02/20/2014 05:37 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

House Of Cards -- California Style


Nathan Gardels is the editor-in-chief of The WorldPost.

When we look at what is going on in Washington, American democracy seems hopelessly dysfunctional, mired in gridlock and paralysis. Rather than delivering the goods for the American people, politics as usual mimics the endless, self-interested power plays portrayed in the famous Netflix series, "House of Cards," starring Kevin Spacey.

But cities and states across America are getting their act together.

The WorldPost will be doing a periodic series on what is going right in American politics.

For the first in this series, let me quote portions of California Governor Jerry Brown's recent State of the State speech, in which he uses playing cards featuring an image of his dog, Sutter, to illustrate some of his points.

This year, Californians have a lot to be proud of. For a decade, budget instability was the order of the day. A lethal combination of national recessions, improvident tax cuts and too much spending created a financial sink hole that defied every effort to climb out. But three years later, here we are -- with state spending and revenues solidly balanced, and more to come.

.....above all, we should thank the voters of California. In 2010, through Proposition 25, they established a majority vote for passage of the state budget. That ended the gridlock. Then, in 2012, they approved the temporary tax increases of Proposition 30. These two initiatives, together with a recovering economy and some tough decisions by the legislature made all the difference.

But we are not out of the woods, and certainly not out of the drought. Life is uncertainty. The climate is changing -- not for the better -- and the business cycle and the stock market are historically volatile, with good years followed by bad with painful regularity.

... Boom and bust is our lot and we must follow the ancient advice, recounted in the Book of Genesis that Joseph gave to the Pharoah: Put away your surplus during the years of great plenty so you will be ready for the lean years which are sure to follow.

dog cards

Most governors and legislators in modern times have forgotten this advice. This time we won't do that. We will pay down our debts and remember the lessons of history. The American philosopher George Santayana famously said: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

To help us keep our fiscal realities in mind, I have some playing cards with a chart from this year's budget summary that shows our last 15 budgets. It's not pretty. So I decided to put a picture of my dog Sutter on the other side to keep our spirits up. It will make you smile but also help us not forget.

Fiscal discipline is not the enemy of our democracy, but its fundamental predicate.

card budget

Reverse of playing card(TWP)