State of Jefferson – A Modest Proposal – Part 2: The Show-Stopper

Here is the 800-pound gorilla in the room that State of Jefferson proponents seem loath to address: We need permission to secede from California. Any proposal that doesn’t tackle that issue head-on is more likely to result in an ongoing state of delusion than in a State of Jefferson.

California and the rest of the United States have to agree to carve out a state for about 1 million (at most) ornery malcontents from a state of 38 million citizens. We’re asking California—represented by two liberal U.S. senators—to give a million former citizens a new state with two conservative U.S. senators (Vegas odds-makers would call that a lead-pipe lock) who would effectively cancel the votes of Senators Di and Babs, and anyone likely to follow those two.

Why would liberal Californians do that? What’s in it for them? A wiggly line marking California’s northern border where once it was a neat line? Furthermore, what’s in it for the rest of the United States, other than diluting the power of their own senators, ruining the symmetry of the field of stars on the flag, and losing the pleasing base-10 roundness of the number 50?

Here, at first blush, is what’s in it for non-Jeffersonians: Zilch, bupkis, and nada.

A sledgehammer demand that 37 million people give us what we want because we want it, at great political cost to them, is a non-starter. Until the proponents of Jefferson come up with a credible and compelling argument to convince the rest of California that it benefits them to let us go, the proposition is deader than fried chicken at the outset.

A persuasive starting point might be this: Cut us free because we’re a burden. Shasta County supposedly receives more than $1.60 from Sacramento for every $1.00 we send south—and we’re the relatively wealthy county in these parts. Let us go, California, and we’ll remove our straw from your milkshake.

The shortcoming of this argument is that, like a leech on the underside of a water buffalo, the nourishment we receive from the rest of the state is vital to us, but not overly burdensome to them. California is the 8th largest economy in the world, and our parasitic metabolism is tiny by comparison. If you ask the average Silicon Valley resident if he or she resents subsidizing our country-cousin lifestyles, the answer is likely to be, “Huh?” The money they’d save isn’t even worth the hassle of redrawing the maps. And since much of the Jefferson rhetoric has been about seizing control of natural resources—particularly “our water”—the rest of thirsty California has cause to view the State of Jefferson proposal with a collective stink-eye.

So is all of this Jefferson talk just an act of protest? Is the whole movement nothing more than an attempt to amplify our wails of grief? Gee, I hope not. If you close your eyes and listen, you can actually hear your fellow Californians in the Los Angeles basin yawning. That may sound like hyperbole given that they’re 500 miles to the south, but there are 10 million of them.

Read part one here.

Next: The Plan

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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