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California economy: taxes, marijuana and Twitter

January 31, 2011 | 12:03 pm

Jagger It was the famous 20th century philosopher Mick Jagger who wrote: "You can't always get what you want; but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need."

Three stories in The Times on Sunday illustrate the Stones songbird's point.

First, California's budget gap: Gov. Jerry Brown, who delivers his State of the State address Monday, wants voters to approve keeping certain taxes in place -- or else, he warns, even more drastic budget cuts will be necessary. Like what?  Brown isn't saying. Apparently, he doesn't think it works to scare voters.

But Californians know what they want: fiscal sanity.  

And they know what they need: to sacrifice. 

And they're prepared to sacrifice. Republican legislators, for example, are prepared to sacrifice the jobs of most government workers, along with those workers' pensions. And they'll sacrifice the environment. They just won't sacrifice big business, which has already sacrificed enough by firing a bunch of us workers.

Democratic legislators, of course, will sacrifice too: by having taxpayers keep paying more taxes. But they won't sacrifice their union supporters, because otherwise the legislators would have to sacrifice by losing their jobs in the next election.

Which brings us to our second story on Sunday, and possible help for the budget mess: legalizing marijuana.

The last attempt, Proposition 19, lost in November. But The Times reported on a weekend meeting of marijuana-legalization advocates who hope to get another, better measure on the ballot in 2012. Do Californians want legal pot?  Duh. Do Californians need the tax revenue it would bring? Duh again.

The most interesting aspect of this story, though, is that the potheads (OK, I don't know they are, but they do want it legalized) are seemingly better organized than our legislators. The potheads' moment of decision isn't until 2012, but they're already hard at work. The state's fiscal mess is ongoing, but the legislators keep acting more like, well, Cheech and Chong.

So, OK, the state needs more revenue. And Californians want to tweet. In fact, they need to tweet.

Which brings us to Twitter. 

It's based in California. And it's booming.

Or is it?

The Times' Business section reported that Twitter  is "at a crossroads, where it will finally have to answer the question: Can it make money?"

Call me old-fashioned, but somehow I can't picture Henry Ford saying: "I have this great idea. I'm going to build auto-mo-biles, and I'm going to give them away. And if they get really popular, then I'll see if I can figure out a way to make money."

But I think I know what Twitter's problem is: How can anyone build a business plan in 140-character chunks?

Insiders tell me this is what happened at its last strategy session:

"OK, everyone settle down. We don't have much time, or characters. I'm here today to present our plan for profitability. Basically, what we have to do make money is to bu ... "

So, in the spirit of Twitter, here's my two cents (in under 50 characters): Keep the taxes. Legalize the pot. And keep tweeting.


A state budget reality check

Facing the budget music

Redevelopment debate: California mayors duke it out with Gov. Brown

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: Mick Jagger performing in 2002. Credit: Joe Cavaretta  / Associated Press

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