There is a new British entry in the now-familiar genre of essays on California’s collapse, “Will California become America’s first failed state?,” by a Paul Harris. It covers well enough all the usual symptoms — unemployment, foreclosures, layoffs, the mega-state deficits, the crisis on the San Joaquin Valley’s West Side — and along the way quotes Van Jones in a paean to solar power, while praising Michelle Obama’s victory garden:
Take Anthony “Van” Jones, a man now in the vanguard of the movement to build a future green economy, creating millions of jobs, solving environmental problems and reducing climate change at a stroke. It is a beguiling vision and one that Jones conceived in the northern Californian city of Oakland. . . .
The article, in short, is an unintended prism of exactly what’s wrong with California — the fear or inability to speak honestly about what is wrecking the state.
In fact, the pathologies behind the symptoms are never mentioned. A 9-percent-plus state income tax and state/local sales tax, coupled with overregulation, are driving out thousands of Californians who cannot figure out why their taxes climb while their roads, schools, and city centers become more unsafe. It is not just that California’s taxes are high (some states’ are even higher), but the feeling that so little is given back to the population in return. A therapeutic public-school curriculum, driven by race, class, and gender special-interest groups, has not turned out a competitive workforce.
Illegal immigration has created several millions who navigate in a shadow universe in which licenses and IDs are fraudulent, car insurance and registration are rare, arrest and incarceration rates are higher than those of the general population, and the need for entitlements is soaring along with the collapse of construction jobs — a problem as pressing as it is considered improper to mention. In contrast, those fleeing are some of the best educated and most affluent, who have the expertise to turn around the state but are now lost and probably not coming back.
There are, as Harris notes, terrible problems on the vast West Side, but they originate, as Harris does not note, from both a drought and vast cut-offs of water supplies to hundreds of thousands of once-rich irrigated acres — due to northern Californian environmental interests who assume their 19th-century John Muir fantasy is compatible with 37 million who each day need safe, accessible, and cheap food.
Shut-down farming (not mentioned in the essay), and towns like Mendota (featured in the essay), of course, will have no employed farm workers. There is nothing in the article about huge increases in the size of the state workforce, its astronomical pay, the power of government unions, the bankrupt pension systems, or the unwillingness of the state to utilize fully its rich oil, agricultural, or timber resources.
But in the author’s opinion, California’s solar power, slow-food movement, and regulations to stop global warming are saving the state.
This article would be good satire, if it were not so tragically unhinged.