The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

CA—by the Numbers

It's hard not to be impressed with the scenic beauty of California. Along its coast, the Pacific ocean crashes onto hundreds of miles of beaches as the setting sun provides a backdrop that is unmatched in the United States. Its mountain and desert areas have their own appeal—the home of outdoor recreation that is unparalleled. And yet, CA is in trouble—big, big trouble.

In a long and devastating report prepared by Joel Kotkin of Real Clear Investigations (read the whole thing), CA is assessed "by the numbers," and the numbers are very troubling. The state has been governed by Democrats (with the occasional GOP governor) for almost 50 years and the results of blue governance are now plain to see.

Democratic politicians, who have championed CA's progressive agenda for half a century, claim that their intent has been to improve the plight of the middle and lower classes, reduce poverty and income inequality, eliminate homelessness, save the planet, provide sustainable energy, enhance education at all levels, and otherwise work toward a more equal society. Although these are laudable goals, blue governance has failed (and failed badly) to achieve any of them.

The CA legislature, often controlled by a Democrat super-majority, believes the solution to each of the issues noted was to create a bigger and bigger government and spend more and more money on each problem. As a consequence, the state has the highest tax rate in the country, often coupled with the least effective services.

Klotkin writes:

Parting with the state’s cheerleaders, the New York Times’ Ezra Klein, a reliable progressive and native Californian, says the Golden State’s failures are “making liberals squirm.”

Reality may well be worse than even Klein admits. In a new report for Chapman University, my colleagues and I find California in a state of existential crisis, losing both its middle-aged and middle class, while its poor population faces dimming prospects. Despite the state’s myriad advantages, research shows it plagued by economic immobility and inequality, crushing housing and energy costs, and a failing education system. Worse than just a case of progressive policies creating regressive outcomes, it appears California is descending into something resembling modern-day feudalism, with the poor and weak trapped by policies subsidized by taxes paid by the rich and powerful.

California may conjure images of Rodeo Drive and Malibu mansions in the public imagination, but today the state suffers the highest cost-adjusted poverty rate in the U.S. The poor and near-poor constitute over one third – well over 10 million – of the state’s residents according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Los Angeles, by far the state’s largest metropolitan area, and once a magnet for middle class aspirations, has one of the highest poverty rates among major U.S. cities. A United Way of California analysis shows that over 30 percent of residents lack sufficient income to cover basic living costs even after accounting for public-assistance programs; this includes half of Latino and 40 percent of black residents. Some two-thirds of noncitizen Latinos live at or below the poverty line.

“In California, there is this idea of ‘Oh, we care about the poor,’ but on this metric, we are literally the worst,” Stanford’s University’s Mark Duggan, principal author of an economic comparison of California with Texas, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

CA has established a negative feedback loop in which over-regulation leads to an unfriendly business environment which then drives a loss a basic manufacturing and jobs as businesses flee to TX and FL (among other states).

But the state's problems go far beyond its economy. Klotkin comments on education:

Historically education was seen – particularly among traditional liberals – as critical to upward mobility for poor and working-class people. Yet for decades the state’s schools have underperformed national norms, particularly for poor students ... 

... Among the 50 states, California ranked 49th in the performance of poor, largely minority, students. San Francisco, the epicenter of California’s woke culture, and site of the recent recall of several far-left school board members, suffers the worst scores for African Americans of any county in the state.

These students are often unprepared for college. At California State University – where ethnic studies programs are now mandated – the need for remedial courses or 40 percent of freshmen demonstrates a low level of preparedness in such basic skills as reading comprehension, writing and mathematics. Some educators have decided to eliminate this problem by eliminating remedial classes.

California’s model curriculum, which focuses on how to “build new possibilities for post-imperial life that promotes collective narratives of transformative resistance,” may only exacerbate these problems by inculcating attitudes antithetical to those necessary to succeed in a highly competitive capitalist economy.

Many California educators from the highest reaches of academia down to the grade school level champion “equity” in education over developing hard math skills and fostering excellence. Even basic life skills such as being on time are eschewed: The San Diego Unified School District will no longer count such scruples as turning in work on time in grading and evaluation ...

Who ... exactly ... is helped by a school district policy that allows students to ignore submission schedules and turn in their work 'whenever,' if at all. Not the students, that's for sure. Who ... exactly ... benefits when "equity" is used as an excuse to shut down advanced courses or disregard merit when students are admitted to magnet schools that have been designed for academic achievers. Not poor Black, Latino, Asian or White achievers, that's for sure.

With all of this, census data indicate that people are voting with their feet and leaving CA.* Klotkin writes:

California’s population growth has fallen below the national average for the first time, and the state appears to have even possibly lost population the last two years. The pandemic seems to have accelerated this movement. Last year California was home to three of the five large regions over one million with the highest percentage population loss – San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles. Both San Francisco and Los Angeles school districts face large decreases in enrollment; the LA district, the state’s largest, projects a 20% cut in this decade.

This outmigration trend cannot be dismissed as “white flight.” An analysis of minority population flows shows that Latinos and African Americans are settling increasingly west of the Sierra, particularly in the south, Texas, and parts of the Midwest. Similarly, the foreign-born population – so critical to the state’s economy – has declined in Los Angeles over the past decade, and stagnated in the Bay Area while swelling in places like Dallas-Ft. Worth, Austin, Houston, Nashville and even midwestern cities like Columbus, Des Moines and Indianapolis.

You'd think that the Democrat power elite, who have controlled CA's politics for many decades, would assess all of this and make a course change. Nope. For those who are at the center of blue governance, it's never the policies or the outcomes—no matter how badly they have failed—it's messaging, even bigger government, and more spending. And that's why CA's future is not nearly as bright as it once was.


*  "Voting with your feet" is not an opinion, it's a reality. The editors of Issues and Insights write:

 From July 2020 to July 2021, five major blue-state metropolitan areas hemorrhaged population to red states, as the Census table below shows. Note that the greater New York area was worst, but deep-blue California has three of the top five and actually lost more than New York, overall.

The Census numbers are further confirmed by an annual report from North American Van Lines that rounds out the picture of a demographic tidal wave from blue to red states. It found that the leading outbound states for major moves were Illinois, California, New Jersey, Michigan, and New York.

Where did everyone go? The top states for inbound migration last year were South Carolina, Idaho, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Florida. From blue to red.

“States with a lower cost of living and lower taxes continued to pull Americans from more expensive states in 2021,” the North American Van Lines report said. “With a major shift toward remote work for several occupations, along with continually rising housing costs, people are rapidly moving from the coasts and Midwest to the South and Southwest.”

“The pattern here is clear,” observes the Foundation for Economic Education, regarding the startling demographic shift. “Americans are fleeing highly regulated, highly taxed states. They are flocking to freer states.”

Hmmm. More food for thought for those who continue to insist that the blue governance model is the right way to go.