Is California The First Failed State?

Andreas Kluth, Bobby Shriver and Sharon Waxman won the debate.

hide captionAndreas Kluth (from left), Bobby Shriver and Sharon Waxman argued for the motion "California Is The First Failed State" in an Intelligence Squared U.S. debate at New York University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts on Jan. 19.

Coming Up

On Feb. 9, a panel of experts will debate the motion "The U.S. Should Step Back From Its Special Relationship With Israel."

California is in the midst of a budget nightmare. With a $20 billion deficit and an unemployment rate above 12 percent, the Golden State is staying afloat by borrowing. Any tax hike would have to be approved by two-thirds of the state's lawmakers — virtually impossible in the politically divided Legislature. And the situation is further complicated by the fact that much of the state's spending is governed by voter-approved initiatives.

Will California find a bailout, or has it become the first failed state? And are its problems unique — or could other high-spending states soon follow in its footsteps?

Those were the questions facing a group of experts assembled for a recent Oxford-style debate. Part of the Intelligence Squared U.S. series, the debate featured three panelists arguing for the motion "California Is The First Failed State," and three arguing against.

In a vote before the debate, the audience at New York University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts voted 31 percent for the motion and 25 percent against; 44 percent were undecided. But after the debate, 58 percent agreed that "California Is The First Failed State," while 37 percent voted against the motion and 5 percent remained undecided.

John Donvan, correspondent for ABC News' Nightline, moderated the Jan. 19 debate. Those debating were:

FOR THE MOTION

Andreas Kluth has been writing for The Economist since 1997. He currently covers California and the Western states from Los Angeles. In previous assignments, he covered technology, Asian business and global finance. Kluth is writing his first book and blogging about the project at http://andreaskluth.org.

Bobby Shriver was elected to the Santa Monica City Council by the highest percentage of voters in that city's 120-year history in 2004. Re-elected in 2008, he continues working to try to reduce homelessness in the city and across Los Angeles County, with special emphasis on housing homeless veterans of the U.S. armed forces. In addition, he has co-founded three organizations to help the people of Africa.

Former California Gov. Gray Davis argues against the motion "California Is The First Failed State." i i

hide captionFormer California Gov. Gray Davis argues against the motion "California Is The First Failed State."

Chris Vultaggio
Former California Gov. Gray Davis argues against the motion "California Is The First Failed State."

Former California Gov. Gray Davis argues against the motion "California Is The First Failed State."

Chris Vultaggio

Sharon Waxman is editor in chief, founder and CEO of TheWrap.com, which focuses on the business of entertainment and media. She is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author, a former Hollywood correspondent for The New York Times and a leading authority on the entertainment business and media.

AGAINST THE MOTION

Joseph "Gray" Davis was elected the 37th governor of California in 1998, winning 58 percent of the vote. As governor, he signed legislation to strengthen California's K-12 system and expanded access to higher education with a record number of scholarships and college loans. Davis made record investments in infrastructure, created four Centers of Science and Innovation on University of California campuses, and expanded state health insurance for an additional 1 million children.

Van Jones worked from March to September 2009 as the special adviser for green jobs at the White House Council for Environmental Quality. He is the author of The Green Collar Economy and helped to pass America's first "green job training" legislation, which former President George W. Bush signed into law as part of the 2007 energy bill.

Lawrence O'Donnell is a senior political analyst for MSNBC and an Emmy-winning producer and writer of NBC's The West Wing. From 1993-95, O'Donnell was the Democratic chief of staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, and in 1992, was chief of staff of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. He has a recurring role on the HBO series Big Love.


The Intelligence Squared U.S. series is produced in New York City by The Rosenkranz Foundation.

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