Friday, May 28, 2010

Trickle-Down Misery in L.A.

Increasingly, government workers are the electoral base of the party of government. So Villaraigosa must live with the arithmetic of interest-group liberalism. The federal government, he says, can run deficits and print money; the state government (supposedly) must balance the budget but can push burdens down onto cities. There, he says, “you have 10 cookies in the cookie jar and every interest wants all 10.”

The nightmare numbers include the state’s unemployment rate (12.6 percent)—it is higher than the nation’s (9.9)—and the city’s rate (13.5), which is higher than the state’s. The city’s long-term success depends on its schools, in many of which most of the children come from homes without fathers, and in some of which, Villaraigosa says, 40 percent of the children are in foster homes. He has little control over the school system and, anyway, unions oppose radical reforms. He would like to emulate the education reforms of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, a recent visitor to the mayor’s residence, but, holding his fingers three inches apart to suggest the thickness of the standard contract with the teachers’ union, Villaraigosa calls the union “the most powerful defender of the status quo.”


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