Until California Gets In Gear on the Road to Recovery the U.S. Will Be Stuck in Neutral

By Patrick DorinsonCommunications Strategist and Political Commentator

The battle over the California's budget has ended. The gaping $42 billion deficit will be closed though a combination of higher taxes and spending cuts. Neither Democrats nor Republicans are happy about result and most of our problems have still not been addressed.

California, Texas, New York, Florida and Illinois account for 40% of the nation's GDP and all of those states are in deep trouble with the exception of Texas. California's share of that number is 12%.

So maybe the rest of the country should pay attention to the budget and economic soap opera that has been unfolding in California since last summer, because until California gets in gear on the road to recovery the rest of the country could be stuck in neutral.

This Sunday Hollywood holds its annual self-indulgent and self-congratulatory grand spectacle the Academy Awards.

So for you folks in the rest of the country let me try to explain California's woes using examples from some of Hollywood's greatest Academy Award winning movies.

First, how did California get itself in such a mess?

Let's begin by looking at Gone with the Wind (Best Picture, 1939).

For years our political leaders have adopted the Scarlett O'Hara strategy for dealing with the critical problems facing California. That theory is based on the famous line delivered by Scarlett in that film classic when she breathlessly stated, "Fiddle-dee-dee! I won't worry about that today. I'll worry about that tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day!"

Well Scarlett, tomorrow arrived and with a vengeance.

We grew in population but we didn't plan and build for that growth.

We rode our reputation -- preening in front of the cameras and flaunting our status as the 'Sixth Largest economy in the world" to the rest of America.

Meantime underneath the heavily applied make-up we put on our face to the world, our infrastructure slowly crumbled, our once world-class education system deteriorated and finally in 2000 our electricity system collapsed. We became more famous for rolling blackouts than a rolling economy.

We were like Gloria Swanson's character fading silent screen star Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard (Best Writing, 1950)living in a fantasy world of past glory pretending that we were still the star of the nation.

And just like Norma, no amount of delusion, false pride or make-up could hide the results of years of denying the seriousness of our mounting problems .

Much like the Titanic (Best Picture, 1997)we had the arrogance to think we were unsinkable. After all we had weathered rough economic waters in other times just like the Titanic navigated the choppy and dangerous waters of the North Atlantic with ease.

But then in 2008 California hit the iceberg of recession leaving a huge gash in its economy. We were taking on water rapidly and the flaws in the design of our political system and benign neglect of other problems were exposed. And just like the Titanic there were only enough lifeboats for the special interests on the upper decks while the taxpayers in steerage were left to drown in a sea of red ink.

Maybe what California needs right now is a Rooster Cogburn, the gruff no nonsense marshal from True Grit, which won John Wayne a long overdue Oscar (Best Actor, 1969)to clean up Sacramento and stand up to the special interests who rule it.

Or perhaps we need a Senator Jefferson Smith played by screen legend Jimmy Stewart in the 1939 hit, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Best Original Screenplay, 1939)someone who was not part of the system and was willing to stand up against all odds to fight the corrupt political machine that had a stranglehold on his state.

Chances are we will get another Willie Stark played by film veteran Broderick Crawford (BestActor, 1949),the main character from taut political drama All the Kings Men, who will tap into our populist anger and rouse us hicks to action against our special interest dominated and dysfunctional political system only to sell us out later to the very system he campaigned against.

And isn't it ironic that the state that gave birth to the movie industry is now desperately giving tax breaks to that industry so that they won't take their business to other states that won't tax and regulate them out of existence.

The luster of the Golden State has indeed been tarnished and it is going to take a helluva lot of polish and elbow grease to restore it to its former shine.

Patrick Dorinson is a communications strategist and political commentator. He is lives based in California. To read more from Patrick click here.