Is Cal­i­for­nia crack­ing up?

Strat­i­fi­ca­tion of wealth into rich and poor re­gions is recre­at­ing feu­dal­ism

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By Vic­tor Davis Han­son

Cor­po­rate prof­its at Cal­i­for­ni­abased transna­tional cor­po­ra­tions such as Ap­ple, Face­book and Google are hit­ting record highs. Cal­i­for­nia hous­ing prices from La Jolla to Berke­ley along the Pa­cific Coast can top $1,000 a square foot.

It seems as if all of China is will­ing to pay pre­mium prices to get their chil­dren de­greed at Cal­tech, Berke­ley, Stan­ford, UCLA or USC.

Yet Cal­i­for­nia — af­ter rais­ing its top in­come tax rate to 13.3 per­cent and re­ceiv­ing record rev­enues — is still fac­ing a bud­get deficit of more than $1 bil­lion. There is a much more fore­bod­ing state cri­sis of un­funded li­a­bil­i­ties and pen­sion obli­ga­tions of nearly $1 tril­lion.

Soon, new gas tax hikes, on top of green man­dates, might make Cal­i­for­nia gas the most ex­pen­sive in the na­tion, de­spite the state’s huge re­serves of un­tapped oil.

Where does the money go, given that the state’s schools and in­fra­struc­ture rank among Amer­ica’s worst in na­tional sur­veys?

Il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion over the last 30 years, the ex­o­dus of mil­lions of mid­dle-class Cal­i­for­ni­ans, and huge wealth con­cen­trated in the Los An­ge­les basin and Sil­i­con Val­ley have turned the

state into a me­dieval manor of knights and peas­ants, with ever fewer in be­tween.

The strapped mid­dle class con­tin­ues to flee bad schools, high taxes, ram­pant crime and poor state ser­vices. About one-third of the na­tion’s wel­fare re­cip­i­ents re­side in Cal­i­for­nia. Ap­prox­i­mately one-fifth of the state lives be­low the poverty line. More than a quar­ter of Cal­i­for­ni­ans were not born in the United States.

Many of the state’s wealth­i­est res­i­dents sup­port high taxes, no-growth green poli­cies and sub­si­dies for the poor. They do so be­cause they re­side in apartheid neigh­bor­hoods and have the ma­te­rial and po­lit­i­cal where­withal to be­come ex­empt from the con­se­quences of their own utopian bro­mides.

Blue Cal­i­for­nia has no two-party pol­i­tics any­more. Its cam­puses, from Berke­ley to Clare­mont, have proven among the most hos­tile to free speech in the na­tion.

A few things keep Cal­i­for­nia go­ing. Its natural bounty, beauty and weather draw in peo­ple ea­ger to play Cal­i­for­nia roulette. The state is nat­u­rally rich in min­er­als, oil and natural gas, tim­ber and farm­land. The world pays dearly for what­ever techies based in Cal­i­for­nia’s uni­ver­si­ties can dream up.

That said, the sta­tus quo is fail­ing.

The skele­tons of half-built bridges and over­passes for a $100 bil­lion high-speed-rail di­nosaur re­mind res­i­dents of the on­go­ing boon­dog­gle. Mean­time, out­dated roads and high­ways — mostly un­changed from the 1960s — make driv­ing for 40 mil­lion both slow and dan­ger­ous. Each mile of track for high-speed rail rep­re­sents mil­lions of dol­lars that were not spent on re­pair­ing and ex­pand­ing stretches of the state’s de­crepit free­ways — and hun­dreds of lives need­lessly lost each year.

The fu­ture of state trans­porta­tion is not up­dated ver­sions of 19th-cen­tury ideas of rail­ways and lo­co­mo­tives, but in­stead will in­clude elec­tric-pow­ered and au­to­mat­i­cally pi­loted cars — all im­pos­si­ble with­out good roads.

Less than 40 per­cent of Cal­i­for­nia res­i­dents iden­tify them­selves as con­ser­va­tive. But red­county Cal­i­for­nia rep­re­sents some 75 per­cent of Cal­i­for­nia’s geo­graph­i­cal area. It’s as if large, ru­ral Mis­sis­sippi and tiny ur­ban Mas­sachusetts were one com­bined state — all ruled by lib­eral Bos­ton.

Now, a third of the state thinks it can pull off a “Calexit” and leave the United States. Calexit’s un­hinged pro­po­nents have no idea that they are mim­ick­ing the right-wing ar­gu­ments of the Con­fed­er­ate states that prompted the Civil War. Like South Carolina res­i­dents in 1861, Calexit ad­vo­cates seem to as­sume that fed­eral law should ap­ply ev­ery­where else ex­cept in Cal­i­for­nia. Many of these Cal­i­for­nia res­i­dents also be­lieve that the fed­eral En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency should al­ways over­ride lo­cal or­di­nances, but not so with an­other fed­eral bureau, Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment.

South Carolina started the Civil War by shelling and cap­tur­ing fed­eral prop­erty at Fort Sumter in Charleston Bay. Calexit wannabe se­ces­sion­ists sim­i­larly as­sume that thou­sands of square miles of fed­eral prop­erty — from Cal­i­for­nia fed­eral court­rooms and post of­fices to na­tional parks such as Yosemite to huge mil­i­tary bases such as Camp Pendle­ton — be­long to the state and could sim­ply be con­fis­cated from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

Calexit pro­po­nents as­sume Cal­i­for­nia can leave the union with­out an au­tho­riz­ing amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion, rat­i­fied by three-fourths of all the states. And they fail to see that should Cal­i­for­nia ever se­cede, it would im­me­di­ately split in two. The coastal strip would go the way of se­ces­sion­ist Vir­ginia. The other three-quar­ters of the state’s ge­og­ra­phy would re­main loyal to the union and be­come a new ver­sion of loy­al­ist West Vir­ginia.

Buy­ing a home on the Cal­i­for­nia coast is nearly im­pos­si­ble. The state bud­get can only be bal­anced through con­stant tax hikes. Find­ing a good, safe pub­lic school is dif­fi­cult. Build­ing a sin­gle new dam dur­ing the Cal­i­for­nia drought to cap­ture record runoff wa­ter in sub­se­quent wet years proved po­lit­i­cally im­pos­si­ble.

No mat­ter. Many Cal­i­for­ni­ans con­sider those ex­is­ten­tial prob­lems to be a pre­mod­ern drag, while they dream of post­mod­ern trains, the le­gal­iza­tion of pot-grow­ing — and se­ced­ing from the United States of Amer­ica.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY HUNTER

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