“The question I have is: Globalization—will it tear it apart? I don’t know.”
“Every man’s fantasy!” says Carly Fiorina, who collected a golden parachute worth around $42 million when she stepped down from HP in 2005. She’s just heard the story of Queen Califia for the first time.
“I moved here from New York when I was 7, and California was this exotic, exciting place where you went to do something new,” she says. “We had orange trees in our front yard, it was so exotic.
“When my mother told us we were moving to California, I remember bursting into tears. It sounded so far away. My brother said, ‘Do they speak English there?’ It was like it was a foreign country. Of course, when you get there, you fall in love with it.”
Then what happened?
“I really think California is the test case for what happens when you keep raising taxes on a smaller and smaller group of people, and you keep layering on regulation after regulation after regulation, and you keep enriching entitlements—and what’s the result of that?”
She reels off a litany of terrifying statistics. Twenty-three counties with 15 percent unemployment. Los Angeles, close to bankrupt. City of Vallejo, bankrupt. If her opponent, Democratic senator Barbara Boxer, remains in office, Fiorina predicts “more of the same, only worse.”
Sounds like the Apocalypse.
“She wants a new California,” says Jerry Brown. “I want the California of my forebears.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California, knows about apocalypses, having battled in them on both sides of the good-evil dichotomy. But that was the future and this is now.
“So you go to the Central Valley,” the governor tells me, “and people say, ‘Governor, we have this high unemployment rate …’
“In Mendoda? What is it?”
“Mendota,” says an aide.
“ ‘Forty percent unemployment rate. Why aren’t you turning on the water? We need the water for our farms, and we can put everyone to work.’
“And you say, ‘Okay, let me talk to the federal government in this.’
“ ‘What do you mean, the federal government? You just go there, I know exactly where it is, and you turn on da pump!’
“I say, ‘This is not an action movie. I’m sorry to disappoint you.’
“But in an action movie, the scene would go: ‘Yes! Come with me and help me!’ And then we walk to the pump, to the station, and then we go and then we cut the chain—no, wait a minute, a movie: We rip the chain, there’s no cutting. ‘Take this lever and pull it down!’ And then we see a close-up of the water, whoosh, coming out, and then you see—cut—all the farmers. Green. The water. There’s hundreds of farmers, a sea of farmers working, and getting all the shade from the heat, and all the water drinking, and all this kind of stuff.
“That’s the scene. But that’s a movie, that’s not the reality. Because in reality, I have to negotiate with the federal government, and the federal government, with the Endangered Species Act, they will have their own dialogue, and it gets very complicated. And so now we are suffering because of that. But then you can take it to the court, but the court has already struck down and said, ‘No, we turn off the pump because the smelt and the salmon is more important than the people,’ and there is all of this stuff going on.
“So it is not anymore what you think it is.”
“Money! money! money!”
Slam! Slam! Slam!
It’s Brown again, claiming he’s going to save the Dream with the help of … reality. I’ve asked him how, as governor, he’d resist the demands of the all-powerful public-employee unions, which soak up 80 percent of the state’s tax revenue in salaries and pensions and who have given Brown roughly $14 million to go up against Meg Whitman. Whitman claims Brown is “bought and paid for” by “union bosses.” So now Brown is doing an imitation of a union boss demanding money at a table much like the one we’re sitting at.
“This is a table, right?”
Pound, pound, pound.
“I can’t break this table. No matter how hard you pound the table, you’re not going to produce money. The money! Is! The money!”
Slam! Slam! Slam!
“Now. There’s only one thing you can do. And that is, through a process of smoke and mirrors, through pretending revenues are coming when they probably aren’t, and pretending cuts are going to be effectuated when they’re not, you can kind of go from year to year. But because we’ve been doing that for so many years, we’re just about at the end of that rope, so the next governor is going to be the truth-teller, saying, ‘Come to Jesus, here’s what we gotta do.’ It’s going to be very difficult.”