State of Jefferson – A Modest Proposal – Part 1: The Vision

State of Jefferson proponents are gearing up for a new campaign, starting with another visit to the Shasta County Board of Supervisors. The opening salvo was a recent “town hall meeting” in Redding, as described by R.V. Scheide, who remains decidedly unconvinced. R.V.’s reservations aside, this is exactly the sort of tonic I need to get me out of my winter doldrums and in the mood for springtime in the north state.

I’m reminded of a scene in the Jack Nicholson/Marlon Brando western The Missouri Breaks, in which the local self-appointed judge is sentencing a horse thief to death. The judge asks the thief if he has any last words and, life on the prairie being drab, suggests that the rustler make those last words colorful. The horse thief is game, and gives a lively speech in which he says he has no regrets for his devil-may-care criminal ways. The townsfolk are suitably amused, and then they hang him.

The judge’s request, and the horse thief’s response, are pretty much how I view the State of Jefferson movement. I like it, if for nothing other than its entertainment value.

Like many of you, I’ve watched with bemused detachment as North State boards of supervisors and city councils—with as much faux-earnestness as they can muster while facing a sizable cohort of riled-up constituents—tilt at a windmill called Liberal California. Several local governments have even passed resolutions to endorse or study seceding from California to form the State of Jefferson.

Hey, I get it. What red-blooded American boy doesn’t want his very own treehouse, clubhouse, or fort? A space where he and his buddies get to set the rules; a space defended from outsiders with sacred oaths, secret passwords, slingshots and BB guns. Plenty of time to spend flipping through comic books and the occasional Playboy swiped from Dad’s collection. (If you think I’m being dismissive, reconsider. Man, how I yearn to be that kid in the treehouse again.)

The Jefferson proponents have articulated their reasons for wanting to part ways with the liberals who call the moves at the square dance in Sacramento, and I’m not going to take issue with any of those reasons. If you’re conservative, like most of my local buddies, you think most of what goes on in Sactown is bat-shit crazy. A deep moat somewhere to the south—just in front of a sign that reads “Welcome to Jefferson”—clearly holds enormous appeal for many North State residents.

Doubters argue that seceding would be a Pyrrhic victory. (You Cal and Stanford alumni know what that means; for my fellow UCD Aggies, that’s a victory whose costs are so enormous that it actually equals defeat.) They say that Shasta County and all of the surrounding counties are revenue vacuums and that Sacramento sends much more money our way than we send back in the form of taxes and fees. In the absence of the subsidies we receive from the rest of California, the doubters predict immediate and disabling budget crises that would cause Jefferson to crash and burn on takeoff.

Jefferson proponents respond, “Not so! We’ll unleash the private sector from California’s burdensome regulations! Businesses will flourish and revenues will skyrocket! Plus, we’ll cut a whole bunch of needless spending! We’ll be in the black before you can say ‘gee whiz!’” There’s no dispelling that type of optimism, and why would anyone want to?

Skeptics probably argued that waving goodbye to the British monarchy would be economically disastrous, but the optimists won, and it’s worked out rather well for the United States in the long run, with a few trips into the ditch along the way.

Next: The Show-Stopper

Steve Towers

Steve Towers is co-owner of a local environmental consultancy. After obtaining his Ph.D. from UC Davis and dabbling as a UCD lecturer, he took a salary job with a Sacramento environmental firm. Sitting in stop-and-go traffic on Highway 50 one afternoon, he reckoned that he was receiving 80 hours of paid vacation per year and spending 520 hours per year commuting to and from work. He and his wife Elise sold their house and moved to Redding three months later, and have been here for more than 20 years. His hobbies include travel, racquet sports, taking the dogs on hikes, and stirring pots. He can be reached at towers.steven@gmail.com

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