“At least they’ve got the conversation started,” concludes Reuters TV reporter Andy Sullivan on the latest proposal to split up California. That must qualify as dry humor, since the conversation on breaking up the Golden State seems never to have stopped at all, especially when involving Silicon Valley entrepreneur Tim Draper. After having failed to win a referendum fight to split up California into six states, Draper’s back with a proposal to make three new states out of it:
ICYMI: Silicon Valley titan @timdraper says California is dysfunctional. His solution: splitting the state into three parts. He’s hoping voters will agree in November, @andysullivan reports https://t.co/zvlbcRx7TC via @ReutersTV pic.twitter.com/GLkgW5yzyO
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) June 12, 2018
Draper has gotten enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, which wasn’t the case when Jazz wrote about the effort two months ago. The state still has to approve the application, but it seems unlikely to get held up unless the signatures turn out to be fraudulent. California’a open referendum system doesn’t put insurmountable obstacles to grass-roots efforts like this, or at least purportedly grass-roots efforts. One has to wonder just how much this resonates among everyday Californians, and how much of this is just an expression of frustration by economic elites who have grown disenchanted with the progressive “utopia” they helped create in the first place.
Everything they claim about California is true, of course. It’s an economic wreck, where regulation has strangled small business and where income inequality is fourth-highest in the nation, right behind New York, Connecticut, and, er … Louisiana. Its pension system is on life support, its infrastructure is a wreck, its middle class is getting squeezed out, and the political opposition to the establishment is pretty much moribund.
What isn’t clear is how splitting the state solves those problems. The pension system would have to get split among the three successor states, all of which would carry the name “California,” by the way — Northern California, Southern California, while the smallest would inherit “California” as its label. Splitting the state doesn’t solve infrastructure except perhaps that it would force an end to the high-speed rail project that would necessarily require all three states to run it. Other than that money going elsewhere, having three states with inadequate infrastructure investment and pension overhangs only means that three governments will have those headaches rather than one.
However, it should be clear to everyone why this won’t pass or even come close to it: water rights. The rump state of “California” would be shorn of access to the water necessary for the greater Los Angeles area, putting it at the mercy of the other two states. San Francisco would avoid that issue, which was more of a problem in Draper’s six-state plan, but it could also lose political clout in a more conservative regrouping. And why would the other counties in Draper’s Northern California want to be saddled with San Francisco and Alameda when the whole idea is a political reboot? It might have made more sense to keep those two counties in “California” with LA.
Rather than keep offering ideas about how to dismember California, perhaps Draper and his allies would be better off trying to wrest control of the state from the progressives that are ruining it. Either one is a lost cause, but at least that effort wouldn’t involve Congressional approval. And frankly, rather than getting the conversation “started,” we’d all be happier if this conversation eventually came to an end.
The immortal John Hurt summed up the resurrection of this effort well enough in Spaceballs:
Update, 6/13: The initiative has qualified for the November ballot, so expect to hear more about this … and then to hear more about the next state-splitting idea, and the one after that, and the one after that …