California could be the world’s most disruptive Startup

 
submit to reddit
 

by Jed Wheeler

We’ve all seen and heard about how Californian companies are changing the world, from giants like Apple and Google to startups like Lyft and AirBnB to automotive companies like Tesla and Zero motorcycles to biotech, medical companies, and virtually every other industry.  Californians have re-written the rules and disrupted virtually every industry on the planet.   It seems like the only industry that is immune to disruption, in fact, is our government.

Ask yourself, why is that?

America’s political system is broken.  Our elections are ranked as the worst among western democracies and recent studies show public opinion has virtually no impact on what politicians in Washington DC actually do.  A recent Princeton study found that the US is not a Democracy or a Republic, it is an Oligarchy.  Meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor is the biggest it’s been in decades.  It’s not just you, the system really is rigged.  And that’s before we even talk about institutionalized racism, classism, rampant discrimination against LGBTQ folks, or a dozen other issues.

Let me pitch an unusual Startup – not a company, but a nation.

California has the seventh largest economy in the world and is home to more than 38 million people – more than most independent nations.  It is home to a disproportionate share of the world’s biggest technology and media companies and attracts half of America’s venture capital.   As Governor Brown recently pointed out, California’s peers aren’t other US States, our peers are major world economies like France and Brazil.

Continue reading “California could be the world’s most disruptive Startup”

Can California defend itself? Yes!

 
submit to reddit
 

One of the most common objections we get on our Facebook posts is “Without America’s military to protect us, what will stop someone else from invading and conquering California?”  What these folks miss is that as an independent nation the Republic of California would have the means and ability to defend ourselves, and we’d be able to do so in a way that fits our values.

In our last post on what America costs California, we spent a lot of time looking at California’s contribution to the United States military budget.  To summarize, California’s contribution to the US military budget in 2012 was $57.02 billion – more than  $1,808.09 a second.  This is not total military spending of course, a huge amount of American military spending is done outside of the official budget through special appropriations and various ‘black’ budgets that are not public.  There is no good way to know the total expenditure without access to classified files.  For comparison, France (the 5th largest military in the world) spent 62.3 billion and the UK (the 6th largest) spent 60.5 billion.  In other words, just California’s share of America’s military spending is equivalent to a top-10 global military.

So yes, we can more than afford to pay for a military to defend ourselves.  We’re paying enough right now to be a major power – but without any control over when or where our military gets deployed! Californians overwhelmingly opposed the US invasion of Iraq.  A decade, trillions of tax dollars, and as many as a million Iraqi deaths later; we have been proven right.  Unfortunately, being right doesn’t mean we won’t be dragged into future wars.  The only way we get control of our foreign policy is with independence. Continue reading “Can California defend itself? Yes!”

Never again

 
submit to reddit
 

trump good for CBSThe mass media loves Trump for the ratings and has propelled him through endless free media coverage to his front runner spot. But how can we take him seriously when he proposes that America should build a border wall to keep out Mexican “murderer’s and rapists” or says America should ban all Muslims – even American Citizens – from entering the country?  These statements are so over the top, so ridiculous that we might be tempted to assume they could never actually happen and that he has no chance to ever get elected.

We would be wrong.

Continue reading “Never again”

How to win Californian Independence

 
submit to reddit
 

One of the most interesting things about being out canvassing and talking to people about Californian independence is that most people don’t ask “why” – most people immediately agree that we’d be better off.  Instead, they ask “will the US let us be independent?”, usually followed by a comment about how last time States tried to leave the US it didn’t work out so well.

It’s a good question, but it shouldn’t be hard to see that modern California is a very different place than the Confederacy.  For starters, the Confederacy’s entire existence was based on slavery, a monstrous crime against humanity.  If white Southerners had the right to secede, black Southerners had the right to not be taken with them against their will; and indeed nearly 200,000 black men served with distinction in the Union military and fought bravely for their freedom.  Our movement is fundamentally different from the Confederacy.  Where they waged a violent insurgency (remember – it was the South that fired the first shots in the Civil War) based on denying human rights to an entire race of people, we intend to use peaceful democratic means to create a more just and equitable society.

So is it really possible?  Yes!  Here is our 4-step plan to win independence: Continue reading “How to win Californian Independence”

What America costs California

 
submit to reddit
 

California has everything we need to succeed as an independent nation, though you might not know it to hear some people talk.   Let’s look at the numbers:

being_robbed

In 2012 (the last year for which we could find figures), California paid $292,563,574,000 in federal taxes, making us the single biggest contributor to the US government’s budget, that’s $59 billion ($59,000,000,000) more than we got back in federal spending.

For reference, in 2012 our State’s entire general fund (not counting the money the Fed returned to us) was $90.5 billion, so just the gap between what the Americans took and what they returned was equivalent to 2/3 of our state budget.

In other words, our state taxes are high because we have to fill the void that other states fill with our money – 3/4 of of the taxes Californians paid in 2012 went to the federal government and fully 20% of the federal taxes Californians pay are spent on subsidies to other states. 

By comparison, Mississippi gets more than $2 for every dollar they pay in. If we were getting a fair deal from America and had access to that money, we could have made major investments and still cut taxes.  Instead, we ended up making deep cuts to education to try to balance our budget.  So next time you want to complain about the high cost of taxes here, point the finger at Washington DC.   Continue reading “What America costs California”

How the US government’s racism shaped your neighborhood

 
submit to reddit
 

Racism comes in many forms, from personal hatred and violence to subtle biases that infect even well-meaning people, to government policies designed to promote the welfare of one group over others. Racism-as-policy is referred to as “institutionalized racism”, and it has been a driving force of US government policy from the Constitutional Convention’s 3/5ths clause right up to the present day. One of the most enduring modern forms of institutional racism in America has to do with housing policy and who has access to loans to buy homes.

From it’s foundation right up to 1968, the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) used an overtly racist framework that denied people of color – along with anyone else living in an integrated neighborhood – access to home loans.  In doing so, the federal government made it far harder for people of color to build wealth over generations.  They also directly incentivized white people to oppose integration because as soon as a neighborhood was integrated it became harder to get a loan to buy a home there and home values plummeted.  As a result, cities all across America – including in California – became racially segregated and people of color were systematically excluded from the opportunity to build wealth through home ownership.

Continue reading “How the US government’s racism shaped your neighborhood”

Dethroning King Corn

 
submit to reddit
 

Californians love our farmers.  Even in the densest urban centers people line up every weekend year round for their local farmers markets.  From farm-fresh vegetables to fruits, cheese, wine, and more California is a food-lover’s paradise.

Unfortunately, this love affair has not penetrated our system of governance.

American taxpayers spend over $20 billion a year on farm subsidies –  mostly for corn and wheat, mostly paid for by California, New York, and the other urban states, and mostly grown in places like Kentucky.  Here’s the breakdown:

Feed grains, mostly corn 2,841 35.4%
Upland cotton and ELS cotton 1,420 17.7%
Wheat 1,173 14.6%
Rice 1,130 14.1%
Soybeans and products 610 7.6%
Dairy 295 3.7%
Peanuts 259 3.2%
Sugar 61 0.8%

What you don’t see on that list are the main crops that Californian farms produce.  Our top crops are grapes, almonds, strawberries, oranges and walnuts. California produces almost all of the country’s almonds, apricots, dates, figs, kiwi fruit, nectarines, olives, pistachios, prunes, and walnuts. We also lead in the production of avocados, grapes, lemons,melons, peaches, plums, and strawberries – and all of America’s artichokes.  In fact the only item on the list that is a significant product for California is Dairy – which receives 3.7% of funding.

If that seems counter-intuitive, you’re right to scratch your head and wonder what our lawmakers are thinking.  After all, California is the biggest agricultural state in the Union and produces food that all of America – and a large portion of the rest of the world – eats.  Our crop exports are one of the key bright spots in America’s dismal import/export ratio (along with our technology and media).  You’d think Congress would react by supporting and shoring up our farms!  Instead, Californians are forced to subsidize midwestern Corn.

Continue reading “Dethroning King Corn”

Fixing the Democratic Deficit: Part 2

 
submit to reddit
 

In part 1 of this series we looked at historical trend towards centralization and an ever more powerful national government in the United States, as well as that government’s failure to live up to the pledge of “liberty and justice for all.”  In this essay, we will explore some of the ways that an independent nation of California could be different.  We say “could” and not “will” deliberately – it will be up to all of us to hold our new government accountable and push for the changes we need; but at least we’ll have a chance and a place to start.

Continue reading “Fixing the Democratic Deficit: Part 2”

Be like Iceland

 
submit to reddit
 

The world economy is still reeling from the last financial collapse, but you wouldn’t know it from the behavior of the big American banks. In fact, the same year their fraud cost millions of working class people their livelihoods and savings, over 5,000 bankers got bonuses of at least $1 million.   At Goldman Sachs in particular, many execs got multi-billion (with a B) in bonuses while forcing taxpayers to bail them out.

There is no scenario in which this is any any way acceptable.

icelandFor contrast, Iceland, responded instead by prosecuting and jailing the men responsible, seizing their assets, and taking real steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  The US and other countries COULD have done the same, but failed to do so. As Elizabeth Warren pointed out recently, there was ample evidence of fraud and illegal behavior but the federal government under President Obama’s administration refused to prosecute the criminals responsible for wrecking and looting our economy.  Continue reading “Be like Iceland”

Fixing the democratic deficit, Part 1

 
submit to reddit
 

Merriam Webster defines “Democracy” as

  1. government by the people; especially:  rule of the majority :  a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections
  2. a political unit that has a democratic government
  3. the common people especially when constituting the source of political authority
  4. the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges

The United States federal government meets none of these criteria. Continue reading “Fixing the democratic deficit, Part 1”