Oh baby, the thrill is gone for California, says Joel Kotkin, replaced by an increasingly feudal arrangement dominated by the monied class, with growing numbers of poor. As for the middle class, they are studiously ignored by coastal elites, who live in mansions, fly in private jets, and lecture the rest about living green, low-carbon, and simply. Their vassal politicians are happy to do their bidding.
Kotkin, executive editor of New Geography, has lived in California for thirty years. My wife and I left California recently for many of issues he discusses; gaping and growing disparity between rich and poor, a legislature that when it isn’t comatose shows little interest in the middle class, steep housing prices., and more. Much of the current water crisis could easily have been planned for. But it wasn’t. And now Governor Brown wants to spend many billions California can not afford for goofy high speed rail that few if any will use. And his solution to the drought is to whack the middle class for their lawns while giving big ag a free pass. Right.
There needs to be, at least for the short term,an end to dumping water into San Francisco Bay for the purpose of restoring a long-gone salmon run, or to the Delta, in order to save a bait-fish, the Delta smelt, which may already be close to extinct. This dumping of water has continued even as the state has faced a potentially crippling water shortage; nothing is too good for our fish, or to salve the hyper-heated consciousness of the environmental illuminati.
But it’s not just water that exemplifies the current “era of limits” psychology. Energy development has always been in green crosshairs and their harassment has all but succeeded in helping drive much of the oil and gas industry, including corporate headquarters, out of the state. Not building roads—arguably to be replaced by trains—has not exactly reduced traffic but given California the honor of having eight of the top 20 cities nationally with poor roads.
Everytime we go back to L.A., Sue and I marvel at how much worse traffic has gotten. And it was bad when we left it seven years. We also recently lived in the S.F. Bay area where urban freeways can be like driving on washboards. Las Vegas, where we live now, doesn’t have that problem, it just doesn’t. Middle-class people can afford homes and do quite well here. And Nevada is light years ahead of California on water conservation and re-use.
California, long a relative beacon of equality and opportunity, now has the fourth-highest rate of inequality in the country. For those who, like me, bought their first home over 30 years ago, high housing prices, exacerbated by regulation, are a personal piggybank. But it’s doubtful either of my daughters will ever be able to buy a house here.
Housing prices are a primary reason we left California, along with the bleating from Silicon Valley types about how everyone but them needs to lower expectations.
What we are witnessing the breakdown of a once-expansive, open society into one dominated by a small group of plutocrats, largely in Silicon Valley, with an “amen” crew among the low-information donors of Hollywood, the public unions, the green lobby, and wealthy real estate developers favored by Brown’s pro-density policies. This coalition backs Brown and helps maintain the state’s essentially one-party system. No one is more adamant about reducing people’s carbon footprint than the jet set of Silicon Valley or the state’s planning elite, even if they choose not to live in a manner that they instruct all others.