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California, Home of the Destitute (with Steve Postscript)

Last spring, my wife and youngest daughter and I spent a week in California. We were reminded of the extraordinary natural wealth and beauty that were showered on that uniquely blessed state. For a century or so, guided by brilliant private sector leadership, California was a beacon to the world, a land of opportunity such as never had existed in human history. Unimaginable wealth was created. Yet it required only 40 years of liberal governance to bring the whole thing crashing down.

Today, California is the most spectacular failure of our time. Its government is broke. Productive citizens have been fleeing for some years now, selling their homes at inflated prices (until recently) and moving to Colorado, Arizona, Texas and even Minnesota, like one of my neighbors. The results of California’s improvident liberalism have been tragically easy to predict: absurd public sector wage and benefit packages, a declining tax base, surging welfare enrollment, falling economic production, ever-increasing deficits. Soon, California politicians will be looking to less glamorous states for bailout money. Things have now devolved to the point where California leads the nation in poverty:

The Golden State’s poverty rate is a whopping 23.5 percent – higher than the District of Columbia, at 23.2 percent, and even Florida, and 19.5 percent.

This is based on the federal government’s new poverty measure, and California suffered a bit because of its high cost of living, but that is a minor point–by any measure, California is number one in destitution. The cause is obvious: liberal Democrats have held unimpeded sway in California, just as they have in Detroit, Illinois, Miami, the District, and so on. Everywhere, the results have been similar. Where liberal policies are implemented, productive citizens fade away and poverty follows.

Sure, there are still a few rich people in California; the rich are always best able to withstand the ravages of leftism, for a time. But California now appears to be in a death spiral, and the consequences will be devastating, not just to Californians, but to the rest of us who will be called on to pick up the tab, once again, for failed liberalism.

STEVE adds: Well how could I not comment?  This is my home turf John is dissing.  Except that everything he has to say is correct–times two. The only reason I could even conceive of returning to my home state recently was that I still owned an old family home here on the coast, which, because of Proposition 13, has very low property taxes.  Not sure I will stay, however, if the state keeps raising taxes even more, and building high speed trains to nowhere instead of patching up the roads human beings actually use.

One of the most striking things about coming back to California after 10 years living away is that the sense of the state’s failure is so evident to everyone.  Even people I know with successful, prosperous businesses are pessimistic and sour these days, which is a definite change from just 10 or 15 years ago.  If California’s entrepreneurial class is in a funk, it will be hard to pull out of the current death spiral.  (For what it’s worth, I’m currently employed chiefly in Ohio–a fact made possible only by that Al Gore California invention, the Internet.)

California has what economists call “exploitable asymmetries,” which is fancy-talk for saying that the state’s magnificent climate and beauty will make people willing to pay more for the luxury of living and working here–more than, say, Arkansas or Oklahoma, which would both empty out overnight if they tried to impose California’s high taxes and regulatory regime.  But the liberal kleptocracy ruling the state today has gone too far.  Adopting a Mediterranean fiscal policy to go with the state’s Mediterranean climate is not a recipe for long term success.  And we can’t get the European central bank to bail us out.

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