I adore Vanity Fair magazine, not only for its essential glossy photos of George Clooney in a tux, but because it satisfies my guilty-read-at-the-beauty-parlor need to hear about royal marriages while containing enough good writing about politics and the world to make me feel like a serious person. I imagine that 1960s readers of Playboy, who bought the magazine for the “articles,” had the same feeling. And the political leanings of the VF editors are so crystal-clear, their conclusions are comfortingly predictable: all Bushes were bad, all Kennedys were magical, Mrs. Obama has nicely toned arms, etc.

So I was ill-prepared for the shock to the system delivered by Michael Lewis, author of “Moneyball,” “The Blind Side” and other excellent reads, in an article titled “California and Bust” in the November issue (online at vanityfair.com). Now I’m going to warn my gentle readers: Make sure you’ve taken your medication, put down any sharp objects and stop using the heavy machinery, because what I’m about to relay is a stunner. According to Michael Lewis, our lives depend upon local government.

As the kids say: “OMG!” And I thought city government functioned primarily to entertain us on Tuesday evening public-access television, to limit the number of faux Tuscan villas per street to four, and to perpetually postpone approval of the General Plan until the next meeting. But according to Mr. Lewis, who understands such things, the failure of the federal government to fix our economy has been passed down to the states, which have in turn filled up a spit bucket of financial woe and dumped it over the heads of county and city governments, leading to anarchy in the streets and auctions on the courthouse steps.

Well, this ought to silence those smarty-pants who disputed the theory of “trickle-down economics,” because, clearly, if those at the highest levels of the financial system, like Wall Street bankers and their business partners in Washington, D.C., can cause so much damage for prolonged periods that they themselves are in jeopardy of losing money, they will ensure that the resulting ruin is sloughed off and flows downhill to those municipalities and individuals least able to afford it.

Lewis talks specifically about Vallejo, which to us in the Napa Valley is like an embarrassing Schlitz-drinking cousin who lives in a hollowed-out trailer near the dump and is only meant to be visible when someone in the family marries or dies. But no, here in Vanity Fair are full-color glossy photos of Vallejo’s young fire chief looking concerned during training exercises, and of Vallejo’s interim city manager looking concerned in his interim office, hovering over his wood laminate desk with a large adding machine circa 1970, presumably in case he wants to add zero to zero to get his annual operating budget. He isn’t seated at his desk, since I imagine interim city managers want to be able to make a quick getaway.

The article describes the results of Vallejo’s bankruptcy: a 66 percent drop in property values, layoffs of half the firefighters and police, and a city government consisting of two people, one of whom has to lock up when the other goes to the bathroom. It reminded me of all the local services on which we depend: police, fire, water, sewer, roads, schools, and how fragile our ability is to reliably fund them in this economy. All that stands between us and disaster are our representatives and employees and volunteers in city and county government. Does this make you nervous? If not, congratulations! Your meds have kicked in. Because these folks don’t have the option of kicking the can down the road any farther. The muck stops here. Without a focused, creative and energized local government, with informed and empowered employees, we might end up like Vallejo; a cleaner, greener, nicer version of Vallejo to be sure, but one that still needs cops on the beat and water in the tap and toilets that flush with a nice swirl.

What’s next, by the way, an Architectural Digest cover story set in American Canyon? Meanwhile, I’m imagining St. Helena’s municipal moment in the Vanity Fair spotlight: a glossy photo of Mayor Britton looking concerned at the opening of a new Main Street Apple store, of planner Greg Desmond looking concerned beside an unpermitted three-story water tower at Vineyard Valley, and of Councilwoman Nevero looking cheerful while extolling the virtues of the “Great American Marketplace” outside local business liquidation sales. Come to think of it, when VF calls, perhaps we’d better tell them we’re not quite ready for our close-up.

If you’d like to read more nonsense from me on this and other topics, please check out my new blog at laurarafaty.com.

(Laura Rafaty is the owner of Pennaluna Napa Valley, a resident of St. Helena, an attorney and former theatrical producer, and an author and columnist. Read more at laurarafaty.com.)