate a vast, bloated bureacracy with scant accountability -- yes, equals violent crime to feed heroin addiction.

Wow, talk about being out of touch with business reality. You make the Tea Party sound appealing.
posted by shivohum at 5:59 AM on February 14, 2011


And yet, large numbers of people manage to successfully start businesses in California, complete with new facilities. Perhaps your acquaintances and their consultants were not as gee-whizbang competent as you think.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:11 AM on February 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


I live in Los Angeles.. Marina Del Rey Specifically.

You're living in freaking Marina del Rey and you're bawling about how horrible California is? Move to fucking Delano or Kettleman City and spend a few days there and then maybe you'll have something to really whine about.
posted by blucevalo at 7:11 AM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


And yet, large numbers of people manage to successfully start businesses in California, complete with new facilities. Perhaps your acquaintances and their consultants were not as gee-whizbang competent as you think.

And many poor people today end up successes. That means poverty isn't a problem.

Anyway, they did succeed in the end. No thanks to the state.

I find it funny how so many decry blaming the victims unless the victims are small businesses. God forbid that people who want to spur the economy, create jobs, and provide services should have their concerns taken seriously.
posted by shivohum at 7:22 AM on February 14, 2011


Yes, the selfless businessmen who do all this and more out of the kindness of their heart.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:35 AM on February 14, 2011


One of the take aways from the article for me was the issue of the left splitting up with labour on one side and (don't quite know the term) social/identity politics people on the other.

pulled from another discussion:
To me, this seems to relate: Joan Walsh has a (too short) interview with Jefferson Cowie, the author of "Stayin' Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class," a book about how the left and blue collar America parted ways over Vietnam, race, feminism and other stuff.
I think this is a pretty important dynamic in politics.
posted by Trochanter at 9:24 AM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


"No. The solution to excessive bureaucracy is to cripple the excessive bureaucracy and simplify the regulations that sustain it."

Thanks for your unbiased recommendations. Exactly what regulations do you want removed? I mean, it's easy to just rail against "excessive bureaucracy" and argue that regulations should be "simplified," but the general problem is that businesses haven't shown themselves to be tremendously trustworthy in the absence of regulation — even small businesses.

So, forgive me if your comments seem more like Chamber of Commerce dogwhistles meant to remove what protections we have left — especially since anything that prevents anyone from making any buck is "excessive" and immoral to a pretty big constituency in this state — and less like clear-eyed and honest policy suggestions.

One more note: You should probably lay off of the "blaming the victim" bullshit. It's a really ugly piece of rhetoric, especially since your friends did navigate the requirements of the state. I do have to say that I'm pretty wary of any health care facility that seeks to shirk state regulation, especially given the number that are routinely cited for poor patient care, fraud, unsafe facilities, waste disposal violations, etc. If you want to blame someone for onerous regulation, blame the businesses that make it necessary. Dressing yourself up in the language of victimization sounds more like the conservative/fundamentalist martyr obsession than any rational complaint.
posted by klangklangston at 9:53 AM on February 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


I look forward to the state soundly rejecting Jerry Brown's tax increases and forcing him and the Legislature to start deploying some common sense,

What tax increases are those? He called for continuing the tax plan of the last few years with regard to sales and state income tax, and continuing the vehicle license fees. These have to be approved by voters. He's also proposing 12.5 billion in cuts to the budget, including cuts to Medi-Cal, CalWorks, and a 10% pay cut for state employees. Perhaps I'm missing something here that requires more common sense on his part.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:52 AM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, the selfless businessmen who do all this and more out of the kindness of their heart.

Yes, when someone acts with an element of self-interest, there can be no societal interest involved as well. It must be nice having such a simple view of the world.
--
Exactly what regulations do you want removed?

The ones that require consultants and architects and a half dozen submissions and tons of money to get right? You clearly have very little experience with the law if you think regulations are written in anything resembling a user-friendly way, or that there isn't tons of bullshit in them. I mean, lots of these regulations are written by lobbyists.

I do have to say that I'm pretty wary of any health care facility that seeks to shirk state regulation, especially given the number that are routinely cited for poor patient care, fraud, unsafe facilities, waste disposal violations, etc. If you want to blame someone for onerous regulation, blame the businesses that make it necessary.
So the regulations mainly hurt the businesses that actually abide by them. Ha, what a surprise.

One more note: You should probably lay off of the "blaming the victim" bullshit.
When I want a consultation with the thought police, I'll ask for it, thanks.
posted by shivohum at 11:00 AM on February 14, 2011


What if the change made the entire business plan unattractive? Wouldn't a detailed notation of every error turn into a rant about excessive billing?

No, because they shouldn't have been billed huge amounts for a complete review of their document.


It cost the state money to review documents- money that is paid by taxpayers if not charged to the entity submitting the documents. You can't be anti-tax and expect work to be done by the government for free. Yeah, I agree it would have saved everyone a lot of time for someone to have found all the errors at once, so there would just be a single re-submission. However, when no one can raise taxes by legitimate means in this state, people are then nickel-and-dimed in stupid ways.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:06 AM on February 14, 2011


Yes, when someone acts with an element of self-interest, there can be no societal interest involved as well. It must be nice having such a simple view of the world.

Excuse me if I have problem when capitalists portray their actions as primarily or exclusively altruistic, when they are actually acting primarily in their self-interest; the societal benefit is incidental.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:24 AM on February 14, 2011


"The ones that require consultants and architects and a half dozen submissions and tons of money to get right?"

Wow, California has laws written that explicitly require half a dozen submissions and tons of money for no other purpose? Gee willikers, that does sound terrible. What regulations are these, exactly, so that we can see how best to remove them? Do you happen to have any examples from the state code?

"So the regulations mainly hurt the businesses that actually abide by them. Ha, what a surprise."

Laws against murder are useless because any murderer is breaking the law?

"When I want a consultation with the thought police, I'll ask for it, thanks."

Thought police? I was pointing out that your words make your argument less sympathetic.

But hey, stupid's gotta stupid, and who am I to stand in the way of that, right?
posted by klangklangston at 11:38 AM on February 14, 2011


No. The solution to excessive bureaucracy is to cripple the excessive bureaucracy and simplify the regulations that sustain it. Just like the solution to a mugger is to jail him, not blame the victim.

No strawmen here, no loading of phrases, "no siree."

Look, I can agree that business growth is a good, but it's not the only good, and effective policy is a balance in the tension between goods. In particular financial incentives that drive business growth almost inevitably need some kind of bounding precisely because they're often strong enough to generate sociopathic behavior. On the other hand, make them strong enough to check it and without fine-tuning and judicious oversight they'll hit innocent targets and chill legitimate activity. And bureaucracy can grow to prevent both and it takes work to fix it. Fair enough?

But when you boil all this down to the idea that the state is a mugger -- it's all so simple, right? If we could just get the state off our backs, the levels of prosperity we'd enjoy! -- I'm off the boat. I'm sorry about your acquaintances experience, and I recognize there are no small number of people struggling in California, either with some kind of compliance or just making ends meet, but California is not actually about to fall into the ocean, new businesses are starting, some are succeeding, services are being provided.

The apparatus of the state and its institutions absolutely need some reform. Nobody denies that. But you know what isn't going to help anything at all? This completely empty anti-state bullshit you're peddling that doesn't engage on a single concrete point about its function. If you want to complain about it just for the satisfaction of hearing yourself whine, that's fine, but if you want to earn an ounce of respect for yourself, try showing you have an idea of what the actual institutional and policy challenges are right now and engaging on them.
posted by weston at 12:41 PM on February 14, 2011


The apparatus of the state and its institutions absolutely need some reform. Nobody denies that. But you know what isn't going to help anything at all? This completely empty anti-state bullshit you're peddling that doesn't engage on a single concrete point about its function. If you want to complain about it just for the satisfaction of hearing yourself whine, that's fine, but if you want to earn an ounce of respect for yourself, try showing you have an idea of what the actual institutional and policy challenges are right now and engaging on them.

I don't see anything particularly insightful from you in this thread, only tired big-government apologia and cliched statements about balance. I'm not some Randian anarchist, but I think California is extremely overregulated, and that it is highly detrimental to the state.
posted by shivohum at 1:03 PM on February 14, 2011


"I don't see anything particularly insightful from you in this thread, only tired big-government apologia and cliched statements about balance. I'm not some Randian anarchist, but I think California is extremely overregulated, and that it is highly detrimental to the state."

You've also failed to provide anything insightful, instead you've typed out Club for Growth pablum about some vague regulations that should be undone because they're unjustified or excessive, without realizing that "excessive" is a subjective and incredibly vague term to throw around.

So unless you've got more than just some anecdote about these guys you know who totally had to do some paperwork revisions, I'm going to have to assume that you're mouthing talking points rather than contributing anything to the discussion, while simultaneously being contemptuous and dismissive of anyone who disagrees with you.
posted by klangklangston at 1:17 PM on February 14, 2011


only tired big-government apologia

Really? We're going to do this? OK. I mean, I guess the traditional response here is just to be done with the discussion, but hey, either I'll learn something or everybody will learn some more about you.

So, let's start with: Where? Where was my tired big-government apologia? Can you point it out? Was it the idea that the state needs reform? That sometimes it goes too far and needs to be rolled back? Or was it the idea that without some civil check financial incentives will drive some people to sociopathic behavior? The suggestion that people who are rewarded above a standard deviation for their role in society might pay a higher tax rate? Or the fact that particularly on investment income, they pay lower?

Or was it the fact that I called your blanket characterization of the state/regulation as a mugger completely flat? Is anybody who sees the issue as more complex than that engaging in big-government apologia?

I don't see anything particularly insightful from you in this thread

Well, shoot. What's your standard? If you've got standards you'd like me to live up to that aren't implicit in your own writing, hey, lemme know what you'd like to see, just like I've been doing for you, maybe I'll live up to it. I don't know, though, I pretty much like my idea that there's a tension between goods, and that good governance is a balance. I think it's smart. But maybe that's just a cliche to someone who's so much smarter they're one the few and proud that can see that the state is actually, literally no different than a mugger or a heroin addict.

I think California is extremely overregulated, and that it is highly detrimental to the state.

I'll invite you again to engage on some concrete points. You know, mechanics about specific regulations, the problems they cause, and -- if it's not too much of a stretch -- an understanding of the problem the regulation was trying to solve along with a better way to solve it.

Maybe you could even start with the case of your acquaintance. You're familiar with that one, right? It's not just a story that fits some convenient narrative about the problems of the state?

Personally, I wouldn't be surprised to find out there are some regulations that cause harm and need reworking, and I'd welcome a turn of the discussion from the rhetorical/general to the specific policy realm, but like the article I linked to said, the fact that California is seeing an increased share of investment -- and one that's larger that's it's proportion of economic activity -- indicates that it's not essentially hostile to business.

As for my own further insights, again, I linked an article that I thought had a few interesting things to say, and here's a few more meandering thoughts -- I mean, no doubt inferior to the shining sunlight of reason you've demonstrated in thread, but I'll have to make do with my meager intellect:

* MattD originally implied Jerry Brown and the legislature needed to get some common sense. I'd just like to point out for the record that when Brown last left the governor's office, he left the biggest budget surplus in the state's history -- that's right, beating out Reagan -- and on the heels of the passing of Prop 13, no less. That's where some of my flippant callout at his comment came from. I'm pretty tired of the reflexive conclusion that Democrats are simply fiscally irresponsible, particularly when they often do pretty well, and increasingly better than Republicans (who, on my more paranoid days, I think may have actually realized that poor fiscal management puts them in a stronger position to both cut services and energize the portion of their base that still believes they stand for sensible fiscal policy).

* Incidentally, he's correct that California spends a lot of money -- probably too much -- warehousing the lazy and stupid at the expense of education, but I think he meant California's schools instead of prison-industrial complex. He's probably also right that we'd be better off if we didn't expect our teachers to function as social workers, but he and I probably disagree on the implications of that. Perhaps you do too.

* As others have alluded to in thread, California has meta-governance problems that go beyond any specific overregulation. The initiative process (and to a lesser extent, some other things, like the divisions of the executive offices) along with the monotonic tax obsession of the Republican caucus make it very difficult if not impossible for elected representatives to actually govern. This, of course, is what a lot of shrunk-government advocates say they want in theory: the state's hands tied. Well, here it is. But in practice, it has exactly at its heart the problem that bureacracy has. The balance between rules and judgment shifts towards rules, insight into issues is replaced by formalism and devotion to dogma.
posted by weston at 2:20 PM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


shivohum writes "The ones that require consultants and architects and a half dozen submissions and tons of money to get right? You clearly have very little experience with the law if you think regulations are written in anything resembling a user-friendly way, or that there isn't tons of bullshit in them. I mean, lots of these regulations are written by lobbyists."

Regulations aren't written in plain language because plain language isn't precise enough and business will operate as cheaply as they possibly can. Plain language allows for too much wiggle room between intent and execution.
posted by Mitheral at 3:54 PM on February 14, 2011


In the private sector we fire these people and find another 6%.

I'm interested in knowing where these fuckup-free parts of the private sector are. Some of the startups I've worked at have been pretty lean and talented for the first dozen employees or so, but beyond that, a 6% rate seems like a small estimate rather than an inevitably replaced factor.


I said there will always be 6% who are fuckups, we just fire them and replace them. I didn't mean we replace them with non-fuckups. I mean we just keep finding new people who are fuck-ups. I wasn't suggesting that the professional workforce is better in fact it may be that tenure does nothing but just keep the same idiots around, or move them within the system.

humanfont, remedial math and English at the California university level ≠ being unable to thrive in the modern world. It has been 25 years but my "remedial" English course was about writing college papers.

The ability to write a simple research paper demonstrates that one can use reference materials to research and understand a problem and then write a summary of one's findings. Haven't you been required to do this over the course of your 25 year post college career? Do you ever have to look at the budget or do a forecast, an estimate or a project plan? Those skills that were necessary for college are necessary to thrive in the professional marketplace. Someone who writes well and knows their way around excel will start at a higher salary and be more attractive to employers than someone who gets put in the reject pile a dozen times because their cover letter was unintelligible. I say this as a ADD, dyslexic guy who has to constantly have others proof his work.

On to the regulatory basher:

Your friend needs some help with their planning skills. Here's a tip when working with architects, trades people, etc. When the building inspector or planning office rejects something ask: Is this typical? How many times does the office reject and return your work? Whats a typical review cycle (10 revisions, 100)? These are basic questions necessary to proper business planning. You should interview your vendors and contractors to understand what is typical and if something seems odd like hey this is the third revision with the architect call around and get info from some alternate suppliers. How is this guy going to stay in business when the inspectors come to check his facility and he hasn't bothered to pay attention to the requirements for equipment sterilization, or he didn't hire an accountant who could manage his taxation and cash flows properly? The only evidence you've presented so far is that no matter how smart your friend is he or she lacks basic business skills and the experience necessary to go out on his or her own. It's like Joe the Plumber all over again. Some guy making 30 grand a year thinks he'll be ruined by Obama's tax plan when he magically starts his own plumbing business, despite the fact that he's barely an apprentice and when people talked with his boss and other real plumbers it turns out they all come out ahead.

Returning full circle to the problem of education. I shall state that this problem although not unique to California; is magnified because of the unique importance of technology, engineering, science and research on the economic powerhouse that is California). In spite of whatever medical degree you friend has they appear to be lacking in the basic education necessary to launch their educational venture. Perhaps more time spent in the arts and humanities would have prepared their inquiry skills and allowed them to be better able to launch their venture. Instead they will need to acquire those things the hard way at their own expense while paying back those student loans and bitching about the government.

Finally let's give it up for the humanities majors who make the world work. Well rounded citizens with a broad set of interests and an ability to ask the right questions. How do you think things get done. Without them you'd starve or have WWIII in less than a week.
posted by humanfont at 4:44 PM on February 14, 2011


Where was my tired big-government apologia?

It's embedded in the assumption that commonplace government abuse of small businesses is just, well, a normal and reasonable cost of doing busineses, and not a cause for outrage. It's also tacit in the false equivalence between the good of business and the good of regulation. Business is actually a positive good: it produces for society. Regulation is a necessary evil. The burden is on government to justify a regulation, not on business to justify its activity.

Not to mention that regulation is not the only way to remedy the ills of a few businesses which are sociopathic. It's merely one of a spectrum of options, from reputational remedies in the marketplace to tort law. Keep in mind that sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.

Or was it the fact that I called your blanket characterization of the state/regulation as a mugger completely flat? Is anybody who sees the issue as more complex than that engaging in big-government apologia?

I never called government as a whole a mugger. I analogized the act of an agency which misused regulations and coercive power to extort money from small businesses to a mugging.

I'll invite you again to engage on some concrete points. You know, mechanics about specific regulations, the problems they cause, and -- if it's not too much of a stretch -- an understanding of the problem the regulation was trying to solve along with a better way to solve it.

This is a great example of what I write about above. Your request is not my responsibility, but the responsibility of advocates for specific regulations. It is their responsibility to show in concrete terms why each regulation has a worthwhile cost/benefit ratio. Each regulation is assumed guilty until proven innocent.

Anyhow, though, perhaps some of the regulations that ought to be examined might be mentioned in this estimate (controversial, of course) that pegs the cost of regulations to California's economy at about half a trillion dollars. I'd estimate that's a bit more than it should be.

Regulations aren't written in plain language because plain language isn't precise enough and business will operate as cheaply as they possibly can. Plain language allows for too much wiggle room between intent and execution.

First, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, courts can decide whether the business complied or not and that can sometimes be better. Second, it simply isn't true that all jargon is the result of the need for precision. Much of it is simply bad writing, and a lot of the rest is due to lobbyists' desire to hide provisions that benefit special interests. See for example the tax code.
--
Your friend needs some help with their planning skills.

And you need help with your assuming skills. These people have been in business successfully for decades and have done well for themselves, despite the garbage that regulatory agencies have made them go through. But it's ok. You'll just use this as evidence that the regulation isn't so bad then. Heads, you win, tails, I lose. Hey, people who are mugged were stupid, right? They shouldn't have been walking around at night. If they were hurt badly, it's their fault, and if they weren't -- hey, what's the problem?
posted by shivohum at 9:44 PM on February 14, 2011


"It's embedded in the assumption that commonplace government abuse of small businesses is just, well, a normal and reasonable cost of doing busineses, and not a cause for outrage. "

Because you went point by point:

By saying that your opponent assumes "government abuse," you already mischaracterize any opposing rational argument; any rational argument cannot define regulation as abuse. Ergo, the assumption cannot be that "abuse" is a just and reasonable cost of doing business.

However, this does not show nor imply that reasonable regulations are a cause for outrage. You have assumed that the regulations are abusive prior to demonstrating, despite repeated calls for evidence (see my prior complaint of your vague language).

"Not to mention that regulation is not the only way to remedy the ills of a few businesses which are sociopathic. It's merely one of a spectrum of options, from reputational remedies in the marketplace to tort law. Keep in mind that sometimes the cure is worse than the disease."

While regulation is not the only solution to remedying the anti-social behavior of businesses (that it is a "few" businesses is debatable), it is the most significant and legitimate one. It is significant by its reach, and legitimized by democratic consent in the state.

In that sociopathic businesses can do significant harm to the public, and have done so in the past, regulation of business behavior is in order to mitigate public risk and place that risk upon businesses. As businesses confer private rewards, so private risk is just.

The threat of prison is not the only way to remedy the ills of a few people who are sociopathic. It's merely one of a spectrum of options, from repetitional remedies (which actually are precluded from being effective on a sociopath fairly definitionally) to tort law. However, the threat of prison is the most significant and legitimate deterrent.

Simply saying that sometimes the cure is worse than the disease is a non sequitur cliché — what matters is whether this is one of those times or not. And significantly, the cure is rarely worse than the disease.

"This is a great example of what I write about above. Your request is not my responsibility, but the responsibility of advocates for specific regulations. It is their responsibility to show in concrete terms why each regulation has a worthwhile cost/benefit ratio. Each regulation is assumed guilty until proven innocent."

Well, no. Theoretically, each proposed regulation is presumed to be bad unless demonstrated good, but each regulation currently enacted has, at least theoretically, been enacted with the consent of the people, and is therefore presumed to be in the interest of the public unless demonstrated otherwise.

Such demonstration is often trivial, and you have been invited to demonstrate, yet you've declined. Conversely, it's trivial to come up with a host of regulations that have legitimate grounds (sanitary conditions, fire exits, etc.) so that without any given reference of which of these regulations, in your friend's case, was onerous, we cannot assume that these regulations were indeed excessive.

However, it is reasonable to assume that because this was your friend who related the story to you, that you would be sympathetic to your friend and believe that any regulation they claimed was onerous was indeed onerous.

And do note that this doesn't prove the inverse, that the regulations weren't excessive. I'm entirely open to believing they were. However, given the common rhetoric of anti-regulation businesses (the most catastrophic recent example would be BP), and your obvious sympathies, your case isn't compelling and your tone isn't justified.

"Anyhow, though, perhaps some of the regulations that ought to be examined might be mentioned in this estimate (controversial, of course) that pegs the cost of regulations to California's economy at about half a trillion dollars. I'd estimate that's a bit more than it should be."

Leaving aside any other problems with the study (assumptions, funding, etc.), it's not clear that your estimate should carry any weight. It's entirely possible to find that the cost of regulating California businesses is half a trillion dollars, but whether that's high or not ("more than it should be") depends on the cost of comparable economies and the public cost of not regulating businesses. A sideways analogy: Walmart is worth about half a trillion; that's a lot of money. But it's nothing next to the value of the infrastructure required to keep Walmart running, from sustaining communication and transport to making sure that dollars can be spent on surplus rather than broken windows. Half a trillion dollars relative to what?

"First, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, courts can decide whether the business complied or not and that can sometimes be better. Second, it simply isn't true that all jargon is the result of the need for precision. Much of it is simply bad writing, and a lot of the rest is due to lobbyists' desire to hide provisions that benefit special interests. See for example the tax code."

This is all irrelevant fluff. That regulatory language can be opaque due to any number of factors doesn't demonstrate that it was needlessly opaque in your friend's case, especially absent any examples. It also doesn't demonstrate that your friend's experience is generalizable.

"And you need help with your assuming skills. These people have been in business successfully for decades and have done well for themselves, despite the garbage that regulatory agencies have made them go through. But it's ok. You'll just use this as evidence that the regulation isn't so bad then. Heads, you win, tails, I lose. Hey, people who are mugged were stupid, right? They shouldn't have been walking around at night. If they were hurt badly, it's their fault, and if they weren't -- hey, what's the problem?"

This is a return to your ugly "blaming the victim" rhetoric, which begs the question, as you have not (despite repeated requests) demonstrated that your friend is the victim. That they have been in business for decades means little — both Bernie Madoff and Jeff Skilling had been in business successfully for decades and did well for themselves, despite the garbage that regulatory agencies made them go through.

And using the rhetorical construction of presuming an unconvinced interlocutor and tying that with the emotion appeal of your mugging analogy again makes it seem like you're not only unable to provide a compelling argument, but that you know that and are defensive about it.

But at least you got ten paragraphs telling you why you're wrong on Valentine's Day!
posted by klangklangston at 11:05 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


By saying that your opponent assumes "government abuse," you already mischaracterize any opposing rational argument; any rational argument cannot define regulation as abuse. Ergo, the assumption cannot be that "abuse" is a just and reasonable cost of doing business.

Duh. That's the problem. The problem is that they don't define what actually is abuse as abuse, they see it as normal. That's just the problem.

However, this does not show nor imply that reasonable regulations are a cause for outrage.

By saying that the regulations are reasonable, you already mischaracterize any opposing rational argument; any rational argument cannot define reasonable regulation as cause for outrage. So obviously the regulations that are cause of outrage are the unreasonable ones.

You have assumed that the regulations are abusive prior to demonstrating, despite repeated calls for evidence (see my prior complaint of your vague language).

And I started this discussion with a concrete example of regulations that were abused to bilk user fees out of a small business. It shows abuse is possible, and, I believe, not uncommon.

Now if you want a detailed analysis of the entire framework of regulation to see what's being abused and what's not -- well, I want that too. The state should commission just such a study. I could point out random crap in the code; for example, I could simply show you the table of contents for the health and safety code and say it's prima facie ridiculous that small businesses are to understand it.

Or I could ask for justifications for other people's stories about overregulation (mentions onerous labor laws, paperwork requirements, too many notices required to be hung, regulations requiring dish cloths to be stored in bleach which shreds them), but then you would make something up to justify it, when we actually need empirical evidence as to its worth, not speculation. The truth is that a much more complex and far-ranging analysis is needed.

it is the most significant and legitimate one. It is significant by its reach, and legitimized by democratic consent in the state.

Your statement is both merely asserted without evidence and unlikely. Social norms are far more pervasive, more easily enforced, and operate by a much stronger legitimate consensus than regulations.

There's also a difference between specific regulations and the law generally. You're confusing these two. Laws can allow people to sue each other under civil law for placing unreasonable risks on others without regulations that require micromanagement.

In that sociopathic businesses can do significant harm to the public, and have done so in the past, regulation of business behavior is in order to mitigate public risk and place that risk upon businesses.

That would assume the regulations actually do the work of deterring this behavior effectively, and at a cost that's reasonable. That's what you haven't proven.

The threat of prison is not the only way to remedy the ills of a few people who are sociopathic. It's merely one of a spectrum of options, from repetitional remedies (which actually are precluded from being effective on a sociopath fairly definitionally) to tort law. However, the threat of prison is the most significant and legitimate deterrent.

Actually, you're wrong. Social norms and reputational consequences are a far more powerful deterrent than prison. Sociopaths who are even capable of taking consequences into account want the societal rewards of not being perceived as an asshole. Criminal law may be required in addition, but it's not the most powerful tool. Also, prison affects many more people than just sociopaths. And, significantly, lots of people think that the criminal code is overused.

...but each regulation currently enacted has, at least theoretically, been enacted with the consent of the people, and is therefore presumed to be in the interest of the public unless demonstrated otherwise.

That only means it's democratically legitimate, not that it's a good regulation. No, it's not presumed to be in the interest of the public unless you assume that the political system generally creates regulations that are in the interest of the public. In other words, unless you assume what you need to prove.

Moreover, things that were passed and were thought to be good ideas 10 years earlier may not be good law now. Yet they often stay on the books.

Such demonstration is often trivial, and you have been invited to demonstrate, yet you've declined. Conversely, it's trivial to come up with a host of regulations that have legitimate grounds (sanitary conditions, fire exits, etc.) so that without any given reference of which of these regulations, in your friend's case, was onerous, we cannot assume that these regulations were indeed excessive. ...

I gave you more examples above, but as I've said, the problem is not concocting some imaginary grounds to make any regulation seem legitimate. Anyone can do that. The problem is running a wide-ranging empirical study of how regulations are abused in practice, and which ones are, and how.

It's entirely possible to find that the cost of regulating California businesses is half a trillion dollars, but whether that's high or not ("more than it should be") depends on the cost of comparable economies and the public cost of not regulating businesses.

It's more than 25% of California's GDP. It's not my responsibility to justify that cost, but that of proponents of regulation.

Jerry Brown thinks California is overregulated. CEOs think California is the most business-hostile state.

That regulatory language can be opaque due to any number of factors doesn't demonstrate that it was needlessly opaque in your friend's case, especially absent any examples.

As you yourself point out, it would be trivial to show you examples of opaque language (that's a section of the tax code). That's just silly when done out of context. A comprehensive and formal empirical analysis needs to be performed of how regulations in the state actually work.

That they have been in business for decades means little

Clearly you didn't read the post I was responding to, which attempted to paint my friends as incompetent. And your not-so-subtle comparison to Madoff and Skilling is a transparent attempt to villainize small business owners. Just a tip that it makes your argument less sympathetic...

And using the rhetorical construction of presuming an unconvinced interlocutor and tying that with the emotion appeal of your mugging analogy again makes it seem like you're not only unable to provide a compelling argument, but that you know that and are defensive about it.

And trying to psychoanalyze me suggests you're preaching to some imaginary and sycophantic Metafilter choir who will applaud you for scoring "points"...
posted by shivohum at 7:18 AM on February 15, 2011


"And I started this discussion with a concrete example of regulations that were abused to bilk user fees out of a small business. It shows abuse is possible, and, I believe, not uncommon. "

No. You started this discussion with an anecdote that does not demonstrate "regulations that were abused to bilk user fees out of a small business." That is your assertion, but that user fees are required for submission and that errors were found does not necessitate that those regulations were abusive or bilking. Any number of legitimate explanations exist, from your friends not having a good plan, their lacking appropriate legal representation, down to your misrepresenting their experiences, etc.

"Your statement is both merely asserted without evidence and unlikely. Social norms are far more pervasive, more easily enforced, and operate by a much stronger legitimate consensus than regulations."

Unfortunately, my assertion is born out by even a casual knowledge of food and drug history — if social remedies were sufficient to ensure the health of the public, then the FDA would not be necessary. QED.

"There's also a difference between specific regulations and the law generally. You're confusing these two. Laws can allow people to sue each other under civil law for placing unreasonable risks on others without regulations that require micromanagement."

The difference is between the executive and legislative branches, however, you are again merely asserting "micromanagement." If you can't put forth an argument that doesn't rely on loaded language to camouflage its paucity of fact, you might as well stop. Further, tort claims are a post facto remedy; regulation is preventative. It is generally better to prevent an anti-social act than to punish it after it has occurred, not least because those who would act in an anti-social manner are not generally amenable to paying the penalties (and in this case, you only propose civil remedies). See: Uncollected judgment.

"That would assume the regulations actually do the work of deterring this behavior effectively, and at a cost that's reasonable. That's what you haven't proven."

Which I openly admitted. However, in the absence of actual examples to talk about, and given your loaded language, I think it's fair to be skeptical of your claims and assume that the regulations are reasonable. Certainly, from the description that you gave — your friend submitted a plan, it had an error, and he had to correct it, then resubmit, and that this process took several rounds, paying fees at each step — this doesn't seem unreasonable. Your friend's plan had errors, you admit. Paying fees to offset the cost of finding those errors is fair, especially if we wish to encourage those errors to be found prior to submission. This process seems reasonable given the circumstances. It doesn't seem a stretch to therefore assume that the regulations are likewise reasonable, and your friend's complaint comes from not getting what he wanted. As I said, I'm happy to have you change my mind, but you're going to have to actually do so — assuming that all regulations are inherently bad is a ludicrous position to take.

"Actually, you're wrong. Social norms and reputational consequences are a far more powerful deterrent than prison. Sociopaths who are even capable of taking consequences into account want the societal rewards of not being perceived as an asshole. Criminal law may be required in addition, but it's not the most powerful tool. Also, prison affects many more people than just sociopaths. And, significantly, lots of people think that the criminal code is overused."

The evidence linking increased punishment to lower crime rates is very strong. I'm sure I could find many, many, many more citations if you really want, but arguing that social norms and reputational consequences are more effective than prison is really contrafactual and ahistorical. Further, the point I was making wasn't that regulations are directly analogous to prison, but that prison is legitimate and removing it without demonstrating a better method is foolish.

"That only means it's democratically legitimate, not that it's a good regulation. No, it's not presumed to be in the interest of the public unless you assume that the political system generally creates regulations that are in the interest of the public. In other words, unless you assume what you need to prove."

You assume that the political system doesn't generally create regulations in the interest of the public? I'm sorry, it's one thing to be honest and note that not every regulation created serves the public interest, but to argue that regulations GENERALLY don't is bullshit. Seatbelts, clean water, speed limits, cancer warnings, waste disposal… Really, it's simply absurd to assume that the stated purpose of regulation (public interest) doesn't apply, and that regulations don't, in general, improve the public good. This is ahistorical nonsense on your part, and can be seen both in the positive cases (the general lack of tainted food, e.g.) to the negative cases, in which a regulation does not generally serve the public good (e.g. copyright restrictions which are largely broken and unpunished). But even there, in the negative, it's still an edge case.

Sorry, while individual regulations may not be in the public good, the general belief that regulations serve the public good can be assumed by anyone with any sense of social context or historical knowledge.

"Moreover, things that were passed and were thought to be good ideas 10 years earlier may not be good law now. Yet they often stay on the books."

Is this the case in your friend's example? If not, it's a non sequitor and irrelevant. I already conceded that many regulations may not serve the public good — you should be able to demonstrate how these regulations (which really are about the substance of your friend's errors) are against the public good.

"I gave you more examples above, but as I've said, the problem is not concocting some imaginary grounds to make any regulation seem legitimate. Anyone can do that. The problem is running a wide-ranging empirical study of how regulations are abused in practice, and which ones are, and how."

No, you didn't. Perhaps you were confused because you'd been asked to provide examples, then meant to but didn't? But the problem of a study is yours — you made the assertion that these regulations are negative in effect and now complain that it's too difficult to demonstrate that? Please stop wasting our time.

It's more than 25% of California's GDP. It's not my responsibility to justify that cost, but that of proponents of regulation. "

Actually, no, since that's all been legally enacted, it really is the job of people who want to cut these regulations to point out why they're bad and why removing them is better than the alternative. For example, it is a huge expense in new developments to do environmental reviews. However, the social costs borne by the public would be even higher if the environmental reviews were not carried out.

Like I said, prior to enaction every regulation should be presumed bad and its necessity demonstrated; after enaction, the burden shifts to critics.

"Jerry Brown thinks California is overregulated. CEOs think California is the most business-hostile state. "

What does Superman think? Aside from the dubious appeal to Jerry Brown's authority, CEOs always think they're dealing with an onerous regulatory burden — it is in their direct interest to claim so.

Clearly you didn't read the post I was responding to, which attempted to paint my friends as incompetent. And your not-so-subtle comparison to Madoff and Skilling is a transparent attempt to villainize small business owners. Just a tip that it makes your argument less sympathetic..."

Actually, I did. You're not as good at arguing as you think you are if you believe that length of time in any business can be used as a straight proxy for quality. I was pointing out obvious examples of bad businessmen with careers of equal length in order to make that point. George Bush spent decades in government; that did not make him good at government. He also spent decades in business. That did not make him good at business. Carly Fiorina is another recent example, where she touted her experience without reminding folks she was fired.

"And trying to psychoanalyze me suggests you're preaching to some imaginary and sycophantic Metafilter choir who will applaud you for scoring "points"..."

Please try not to be inane.
posted by klangklangston at 11:33 AM on February 15, 2011


You started this discussion with an anecdote that does not demonstrate "regulations that were abused to bilk user fees out of a small business." That is your assertion, but that user fees are required for submission and that errors were found does not necessitate that those regulations were abusive or bilking.

Yes, I'm comfortable trusting my friends' version of events in the context of the other evidence I've shown that California spends a huge amount to regulate.

Unfortunately, my assertion is born out by even a casual knowledge of food and drug history — if social remedies were sufficient to ensure the health of the public, then the FDA would not be necessary. QED.

Let me explain a little something about logic. Just because something is more powerful than something else does not mean that the latter cannot add incremental value. Social norms are more powerful than laws; that doesn't mean laws add nothing or are unnecessary.

The difference is between the executive and legislative branches


What? No it's not. Stop making things up without knowledge. If anything, it's a difference between the legislative and judicial branches. Tort law, for example, stems from judge-made common law. Judgments of reasonability are decided in the final instance by judge-made precedent. The more specified the regulation, the less judicial discretion.

It is generally better to prevent an anti-social act than to punish it after it has occurred, not least because those who would act in an anti-social manner are not generally amenable to paying the penalties (and in this case, you only propose civil remedies). See: Uncollected judgment.


Ah, an actual argument. Congratulations. Unfortunately, the preventative nature of regulation has costs: the cost it takes to comprehend what the regulations require, overbreadth, defensive overcompliance, etc. Sometimes they're worth it, and my sense is that they're overused, and a massive study needs to be conducted seeing which ones are in fact worth it.

Really, it's simply absurd to assume that the stated purpose of regulation (public interest) doesn't apply, and that regulations don't, in general, improve the public good.

There's a difference between a) someone thinking the regulation accomplishes some good, b) it actually accomplishing that good in the real world, c) someone thinking the regulation is worth the downside, and d) it actually being worth that downside in the real world.

Lots of regulations may accomplish some good, but not accomplish it in the best way or be better than a market solution.

I feel comfortable not giving a presumption of worthwhileness to regulation simply by the fact that it's passed by the state government, especially in a state like California known for its notoriously big government system.

Historically much regulation has been good, and much has been crap.

Like I said, prior to enaction every regulation should be presumed bad and its necessity demonstrated; after enaction, the burden shifts to critics.

You're confusing what the legal burden should be with what the moral burden should be. The legal burden is on opponents of legislation to get it changed. The moral burden is, in my opinion, on proponents of regulation to regularly justify their actions using state-of-the-art empirics.

No, you didn't. Perhaps you were confused because you'd been asked to provide examples, then meant to but didn't?


I gave another example of a small business overregulated above in the article I linked to. I gave an example of both opaque language in the tax code and an incredibly lengthy title 8. To give more substantive examples would require a large and complex study. There is enough to know that something is, at least from the face of it, very wrong.

Perhaps you should stop leaning on your haloed view of big government and explain why California should be given a free pass to pass half a trillion dollars worth of regulation without clear, empirical studies demonstrating that it's worth it in practice? We require it for prescription headache medication -- why not for the fate of a 30-million-person state? Empirical studies aren't perfect, but they're often way more than we have.

What does Superman think?

He agrees with me.

Actually, I did. You're not as good at arguing as you think you are if you believe that length of time in any business can be used as a straight proxy for quality.


Actually, you didn't. His post said: "How is this guy going to stay in business when the inspectors come to check his facility and he hasn't bothered to pay attention to the requirements for equipment sterilization, or he didn't hire an accountant who could manage his taxation and cash flows properly?" It doesn't take a genius to see that length of time is a proper rebuttal in this context.
posted by shivohum at 12:25 PM on February 15, 2011


"Let me explain a little something about logic. Just because something is more powerful than something else does not mean that the latter cannot add incremental value. Social norms are more powerful than laws; that doesn't mean laws add nothing or are unnecessary."

Except that you've inverted the relationship based on specious reasoning (though the "let me explain something about logic" was a nice touch):

Regulations do not add "incremental" value over social reputation; social reputation adds incremental value over regulation. We can see this by looking at situations in which regulation was absent, e.g. food quality prior to the Pure Food and Drug Act. Or even more broadly by looking at the violent crime rates in cities prior to the establishment of police forces. Social reputation is a valuable tool, but in order to demonstrate that it is more powerful than regulation, you're going to have to provide more than your continued assertion.

"What? No it's not. Stop making things up without knowledge. If anything, it's a difference between the legislative and judicial branches. Tort law, for example, stems from judge-made common law. Judgments of reasonability are decided in the final instance by judge-made precedent. The more specified the regulation, the less judicial discretion."

Uh, I know that 10th grade civics was very hard and you slept through a lot of it, but regulatory agencies are given their authority through the legislature, then use executive power to promulgate the regulations for the execution of the laws, which are then reviewed by judges. Regulations are presumed to have a rational basis when reviewed by judges (hence less discretion in more specific regulations) because they are assumed to be legitimate because the executives have been empowered by the legislature acting representatively for the public.

This can most easily be seen by looking at the structure of regulatory agencies, whose heads are appointed by the head executive of a city/state/country and who are then charged with drawing up the specific language of regulations. This is how American government works. In order to complain about California, this is knowledge you should already have.

" Sometimes they're worth it, and my sense is that they're overused, and a massive study needs to be conducted seeing which ones are in fact worth it."

I hate to be so blunt, but your sense is absolutely worthless here, yet you've provided nothing else except "more research needed" handwaving.

"I feel comfortable not giving a presumption of worthwhileness to regulation simply by the fact that it's passed by the state government, especially in a state like California known for its notoriously big government system."

This is again assertion of opinion in the absence of argument or evidence. That may fly at cocktail parties where your friends already agree with you, but it doesn't work here.

"Historically much regulation has been good, and much has been crap."

However, generally, regulation is a public good. Nothing you've said has contradicted that.

"You're confusing what the legal burden should be with what the moral burden should be. The legal burden is on opponents of legislation to get it changed. The moral burden is, in my opinion, on proponents of regulation to regularly justify their actions using state-of-the-art empirics."

You're confusing your presumption of moral burden with anything resembling a persuasive argument. And your recurrent insistence on more evidence collected by someone else in order to justify any regulation at all is asinine argumentation from ignorance.

"I gave another example of a small business overregulated above in the article I linked to. I gave an example of both opaque language in the tax code and an incredibly lengthy title 8. To give more substantive examples would require a large and complex study. There is enough to know that something is, at least from the face of it, very wrong."

And your examples were pretty frankly bullshit, and you should be embarrassed for proffering them as if they were serious. The small business "over-regulated" was required to buy beer from a state wholesaler, required to obey labor laws (including minimum wage), and to store towels used in a food service business in a sanitary manner. It was a cranky letter written to a local newspaper by a convenience store owner complaining that he couldn't risk externalizing costs to the public because of governmental regulation. The reason he can't buy beer anywhere is because liquor distribution is notoriously corrupt, the reason why he has to provide a safe environment and fair wages to his employees is because businesses have been notoriously exploitative, and he also in no way shows that those regulations are excessive, only that they impair his ability to do business as he sees fit. Given that he has powerful incentives to anti-social behavior, it's better that he's constrained away from those behaviors by regulation than it is that we all have to pay the cost of his being able to follow through with them.

Further, the idea that just posting a link to the tax code shows that it's somehow onerous is absurd, and you admitted as much above. You've previously tried the same sort of shenanigans by alleging that because you couldn't understand a post-structuralist philosopher's jargon that therefore the jargon was the problem. It may be, but you have not demonstrated it and need a refresher in what evidence implies.

"Perhaps you should stop leaning on your haloed view of big government and explain why California should be given a free pass to pass half a trillion dollars worth of regulation without clear, empirical studies demonstrating that it's worth it in practice? We require it for prescription headache medication -- why not for the fate of a 30-million-person state? Empirical studies aren't perfect, but they're often way more than we have."

I won't be drawn into arguing a contrafactual case in order to appease your libertarian dogma. My position — that it's reasonable to presume current regulations are justifiable absent evidence to the contrary, and that it's reasonable to presume future regulations are unjustified absent evidence — hasn't changed, and if you want to go find empirical studies either way, I'm happy to discuss them, but I'm not going to humor your argument from ignorance.

"Actually, you didn't. His post said: "How is this guy going to stay in business when the inspectors come to check his facility and he hasn't bothered to pay attention to the requirements for equipment sterilization, or he didn't hire an accountant who could manage his taxation and cash flows properly?" It doesn't take a genius to see that length of time is a proper rebuttal in this context."

No, it's not. If he can't pay attention to regulations (something you seem willing to concede), that he has been in business this long does not mean that he will continue to; see references to Skilling and Madoff. If you meant to say that he does, in fact, pay attention to regulations, and that this has allowed him to stay in business despite feeling burdened by them, you are free to do so, but it's not my fault that your zingers are poor argument.



Finally — I'm bored with this. I don't think you have any compelling argument, I do believe you're simply parroting talking points and anti-government rhetoric, and a brief perusal of your comment history hasn't shown any great willingness on your part to shift your stance or provide more than a stubborn restatement of points already dismissed. I think it's likely that this lengthy back and forth has bored the rest of the participants in this thread (for which I apologize), and I won't be engaging any more with this sort of detail.

If you wish to say that there are burdensome and unnecessary regulations in California in general, regulations that no longer serve their purpose or that have deleterious effects that outweigh their advantages, I'll heartily agree. However, seeking to generalize from that, especially without being willing to provide specific examples of regulations that you feel are burdensome and being able to demonstrate that they are either unnecessary or that their utility is negative in terms of costing businesses more than a lack of that regulation would cost the public, is simply not an argument, but rather an assertion. And your assertions carry no weight with me.
posted by klangklangston at 1:35 PM on February 15, 2011


Finally — I'm bored with this.

Finally we agree.
posted by shivohum at 1:44 PM on February 15, 2011


This is a great example of what I write about above. Your request is not my responsibility, but the responsibility of advocates for specific regulations. It is their responsibility to show in concrete terms why each regulation has a worthwhile cost/benefit ratio. Each regulation is assumed guilty until proven innocent.


That is in fact the exact process that was followed when regulations are written. See first congress or the state house passes a bill. Then they issue the funding for the bill. Then the executive branch writes the regulations that implement the bill. Then these are subject to economic review by other government agencies, legal review and a public comment period, and court challenges. Any proposed change in an existing regulation or implementation of a new regulation goes through the same process. All the comments are gathered processed and reviewed and subject to multiple hearings and then finally we have a regulation. Then we have enforcement oversight and audit reports to ensure that the regulation is not causing undo harm to the business community, followed by further litigation from these rich white guys who always scream about all the lawsuits and activist judgets. Finally many bills have sunset clauses which require their periodic review and passage by congress. For example the National Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NESA) was last renewed in 2002 in a bill called "No Child Left Behind" (Triggering large numbers of regulatory changes). Now this bill is up for renewal and will subject the entire NCLB and other related regulations shifting the whole world of education yet again.

So when you want to scream about the "stupid regulations" you better have something more than some bullshit my buddy can't open a dentist office story. You better have hard data about the actual economic impacts, something more substantial than an astroturfering campaign sob story and a real understanding of the regulatory process and the impacts of the regulations you want to change.

In summary stop whinging like a 3 year old because you can't have candy before dinner. Your only oppressed by your own ignorance. Cast of the bonds that enslave you and free your mind.
posted by humanfont at 2:31 PM on February 15, 2011


That is in fact the exact process that was followed when regulations are written.

Good summary. I knew it already, but it was nicely put--probably the best information in this thread. The mere fact that such a process is posited in theory, however, does not mean that it is followed with rigor in practice. Large, powerful special interests are more likely to have the funds and access to put forth their point of view and tilt the debate. Nor, obviously, does the political process necessarily makes the right decision based on whatever process is followed. I am skeptical on both these points. But hey, if you had studies showing that the process works really quite well on the whole, I'd love to see them.

Speaking of which, since you seem to be such an expert, want to show me some links to rigorous studies showing how Cal/OSHA health and safety regulations are overall worthwhile in practice?

You better have hard data about the actual economic impacts

I provided it above in a study by two professors estimating the cost of regulations to be half a trillion annually.

Cast of the bonds that enslave you and free your mind.

Where is that from? Ayn Rand's blog?

and a real understanding of the regulatory process and the impacts of the regulations you want to change.

I never mentioned any particular regulations that I wanted to change -- only that I wanted a wholesale empirical review of California's regulatory regime with an eye to the way that regulations are abused to hurt small businesses.

Anyhow, when MeFi becomes a rigorous peer-reviewed academic journal or think tank, I'll feel obliged to write an 80-page position paper with cited information instead of putting forth an opinion based on my experiences and thoughts as a reasonably well-informed citizen. And everyone else here can do the same instead talking out of equally informal speculation.
posted by shivohum at 3:16 PM on February 15, 2011


shivohum writes "Speaking of which, since you seem to be such an expert, want to show me some links to rigorous studies showing how Cal/OSHA health and safety regulations are overall worthwhile in practice?"

Seriously? Before OSHA and related legislation employees being injured or killed was standard business practice with very little down side for the business. Increased regulation has lowered the proportional number of accidents by putting costs on businesses when their employees are injured. Capitalism in action. This has led to increased training, safer work practices, and safer working conditions. Here are a bunch of immediate success stories demonstrating the kind of thing that business do when not regulated or regulated but feeling they can skirt safety guidelines.

shivohum writes "First, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, courts can decide whether the business complied or not and that can sometimes be better. Second, it simply isn't true that all jargon is the result of the need for precision. Much of it is simply bad writing, and a lot of the rest is due to lobbyists' desire to hide provisions that benefit special interests. See for example the tax code."

Small businesses are better served by complex but precise regulations than regulations that are so open to interpretation that they require a judge to pass judgment. That should be self evident but take for example the building code. Do we really want every building project to end up in court to decide whether certain details are legal? That would be the exact opposite of a streamlined process. And building code is a fine example of what happens when there is little to no regulation. Places with strong building codes and enforcement have decent buildings that aren't a hazard to the public. Practically universally a lack of building regulation means buildings fall down and are in general less safe than regulated construction.
posted by Mitheral at 3:51 PM on February 15, 2011


shivohum writes "Or I could ask for justifications for other people's stories about overregulation (mentions onerous labor laws, paperwork requirements, too many notices required to be hung, regulations requiring dish cloths to be stored in bleach which shreds them),"

This cafe owner is a nut with an axe to grind. Let's look at some of his complaints:

California literally tells us how to hang our toilet paper in the employee bathroom.
Anyone know how onerous this requirement is? It seems like a weird thing to rail about unless it is somehow burdensome.

California also tells us to store our dish cloths in bleach, which will turn them into shreds of tissue within 24 hours.
Storing cloths that are being used to wipe down food preparation surfaces in a weak bleach solution is common place in BC Commercial kitchens. I've never seen significant damage to cloths from this practice. This is so weird I'm not even sure what he is talking about. The only thing I can guess is either he's buying low quality linens (paper towels maybe) or is using way too strong a bleach mixture.

I receive about 250 pages of government correspondence a year, including plenty of duplicates and material that does not pertain to my business
I'm not sure what the alternative to the author spending a minute or two a day processing these notices. Maybe posting them on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying, "Beware of the Leopard." Complaining that the government is providing guidance on compiling with regulation seems nonsensical. Having worked in support I'd bet the vast majority of that correspondence is intended to address massive observed failings on the the part of businesses.

I also receive a plethora of notices I am required to post in my limited space, including at least six permits (costing up to $1,000 per year), plus numerous signs regarding alcohol, tobacco, sale to minors, hand washing, fire, occupancy, employee rights, and so on.
Heaven forbid employees be reminded of their responsibilities to the health of the public and notified of their rights. Again it seems the tradeoff that would see replacing these types of notices with advertising seems like poor deal for the general public. Does this guy complain that the government requires him to affix a license plate to his car Well he just might but it would be just as silly.

Finally he ends with a note that concedes that regulation can be good, especially the stuff that he has written as an expert, but that all this regulation he isn't an expert on must be rubbish put in place just to mess with business.
posted by Mitheral at 4:25 PM on February 15, 2011


Anyone know how onerous this requirement is?

• Cal/OSHA's toilet paper requirement. Short answer: they want a roll in each stall.

• California Retail Food Code, from California Health and Safety Code:
Article 1. Toilet Facilities. 114250. Toilet tissue shall be provided in a permanently installed dispenser at each toilet.

• The Americans with Disabilities Act does make some very specific requirements about TP placement in public restrooms and that's what the Redding cafe owner was referencing:

4.16.6 Dispensers. Toilet paper dispensers shall be installed within reach, as shown in Fig. 29(b). Dispensers that control delivery, or that do not permit continuous paper flow, shall not be used.

ADA is federal law and thus applies to all states.

Additionally it's possible the cafe owner in Redding is not differentiating between requirements made by the state of CA and requirements imposed by his local city or county, however a cursory review of the City of Redding and Shasta County's Health & Safety codes did not unearth any mention of TP other than "there needs to be some in the restroom."
posted by jamaro at 5:40 PM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I recall we had an article back a month or two ago where two professors were claiming ESP exists. So you'll have to do better than some CATO institute garbage claiming we would all be safer if we just shut-up and let the boss make the rules about how fast the machine runs. Let's take a look at the improvements in workplace safety: From 1933 to 1997 workplace deaths per 100,00 workers declined by over 90% and fell in real terms by almost 10,000 workers / year in spite of the fact that the workforce tripled. From 1980 to 1995 workplace injuries declined by 43%.

Your claim that the regulatory process is not followed correctly would be grounds to challenge the regulation and is often used by business groups for purposes of delaying regulation. Shivoum you've got a few examples posted by people who apparently can't be bothered to learn how to run their kitchen, architect their buildings and feel that there is some horrible burden on them for learning the basics of health and safety law before opening a restaurant.

The fact is that the US Chamber and its business allies have a huge amount of power in this country. They have spent trillions of dollars trying to eliminate regulations, while jacking up prices on our health care and feeding us shitburgers and rat dropping chocolate bars.

Also if your regulations are so burdensome to corporations please explain their record profits (1.4 trillion dollars after tax, up 46.9 billion for the same period in 1970. Gosh those darn regulations keeping the business man down, watch you they might pull the John Gault on us...
posted by humanfont at 6:31 PM on February 15, 2011


That should be self evident but take for example the building code. Do we really want every building project to end up in court to decide whether certain details are legal?

Well the first question is whether all of the regulations are really necessary or not. Is each one adding enough incremental value to justify it? Secondly, even if specific is good (and I agree that it often is), many of the rules could be offered as guidelines that would function as a defense in court if something went wrong, rather than requirements that had to be pre-approved by regulators. If someone deviated from the guidelines, injured someone, and was sued, they would have to show how their deviation was reasonable. Simply require a sufficient insurance bond to help with the problem of judgment-proof defendants.

Before OSHA and related legislation employees being injured or killed was standard business practice with very little down side for the business.

But my question is about Cal/OSHA in particular. Even if California's particularly strict standards were non-existent, Fed OSHA would still apply. What's the evidence that the more stringent regulations are worth the extra cost? California has the second highest number of workplace fatalities in the nation. Yes, it also has one of the largest populations, but you would think the regulations would help it do better than expected.

Good points about the specifics of the small business owner's complaints, but wrong about the spirit. I believe if you talk to most small business owners who are open to the public in some way, they'll tell you it cost a lot more to start their business than you would think due to licensing, permits, and so on, and that it can be a maze of regulatory requirements. Perhaps health care is particularly bad on this front, I don't know. I would love to see a survey of small business owners on their feelings about this, but haven't been able to find one. Let me know if you do.

--

I recall we had an article back a month or two ago where two professors were claiming ESP exists. So you'll have to do better than some CATO institute garbage


Ah, I see. If you can't argue with evidence, just dismiss it. Makes sense. I hereby dismiss all your evidence as big government liberal garbage. Does that work?

In any case, the study was not by CATO but was commissioned by the state government Office of Planning and Research.

Let's take a look at the improvements in workplace safety: From 1933 to 1997 workplace deaths per 100,00 workers declined by over 90% and fell in real terms by almost 10,000 workers / year in spite of the fact that the workforce tripled. From 1980 to 1995 workplace injuries declined by 43%.


Yes, and I'm sure regulation accounts for all of this. How about improved technology, unions, the increased spread of bad publicity through mass media, improved class action lawsuits, etc.?

And I suspect that workplace deaths also declined in all states, despite their having regulatory schemes of very different harshness.

feeding us shitburgers and rat dropping chocolate bars.

Please show me countries in the world with better statistics. Most likely a certain amount of contamination is simply inevitable unless you want to pay $30 for a tomato.

Also if your regulations are so burdensome to corporations please explain their record profits

Perhaps because a lot of those profits come from big corporations rather than small ones? Your link doesn't break it down.

Perhaps because even more growth (and job creation) could have happened with more reasonable regulation?

Perhaps because interest rates are near historic laws? Or because businesses have just laid off a lot of employees and cut overhead, so they're getting the short-term fruits of those cost savings (perhaps at the expense of future revenue growth)?

There's also a plausible case to be made that excessive regulation cements the position of incumbents in the market by creating barriers to entry and rewards economies of scale in ways that make it hard for new competitors to join industries, or for small competitors to rise. This might facilitate higher profits.
posted by shivohum at 7:12 PM on February 15, 2011


really shivohum, from your own link: "The report's authors, led by Sanjay Varshney, dean of the College of Business Administration at Cal State Sacramento, had produced a separate study, commissioned by the Small Business Roundtable"

You are defending your source by linking to evidence that he's basically a corporate shill.
posted by humanfont at 6:22 PM on February 16, 2011


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