California, first failed state in the making?

March 24, 2010 — by Kim Tsai

Is California a failed state? This is a question closely deliberated by many politicians such as previous Gov. Gray Davis and billionaire candidate Meg Whitman, whose ads for governor blanket the airwaves.

By a general definition on the website SourceWatch, a failed state is a state that is severely lacking in matters of politics, economy and society. California does show signs of a weak society and political system, and, most of all, the economy has had a staggering effect on the lives of many Californians.
With the horrid economy spiraling deeper into the void in the past few months, the unemployment rate has reached a bitter 12 percent and is still on the rise. With a state deficit over $20 billion, California doesn’t seem capable of recovering anytime soon. California’s deep pockets seem to consist of little but IOUs and lint.
The economy has also had a far-reaching effect on education. Former solicitor general Kenneth Starr said, “The percentage of 19-year-olds at college in the state dropped from 43 percent to 30 percent between 1996 and 2004, one of the highest falls ever recorded for any developed world economy.” Starr believes that California has been struggling for a while now and even resembles “a patient on life support.” He has also said California’s educational standing for grades K-12 ranks 47th out of 50 in the nation.
Also important to keep in mind: California is a state full of immigrants and their descendants. There is often a lack of unity among various people and, ultimately, a lack of pride in the state. California is a state full of variety and different opinions, but this may make it difficult to work as a united force.
Another long-running concern in California is the use of gerrymandering in voting. Gerrymandering occurs when voters are split up into districts to give one political force an advantage in votes counted by district. It is used to provide equality for both Republicans and Democrats, but it does not provide equality for the majority. It began in the early 2000s and is only starting to be changed now. A committee dealing specifically to form new, fairer districts plans to be done by mid-September of 2011, according to Fresno Bee. However, citizens still cannot be sure that the new boundaries will create competitive elections that will create less secure seats and more potential change in the state.
The debate on California as the “first failed state” began as early as spring 2009 by newspapers such as The Observer, The Huffington Post and American Thinker before many realized the truth in their articles. Now, other newspapers such as Newsweek and NPR are also reporting their findings.
However, it cannot be said that California is unsuccessful—such an umbrella statement overlooks too many of the Golden State’s achievements. Over the years, California has become one of the most distinguished states in the nation. Home to the bustling and innovative Silicon Valley, California makes the nation’s advanced technology possible. It is the arena in which Google, Apple, Yahoo and other corporations compete.
In history, California is of huge importance as a result of huge events such as the Gold Rush and important landmarks such as the Oregon Trail or the Death Valley. For immigrants, California has often been a symbol of opportunities and promises.
Even with all these past achievements, though, California still seems to be slowly slipping into a state of helplessness. The economic situation has changed normally stable dynamics in schools, business and even the government. The economy is gone down into the dumps, society is a melting pot of incompatible ethnicities and, although it he is no longer a concern, Gov. Schwarzenegger’s approval ratings have sunken greatly as a result of the hardships California is facing.
Arguably, California’s biggest downfall seems to be its economy. To speed the economy into a faster recovery, the government could encourage creating new jobs in order to get California back on track. With all the unemployment, everyone cannot make or spend money. In addition to loans and high taxes, these problems cause California’s economy to gradually get worse to the point where everyone seems to be looking for solutions in the dark. The government could allow more tax deductions or offer certain benefits for new companies. They could also experiment with subsidies a bit more. Overall, the government really should try to get the unemployment rate down in order to allow more money to flow into the economy.
Without major changes, the path California is running down is one that will soon lead to the formation of a failed state. With all these shortcomings, California, the Golden State, won’t be crying out “eureka ” any time soon.