January 23, 2023

JOEL KOTKIN: How the Californian dream became a nightmare.

Once a beacon of upward mobility, California’s tech-dominated economy has now become what analyst Antonio García Martínez describes as ‘feudalism with better marketing’. California has the fourth-highest GINI inequality index out of American states, and has experienced a sizeable expansion of inequality since 2010, according to American Community Survey data. Despite California’s fanatical commitment to ‘anti-racist’ affirmative action and racial preferences, African-Americans and Latinosperform poorly in terms of income and homeownership in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, with the latter among the most segregated places in the US. The gap between California’s fantastically rich elite and the struggling masses illustrates the emptiness of the elites’ supposedly ‘progressive’ values.

California’s embrace of green ideology has been particularly destructive to the economy. Technology companies have been key backers of California’s unproven and costly climate-centred policies, which are the most expensive in the US. While such policies are less directly damaging to digital companies, they have proven devastating to California’s other industries, notably to manufacturing, logistics and agriculture. California, the ultimate advanced industrial power in the late 20th century, has haemorrhaged industrial jobs in the 21st. Its severe underperformance compared with rivals extends to construction, professional and business services, and increasingly even tech.

Speaking of the impact of green ideology: Why California’s rainstorm ‘disaster’ is a blessing.

California is having an unusually wet year. This is a good thing. Both the central valley’s agricultural complex and the state’s 40 million-plus residential population rely on the brief winter rainy season and spring melting of the Sierra snowpack for fresh, pure water. Foothill reservoirs from Shasta to Tehachapi are refilling, cleaning, and flushing. California’s natural and built water system statewide is recharging groundwater after three dry years. Indeed, for lack of diversionary channels and storage expansion, at the moment good water is now being released from dams and headed for the Pacific Ocean.

What might seem to be rainstorm hell to headline writers is providing temporary relief from age-old water shortages. California’s weather cycles of dry and flooding are well documented. The American West has been dealing with this arid state of affairs since pioneer days. Much of arable and buildable southern California is flood plain. Flood control statewide and channelization of the Los Angeles river system were major initiatives of the mid-20th century, along with expansion of the Sierra storage system.

And yet, as Victor Davis Hanson wrote in 2015, Then-Gov. Jerry Brown “and other Democratic leaders will never concede that their own opposition in the 1970s (when California had about half its present population) to the completion of state and federal water projects, along with their more recent allowance of massive water diversions for fish and river enhancement, left no margin for error in a state now home to 40 million people.”

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