Saturday, February 27, 2010

California Governance: Zombieland?

Intel chairman Paul Otellini appeared on the Charlie Rose talk show tonight and warned that America is in a state of "suspended animation." The state-level poster child for our stasis, he said, is California.

A generation ago, it was still the Golden State. Today, California faces the real prospect of default in its long-running financial crisis.

This crisis has partially been caused by an overbuilt corrections system, and that system is in turn made worse by the financial crisis. As the crisis becomes quagmire, more and more rehabilitation programs are eliminated to save a few dollars immediately, regardless of the long-term consequences. One example, among many, is the abolution of the Arts in Corrections program.

Over the years, professional artists donated millions of volunteer hours to help inmates use the arts to rebuild their sense of self in struggling with addiction, violence, and other major issues. The state has eliminated the program, however, rather than pay for the 25 volunteer coordinator positions that make the program possible in the sprawling 33-prison system.

To call this state of things "suspended animation" might be too charitable. "Zombie-like" would probably be more accurate. And sadly, this is no Hollywood horror movie; this is the real deal.

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