The Basic Non-Existence of California

Sun 19 Aug, 2012 07:27 am


AUGUST 16, 2012 12:00 A.M.
There Is No California
Palo Alto and Fresno share a state government, but that’s about it.
By Victor Davis Hanson

Driving across California is like going from Mississippi to Massachusetts without ever crossing a state line.

Consider the disconnects: California’s combined income and sales taxes are among the nation’s highest, but the state’s annual deficit is still about $16 billion. It is estimated that more than 2,000 upper-income Californians are leaving per week to flee high taxes and costly regulations, yet the state government wants to raise taxes even higher. California’s business climate already ranks near the bottom in most surveys. Its teachers are among the highest paid, on average, in the nation, but its public-school students consistently test near the bottom of the nation in both math and science.

The state’s public employees enjoy some of the nation’s most generous pensions and benefits, but California’s retirement systems are underfunded by about $300 billion. The state’s gas taxes — at over 49 cents per gallon — are among the highest in the nation, but its once-unmatched freeways, like 101 and 99, for long stretches have degenerated into potholed, clogged nightmares unchanged since the early 1960s.

The state wishes to borrow billions of dollars to develop high-speed rail, beginning with a little-traveled link between Fresno and Corcoran — a corridor already served by money-losing Amtrak. Apparently, coastal residents like the idea of European-style high-speed rail — as long as the noisy and dirty construction does not begin in their backyards.
As gasoline prices soar, California chooses not to develop millions of barrels of untapped oil and even more natural gas off its shore and beneath its interior. Home to bankrupt green companies like Solyndra, California has mandated that a third of all the energy provided by state utilities soon must come from renewable energy sources – largely wind and solar, which currently provide about 11 percent of the state’s electricity and almost none of its transportation fuel.

How to explain the seemingly inexplicable? “California” is a misnomer. There is no such state. Instead there are two radically different cultures and landscapes with little in common, the two equally dysfunctional in quite different ways. Apart they are unworldly; together, a disaster.

A postmodern narrow coastal corridor runs from San Diego to Berkeley; there the weather is ideal, the gentrified affluent make good money, and values are green and left-wing. This Shangri-La is juxtaposed to a vast impoverished interior, from the southern desert to the northern Central Valley, where life is becoming premodern.

On the coast, blue-chip universities like Cal Tech, Berkeley, Stanford, and UCLA in pastoral landscapes train the world’s doctors, lawyers, engineers, and businesspeople. In the hot interior of blue-collar Sacramento, Turlock, Fresno, and Bakersfield, well over half the incoming freshmen in the California State University system must take remedial math and science classes.

In postmodern Palo Alto, a small cottage costs more than $1 million. Two hours away, in premodern and now-bankrupt Stockton, a bungalow the same size goes for less than $100,000.

In the interior, unemployment in many areas is over 15 percent. The theft of copper wire is reaching epidemic proportions. Thousands of the shrinking middle class have fled the interior for the coast or for nearby no-income-tax states. To fathom the nearly unbelievable statistics — as California’s population grew by 10 million from the mid-1980s to 2005, its number of Medicaid recipients increased by 7 million; one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients now reside in California — visit the state’s hinterlands.

But in the Never-Never Land of Apple, Facebook, Google, Hollywood, and the wine country, millions live in an idyllic paradise. Coastal Californians can afford to worry about trivia — and so their legislators seek to outlaw foie gras, shut down irrigation projects in order to save the three-inch-long Delta smelt, and allow children to have legally recognized multiple parents.

But in the less feel-good interior, crippling regulations curb timber, gas and oil, and farm production. For the most part, the rules are mandated by coastal utopians who have little idea where the fuel for their imported cars comes from, or how the redwood is cut for their decks, or who grows the ingredients for their Mediterranean lunches of arugula, olive oil, and pasta.

On the coast, it’s politically incorrect to talk of illegal immigration. In the interior, residents see first-hand the bankrupting effects on schools, courts, and health care when millions arrive illegally without English-language fluency or a high-school diploma — and send back billions of dollars in remittances to Mexico and other Latin American countries.

The drive from Fresno to Palo Alto takes three hours, but you might as well be rocketing from Earth to the moon.

— Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The End of Sparta. You can reach him by e-mailing [email protected]. © 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
Sun 19 Aug, 2012 07:36 am
It's amazing how disconnected some population groups in the US are from others. City life is so different from rural life that they almost don't belong in the same state(s). I wonder if any state can effectively manage the differing segments of the population with one set of rules and regulations (state level rules and regulations).
Sun 19 Aug, 2012 08:49 am
That could be a mirror of most other states with greter than , say 30000 sq miles of territory. PA Universities are just like California, as are housing value differences.

Still, people LIVE in California and count for the electorate. Too bad for the other guys
Sun 19 Aug, 2012 08:53 am
The most common statement you hear is that California has served as a Petrie dish for libtard political theories and has paid the price for it. Even pseudo-communists like FDR and real communists like Uncle Joe Stalin would never have tolerated anybody wanting to shut down the Central Valley or blow up hydroelectric plants and dams for the sake of fish and lizards.
Walter Hinteler
Sun 19 Aug, 2012 09:02 am
Actually, this is the same in other countries as well.
We've been (again) in Potsdam for a couple of days.
Potsdam, borders Berlin, is the capita of the state of Brandenburg.
In some suburbs, house prices are higher than in high-priced Berlin areas.
But 20 minutes by bus away, you can get pretty houses in splendid surroundings, closest to various lakes ... at the price of a small apartment in Berlin's/Potsdam's most-searched city districts. (And these villages are nearly abandoned but not "in" ....)
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Sun 19 Aug, 2012 09:50 am
As a Californian Gung I thank you for that report

You seem fluent so might I ask as an erstwhile writer myself whether you’re professionally involved in journ
Sun 19 Aug, 2012 09:55 am
You mean Lib-tards like George W Bush who came into office looking at the potential for a 5.6 Trillion Dollar Surplus and frittered it away into a ten trillion dollar deficit. Oh wait! George W Bush wasn't from California, he was from Texas--Ronald Reagan was the Lib-tard Californian who blew up the deficit.

If only Lib-tards like Reagan and Bush would look at the obscenity of that socialized defense budget sanely--maybe the they could get deficit spending out of a wad.

IMHO its too bad the GOP didn't listen to Eisenhower.

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Mon 20 Aug, 2012 05:17 am
As a Californian Gung I thank you for that report

You seem fluent so might I ask as an erstwhile writer myself whether you’re professionally involved in journ....

No. I've done a lot of writing but not for newspapers or popular magazines.
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Mon 20 Aug, 2012 07:19 am
You might find US Rep McClintock's Oct. 2011 speech at the Council for National Policy interesting:



.......When my parents came to California in the 1960’s looking for a better future, they found it here. The state government consumed about half of what it does today after adjusting for both inflation and population. HALF. We had the finest highway system in the world and the finest public school system in the country. California offered a FREE university education to every Californian who wanted one. We produced water and electricity so cheaply that some communities didn’t bother to meter the stuff. Our unemployment rate consistently ran well below the national rate and our diversified economy was nearly recession-proof.

One thing – and one thing only – changed in those years: public policy. The political Left gradually gained dominance over California’s government and has imposed a disastrous agenda of radical and retrograde policies that have destroyed the quality of life that Californians once took for granted.

The Census bureau has reported for the better part of the decade that California is undergoing the biggest population exodus in its history, with many fleeing to such garden spots as Nevada, Arizona and Texas. Think about that. California is blessed with the most equitable climate in the entire Western Hemisphere; it has the most bountiful resources anywhere in the continental United States; it is poised on the Pacific Rim in a position to dominate world trade for the next century, and yet people are finding a better place to live and work and raise their families in the middle of the Nevada Nuclear Test Range.

I submit to you that no conceivable act of God could wreak such devastation. Only acts of government can do that. And they have.........

Mon 20 Aug, 2012 10:29 am
No matter what you GOPers have said about Brownie, he seems to be doing something right. Hes put tax issues on referenda along with whjat they wil have to cut if the taxes dont go through. I love involving th electorate it keeps the GOP from taking opposite sides of issues every coupla years
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