Beating up on California these days is easier than snatching lunch money from the pocket protector of a skinny near-sighted kid. But why should Victor Davis Hanson have all the fun? And besides, now that I’m back in my home state after a decade away, the decay is palpable, like roads suffering from obvious “deferred maintenance” to unfinished housing tracts, etc.
So what are the main problems facing California right now? If you’re the ex-Governator, it’s—wait for it now—climate change! Ah-nold calls it California’s “silent disaster,” and it is nice of him to help us distinguish it from the very noisy and visible disaster that was his governorship. Can’t he just stick with making saggy superhero movies? (I mean, have you seen those surreptitious National Enquirer photos of what he looks like these days with his shirt off? He needs more chest prosthetics these days than Riccardo Montalban in The Wrath of Khan.)
What’s the next biggest problem? Well duh, climate change again: according to a new study, climate change is going to wipe out California’s wine industry:
Researchers found the area suitable for wine production will shrink by as much as 73 percent by 2050 in certain parts of the globe — about 70 percent in California — with high potential for stress on rivers and other freshwater ecosystems as vineyards use water to cool grapes or irrigate to compensate for rising temperatures and declining rainfall.
Now, it’s perfectly obvious that the authors of this study know next to nothing about California wine regions, or how the stuff is actually grown. Here in nearby Paso Robles, the daily diurnal temperature swing is one of the largest in the world; changes in the range (unlikely in any case) will scarcely affect them, or similar regions in the state. In fact, it is the diurnal range that contributes to the richness of many California wines. But I expect these researchers must be drinking Ripple while they worked on this study.
Well, at least California remains Number One in a few categories, as David Davenport reminds us at Forbes.com:
- Highest taxes (gasoline, sales and top bracket of income taxes)
- Lowest bond rating
- Highest poverty rate (at 23.5%, the home of 1/3 of those in poverty in U.S.)
- Highest unemployment rate (tied with Mississippi and Nevada at 9.6%)
- Highest energy costs
- Worst state to do business (as judged by Chief Executive magazine 8 years running)
- Most cities going bankrupt
- Prison system so poorly run it has been taken over by a federal judge
Well, I’m sure we can look forward to high-speed rail getting the state back on track. What’s that? No? You don’t say! From the latest report of Wendell Cox, Joe Vranich, and Adrian Moore at the Reason Foundation:
Current plans are now identified as “Phase 1 Blended,” which the CHSRA estimates will cost as much as $63.2 billion in 2011 inflation-adjusted dollars ($78.0 billion in year-of-expenditure dollars) with the only sources of funding being $9 billion in California Proposition 1A general obligation bonds and $3.5 billion in federal grants. Further funding is highly speculative if not outright non-existent for the remaining capital needed, which may exceed $50 billion.
Don’t worry. I’m sure another tax hike on top income earners can pay for it.
P.S. Almost forgot: California’s state Senate voted last week to prohibit fracking for oil and natural gas. So the state that perhaps has the largest shale deposits in the nation has looked at the prosperity new oil and gas production has brought to North Dakota, Texas, and western Pennsylvania, and said, “Nah–not interested. We like staying poor and unemployed in the central valley.”