There’s Still Hope When There’s Still Talent and Beauty, California
I read an excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal this weekend, about a New York-born, Cal-Berkely trained demographer, a self-described “Truman Democrat” now teaching at admittedly center-right Chapman University in Orange, California. The piece, Joel Kotkin: The Great California Exodus, has Mr. Kotkin bewailing the current state of California’s economic environment, and the effect it’s having on the middle class in that state.
I think it’s instructive, especially given the rhetoric we see being wheeled out about classical economic models of “capital investment + smart ideas = employment growth.” The left parties in the U.S. are again using the hoary phraseology “trickle down” to describe this time-tested capitalist model, while somehow trying to advance central planning as the “hot, new equitable” thing. But what have central planning, high taxes, and a large and intrusive government actually brought California?
Good schools? Not anymore.
Green jobs? Not enough to make up the ones lost in traditional energy, not mention other economic sectors.
A robust public sector economy? Well, yeah, for now at least…. (except for the pensions)…
Tax equity? Well, yes, if you mean that people making over $48,000 a year are paying almost the same in state taxes as Larry Ellison (9.3% and 10.3%, respectively)
Affordable Housing? Well, sure. As long as you are either indigent, or one of the Jobs kids, given that “free” and “it doesn’t matter” are the only options available to housing shoppers in the region.
Ironically, it seems California — once the 5th largest economy in the world on a stand-alone basis– has become our very own version of Europe. Unfortunately, today’s California resembles more a higher tech version of Medieval Europe than it does the more modern variety. You see, California is swiftly transforming into a place where only the extremely rich nobility, the Sheriff of Nottingham (& his henchmen) and some very contented peasants can bear to live in anymore. As Kotkin puts it in his piece:
A worker in Wichita might not consider those earning $250,000 a year middle class, but “if you’re a guy working for a Silicon Valley company and you’re married and you’re thinking about having your first kid, and your family makes 250-k a year, you can’t buy a closet in the Bay Area,” Mr. Kotkin says. “But for 250-k a year, you can live pretty damn well in Salt Lake City. And you might be able to send your kids to public schools and own a three-bedroom, four-bath house.”
According to Mr. Kotkin, these upwardly mobile families are fleeing in droves. As a result, California is turning into a two-and-a-half-class society. On top are the “entrenched incumbents” who inherited their wealth or came to California early and made their money. Then there’s a shrunken middle class of public employees and, miles below, a permanent welfare class. As it stands today, about 40% of Californians don’t pay any income tax and a quarter are on Medicaid.
What’s worse is that such a system, if unamended, devolves into a vicious cycle of exodus, especially given that this “European State” doesn’t border on neighbors requiring a passport for entry. The result is not so much a brain drain (California still commands its share of brains thanks to Silicon Valley and the defense industry) as a family drain, and a “middle class” drains:
Mr. Kotkin also notes that demographic changes are playing a role. As progressive policies drive out moderate and conservative members of the middle class, California’s politics become even more left-wing. It’s a classic case of natural selection, and increasingly the only ones fit to survive in California are the very rich and those who rely on government spending. In a nutshell, “the state is run for the very rich, the very poor, and the public employees.”
Again, I have to chuckle. In one of our bluest states, not only is the left driving out “the middle class” that the President is so often claiming support for, but they are pushing them to traditionally more conservative states like Texas and Utah, who have now become low-tax hubs for the same cutting edge technology that made California the economic engine of the 20th century.
Circumstances such as these that afflict California and my own native New York do not occur over night, but are rather the result of a series of choices taken over many years of feasting on economic prosperity, once gladly and now grudgingly shared. We must ask ourselves, are these once-great states merely the natural victims of their own success? Is the U.S. doomed to fall into the same gray spiral we see now afflicting the increasingly infantalized — and seemingly helpless — states of Europe?
Serious questions which must be taken seriously and soon. Are you game?
I reached into my reserve stores today and bought 40% more SLW at$ 28.32, as reported in The PPT this afternoon. I am prepared to buy more, as I think we may even see silver touch $30, or slightly below once more, like it did back in September/October of 2011. Remember those painful times? That’s what has me salivating.
I am prepared to buy more. My best to you.