Eureka! Why don’t we take over Nevada?
With all due respect to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, “jobs, jobs, jobs” is not California’s top priority, despite the focus of his State of the State address. A problem just as pressing would be “money, money, money,” a refrain popularized by the O’Jays nearly 40 years ago. (With Jerry Brown running for governor, why not start trotting out the greatest hits of the 1970s?)
Simply put, as the Governator told us, California can’t expect a healthy revenue stream until 2013 at the earliest. That means even more painful cuts to education and social services and a state motto more “Ay, caramba” than “Eureka.”
But rather than waste valuable column space hammering the powers-that-be in Sacramento, let’s acknowledge that the ever-optimistic Schwarzenegger has it right: We’re a creative people who can think and innovate our way out of this mess. To wit: some outside-the-box ways to get money to California in a hurry.
Silver and Gold
Declare an Anschluss between California and Nevada and annex the northern half of the Silver State. Hailing the two states as “two lands linked by one language, one lake and a love for all things hedonistic,” Schwarzenegger could immediately seize the brothels and casinos, sending their profits to Sacramento. With marijuana legalization looming on the state ballot, 2010 goes down as the year of “sin is in” as a revenue booster. Bonus added: Once those former Nevadans get a whiff of California’s higher taxes, they’ll flee the land -- leaving more room for the rest of us.
Since the Guv is now at war with Washington over “fair share” and Obamacare, take the next step. In the spirit of Peter Sellers and his great geopolitical satire, make 2010 the year that a mouse called California roared. The Golden State secedes from the Union, declares war and promptly surrenders; followed soon thereafter by nation/state-building and a request for foreign aid. In 2003, Congress created the $18.4-billion Iraq Relief and Construction Fund to repair that country’s infrastructure, which is more than double what Schwarzenegger now wants from Washington. Think our roads and bridges could benefit from that kind of sugar?
And a pyramid too
Change our name from California to Egypt. Every year, and usually with little fanfare, the U.S. writes a fat check to Egypt ($1.7 billion in 2008) for, among other things, education, healthcare and human rights needs (oh yeah, and a lot of weapons). Why not redirect that check to a P.O. box with a 95814 ZIP Code? Californiaphobic members of Congress from the red states will say that we don’t qualify as a foreign land, which is funny considering how long conservatives have trashed California as un-American. Bonus added: Schwarzenegger gets the much-cooler title of “pharaoh,” and gets to spend the afterlife in a nice, shiny pyramid. Solar-paneled and carbon-neutral, of course.
It’s a pirate’s life
Since the Legislature already borders on the criminal (as in criminally neglectful, criminally misguided), why not make our 120 intrepid lawmakers real outlaws by sending them to sea as a West Coast version of the Somali pirates. It’ll never solve our $20-billion budget mess (after all, a Somali hijacking that ended in February 2009 after a 4 1/2 month standoff netted only $3.2 million for the bad guys). But it would keep the Legislature far, far away from Sacramento. And that would be Schwarzenegger’s most endearing legacy.
Paging Mr. Cameron
Instead of spending $500 million on job training, as the governor proposes, give the money to director James Cameron and let the state share in his profits. Reports on production costs for “Avatar” vary from $200 million to $500 million; in three weeks, it grossed more than $1 billion. “Titanic” cost about $200 million to produce; it grossed about $1.2 billion. And his “Terminator 2,” which starred our governor in his previous life, enjoyed a 5-1 box-office-to-cost ratio. Good luck finding that kind of return in any CalPERS investment over the last couple of years.
Really -- a pig and a pony
A new reality show, based on life inside the Schwarzenegger household, with the proceeds going to deficit reduction. The stars? Not Arnold and Maria but the real stars of the State of the State speech: the pig and the pony wandering around their backyard (co-starring the nice folks at PETA and the L.A. County Department of Animal Care & Control). I want to see if they really can get their mitts on that dog food -- or if that fabulous teamwork the governor gushed about is, in life as in politics, more illusion than reality.
Bill Whalen, a Hoover Institution research fellow, was chief speechwriter for former California Gov. Pete Wilson.