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Local Blues
The Left Goes Local

After the GOP sweeps of 2010 and 2014, President Obama was left with a hostile Republican Congress and few avenues to pursue the progressive political agenda at the national level. So, USA Today claims, he shifted his administration’s domestic policy focus to the local level, reaching out to Democratic Mayors and city councils to push minimum wage laws, paid sick leave, and other progressive policies:

“At least six major cities—Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Tacoma, Wash., and Washington, D.C.—have passed paid sick leave laws in the four months since Obama called for state and local action in this year’s State of the Union Address. Since the 2013 address when Obama called for an increase in the minimum wage, 17 states and six major cities have taken action, including Los Angeles last week.

Obama’s state-and-local strategy may be unprecedented in its scope and ambition. Though previous administrations have appointed top advisers to listen to concerns of state and local officials, the Obama White House appears to be the first to aggressively use those same channels to encourage them to adopt Obama’s policies.”

In general we remain deeply skeptical that the remedies for the problems of a growing 21st-century information economy are to be found in the blue model policies of the past. (And we’re skeptical that the red model has all the answers too.) But we would much rather see this kind of local experimentation than more attempts to impose a one-size-fits-all model on the entire country. The essence of federalism is the division of authority between different levels of government.

Illinois, California, and New York have arguably doubled-down on blue model liberalism in recent years; Texas, Kansas and Georgia are experimenting with low-regulation, business-friendly red model governance; some states like Ohio have dipped their toes into purple waters, and others into waters of an entirely different color. What works? What doesn’t? We will continue to keep tabs on America’s laboratories of democracy.

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  • JR

    I think pushing liberal policies on a local level is a wonderful idea. So when Chicago goes bankrupt, or murder rates in NYC go up, or business start firing workers in Seattle and LA, we wouldn’t have to hear about how the problem is those goshdang Republicans. Conversely, if they work as well as advertised, people like me would be persuaded to support them. Place your bets!

  • FriendlyGoat

    Please let us know the details of TAI’s partial skepticism of the “red model”. It’s not nice to cover your butt by making the obligatory “balancing” statements without bothering to flesh them out.

    • JR

      What locality would you consider to be an example of a “red model”? Kansas comes to mind, and TAI had some fairly critical articles about it, especially before the benefits of the tax cuts started showing in economic growth figures.

      • FriendlyGoat

        A better question is what does TAI consider a red model, and why do the writers here think that red models don’t have all the answers? I think they put something into this piece to sound balanced when there is no real evidence of balance discussed here most of the time. It’s always about the death of the blue model and how bad the blue model is. There is an old saying about the USA governmental system which could be retrofitted for this discussion. The blue model is the worst of all models except for all the others?

        • JR

          Red model implies less government, less taxes and less regulation. Think Texas and (lately) Kansas. There are definite drawbacks to it. But it sure beats the hell out of deep Blue locales that don’t have world-class industry clusters. Alas, there are only so many Silicon Valleys and Manhattan’s to go around.

          • FriendlyGoat

            “Implies”——blah, blah GENERALITIES. What government are you eliminating? What taxes? What regulation?

            What are those “definite drawbacks”? You are just repeating TAI with a supposed balance that is undefined.

          • JR

            Ok, let’s be specific. In case of TX/FL/TN vs. CA/NY/NJ you are eliminating income tax. So if I live in “red” TX I get to keep the income that “blue” CA will take away from me. I’m no expert in regulation but from what I understand getting all the required permits to open a fast food restaurant in “blue” CA takes more than a year vs. less than that (I’m too lazy too google the article discussing it) in “red” TX. That is the government you are eliminating in “red” (low regulation, low taxes) vs. blue (high regulation, high taxes) locales.
            The drawbacks is that you have less of a safety net in “red” TX than you do in “blue” CA/NY. You are given more freedom and that includes more freedom to fail. Some people are OK with that, some aren’t. Life is a series of trade-offs. Pick what’s important to you, and go with it…

          • FriendlyGoat

            That’s it, I guess. Sales taxes and oil taxes instead of income taxes. Open a fast food restaurant faster. More freedom to fail. I think I would prefer a more-comprehensive discussion from TAI, which is what I originally asked for.

          • JR

            CA/NY/NJ have really high sales taxes as well. So there’s that. Fast food restaurant is just an example. Building anything is faster in states with less regulation, whether it is housing, fast food restaurants or whatever else you have. And I thought taxing oil companies instead of oil company workers would be considered good by the left. Interestingly enough, high regulatory burden makes natural resource extraction fairly impossible in places like NY so taxing that revenue stream is impossible by definition. So yes, it ultimately boils down to high tax/high regulation /high safety net vs. low tax/low regulation/lower safety net. I’m not sure what kind of more-comprehensive discussion you want. I freely admit that I prefer low/low/lower way, but I’m not blind to how it is not for everyone.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Some of the other characteristics of red states seem to be insistence on “right to work” laws, failure to run ACA exchanges and expand Medicaid, constant tinkering with workers’ comp, election of politicians who want to privatize schools, Social Security and who knows what else. I really think we all ought to be talking about the whole list of differences between what red model and blue model mean. Certainly we know it always involves a desire to reduce the number of public-sector employees and supposedly replace those jobs with private-sector jobs which are not nearly as secure or livable for employees.
            It’s worth talking about rather than brushing over.

          • Dale Fayda

            Livable, secure? Poppycock!

            Deep Blue California now has the highest poverty rate in the nation: http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article2916749.html. For many years now it has also had the highest percentage of people on welfare and now has over 1/3 of its population of MediCal.

            The cost of living here is beyond astronomical – I know, I live here (though not for long). The state is facing a man-made water shortage, the roads are a disgrace, manufacturing (what’s left of it) is fleeing to mostly Red states.

            Yet Jerry “Governor Dementia” Brown insisted on breaking ground on a $100 billion high-speed railroad no one needs or wants and on making CA a sanctuary state for illegal aliens.

            Just as one example, the average salary (NOT counting benefits) of the employees of LA DWP is around $100K, with supervisors making well north of $250K a year. My electrical rates went up 8% this year, will go up 7% next year, 5% the following year, etc. Public sector union parasites all.

            Another story just broke about enormous overtime racked up by LA Dept. of Transportation employees: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-overtime-los-angeles-department-of-transportation-20150528-story.html. Public sector union parasites all.

            Sales tax in LA County is over 9% and well above that in some municipalities within the county. State income tax rates are the highest in the nation, gas is now well above $4.00 a gallon.

            And that in a nutshell is what “Blue Model” means in to me, children…

          • FriendlyGoat

            I can’t debate with you on what it’s like to live in CA, since I don’t. I guess I do know that CA has had plenty of GOP governors, not just Jerry Brown, and yet even the likes of Arnold, for instance, could not “terminator” the problems away.

          • Dale Fayda

            Having a Republican governor in a deep Blue state doesn’t eliminate or even mitigate the “Blue model”. Arnold, who was the epitome of a RINO, came in as a reformer, tried to get a handle on looming public sector pension crisis through the Voter Initiative process, got slapped down by the unions in that vote, curled up into the fetal position and threw in with the Democrats in the state legislature. Incidentally, it’s instructive to remember how Arnold became governor in the first place – through the recall of Grey Davis (D), the only CA to be recalled in its history.

            All the major cities in CA have been run by Democrats for decades – mayors, city counsel members, Boards of Education, DA’s, police chiefs, city executives, etc. Th only (recent) exception being San Diego, after Bob Filner (D) was forced to resign as mayor following a sexual harassment scandal.

            The state legislature has been completely dominated by Democrats for decades as well. Public sector unions (the storm troops of the Democrat party) are very, very powerful in CA, in addition to being the largest campaign donors.

            The CA state judiciary is also dominated by Democrats.

            In addition, all the major political contributors in CA are Democrats – Silicone Valley, Hollywood, real estate developers, trial lawyer lobby, environmental lobby, etc.

            The occasional insertion of a “moderate Republican”, i.e. liberal-lite governor into this situation doesn’t fundamentally alter anything. California ruling class is “Blue” to the core and the debacle which the formerly great state has become must be placed directly at their feet.

          • FriendlyGoat

            And yet there was Ronald Reagan, George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson.

          • Dale Fayda

            Under Ronald Reagan in the 1960’s California was still the envy of the nation. Vibrant manufacturing sector, excellent public schools, safe and livable cities, state finances in decent shape. Oh, and it was also very white and pretty darn “Red”.

            Deukmejian’s rise was similar to Schwarzenegger’s – both followed a liberal Democrat, who ran the state into the ground. In Deukmajian’s case, it was Gerry “Governor Dementia” Brown in his first go-around and his victory margin was very slight. Like Arnold, Deukmajian had to face a Democrat-dominated state legislature, so my original point still holds.

            Pete Wilson also had to battle a Democrat-controlled statehouse, and did so fairly successfully, doing some good work in improving the CA business climate and keeping taxes in check. However, the state government on all levels was still controlled by Democrats and the illegal Mexican population was swelling, just like now.

            But even that is irrelevant to my point. Massachusetts recently had Mitt Romney and now has Charlie Baker. Did it or will it turn Massachusetts into anything but deep “Blue”? Hell to the no! Illinois had a string of GOP governors in the ’90s – was Illinois anything but deep “Blue” during that time? Bwahahahahaha!

            Do you think Bruce Rauner will be able to to uproot the decades old “Blue” political machine in IL? Highly unlikely. Is Chris Christie (just won re-election in a landslide) turning NJ even slightly purple? Not from where I’m standing.

            The point is that governors are like football coaches – they get too much of the credit and too much of the blame. The way a state functions is determined by which political philosophy governs it at ALL levels and by whether that philosophy is consistently applied over an extended period of time. In that sense, CA is the epitome of the “Blue” model, having experimented with social democracy at ALL levels of government since the late 1960’s.

          • FriendlyGoat

            One would think that a state with so many GOP governors for so many years would not be unable to elect a GOP legislature.
            CA seems to be conflicted.

          • Boritz

            As Dean Koontz once postulated they would have been better off with Lou Ferrigno.

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