As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, January 09, 2009

Real-World Consequences Of The California Meltdown

Look around you and you probably know somebody who had been affected by the economic slowdown, particularly here in California. Maybe it's someone you know in the construction industry:

State Controller John Chiang refused to make payments Thursday to contractors for work done on more than three-dozen public-works transportation projects. The action, the first of what are likely to be a series of blocked payments, was prompted by the state's unprecedented budget shortage.

The move was required by the Pooled Money Investment Board, which on Dec. 17 ordered a halt to the payments to projects financed with a mix of voter-approved bond funds pending a resolution of the state's fiscal dilemma [...]

The projects are all being handled by Caltrans, which has objected to cutting off the money to the contracts. Some $33 million and 39 public projects are affected.

(It's hilarious that the Governor objected to this after his own Finance Director voted to shutter all infrastructure projects a few weeks ago. Did he not know that this would be the result? Another Santa Claus Republican.)

Or maybe it's that friend of yours who doesn't have any health care or the ability to pay for treatment, or that other lady you know who works at the hospital:

California hospitals are threatened. With only 1.9 hospital beds per 1,000 population,3 the state’s residents are being placed at risk by the negative impact caused by inadequate Medi-Cal payments and California’s faltering economy. Currently ranked 49th nationally, hospital bed availability is likely to contract further in this environment, diminishing access to health care services even more. As a result of low Medi-Cal payments, the majority of california hospitals have already made cutbacks or anticipate reducing services, including closing subacute units and psychiatric units; eliminating skilled nursing beds and ER beds; reducing cardiology, obstetrics and other clinical services; and laying off staff or reducing pay.

The impact of the economic downturn is evident. Hospitals report a 73 percent increase in consumers having difficulty paying out-of-pocket health care costs, and 33 percent report an increase in ER visits for uninsured
patients. With the growth in unemployment, hospitals are experiencing the effects of more californians without job-based insurance. in fact, hospitals report a 30 percent decrease in volume for elective procedures — one of the few areas that provide hospitals an opportunity for revenue growth. In addition, the capital markets are providing a significant hurdle for many california hospitals. More than 25 percent report the inability to access financing for construction, remodeling, equipment purchases or working capital. This has resulted in 41 percent of hospitals halting construction projects or equipment purchases. This has a significant impact on the state’s economy and jobs.

Or maybe your neighbor has a son or daughter who wants to go to college.

The University of California system may cut the number of in-state first-year students by 2,300, or 6 percent, as the recession squeezes the budget.

The proposal to reduce enrollment for the 2009-2010 school year, as well as a plan to freeze 285 salaries of administrators, will be presented Jan. 14 to the Board of Regents by President Mark Yudof, the Office of the President said today in an e-mailed statement. The system, based in Oakland, has 220,000 students on 10 campuses.

As an aside, health care and education were the only two industries to INCREASE jobs in today's dismal employment report. Here in the Golden State, we are going in the opposite direction.

The failure of leadership over the last decade at all levels of government is now coming due. We are not prepared - nor are we taking seriously enough - the magnitude of this meltdown on the state of California. We are about 3-4 weeks away from the state sending out IOUs. That's functionally bankruptcy, and the trickle down of that will be fast and painful. Everyone in the state will either be affected or know someone close who is.

California's dysfunctional government has finally caught up to itself. The general lack of urgency about this is stunning to me.

Good thing an old-politics hack like John Burton will lead us out of the abyss!

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