The PJ Tatler

Potemkin Column

California hiked taxes and now everything’s fine there. No, really.

Look, as a professional blogger I have to read a lot of stupid… stuff. But it’s been a long time — I mean, we have to go back almost two years — since I’ve read anything so brain-puddingly dumb as Timothy Egan’s column for the New York Times “Opinionater.”


Bear with me now as we journey inside:

Right on cue, just as the chorus of California-hating naysayers have signed off on yet another obituary — It’s Greece! A liberal nightmare! Everyone’s leaving! — the Golden State is dreaming once again.

Following a tax hike backed by voters last year, California is projecting a budget surplus in the near future, and big pockets of the state are national leaders in job creation and population growth.

Those “big pockets” are, from top to bottom, San Diego, Los Angeles, and the western half of the San Francisco Bay Area. And that’s about it, except maybe for the nicer bits of Sacramento. The rest of the state, as our own Victor Davis Hanson has illustrated, is exactly the basketcase everybody (but Egan) knows it is.

The California of middle-class dreams is dead. Those “pockets” are of the increasingly rich, taxed increasingly high, to keep at bay an increasingly dependent underclass. The rest of the state is hollowing out, as small business flees Sacramento’s increasingly Byzantine diktats. Of course, that is the Progressive vision of political perfection.

And yet it gets worse. Egan’s column, I mean:

Of greater significance, two of the biggest public works projects in American history — a $68 billion bullet train that will speed people from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 hours and 38 minutes, and a huge re-plumbing of the state’s biggest river and delta system — are moving forward. If they come together as planned, these ventures will lay the foundation for a California of 60 million people that may actually be more livable than the state that now has 38 million.


60 million people taking the high-speed train, huh? That boondoggle that might never get built? I’m curious where those extra 22 million are going to come from, after reading this report from Bill Watkins:

California’s poverty statistics are just as depressing. The state now is home to one-third of all US welfare recipients. According to a Census Bureau report, The Research SUPPLEMENTAL POVERTY REPORT: 2011 California has the nation’s highest poverty rate of any state. By its Supplemental Poverty Measure, 23.5 percent of California’s population is poor, while only 15.8 percent of the nation’s population is poor. No other state is above 20 percent.

Because of its aging and increasingly poor population, its dearth of young people and migratory trends, demand for government services in California will be increasing as the number of people available to pay for those services will be decreasing. Financing concurrent expenses will be hard enough. Paying for today’s excesses may prove impossible…

Domestic migration is important because it should be seen as an early warning signal of eventual decline. Migrants are the proverbial “canaries in the coal mine”. When domestic migration is negative, people are voting with their feet. They are saying that California doesn’t provide enough opportunity to stay, particularly given its high cost of living. Given how comfortable it is to live in California, I think they make that decision reluctantly.

Egan’s view of California is no different from standing in the well-appointed living room of a well-to-do serial killer, and congratulating him on his good taste — while ignoring the screams of the coeds chained to the water heater in the dank basement.


And yet Egan’s column gets even worse, letting loose cries of right-wing racism and accusations of being unpatriotic:

But there is something irrational, indeed unpatriotic, in rooting for California to fail, as so many conservatives are now doing. Sure, they are upset that the Republican Party is dead in this state — R.I.P. G.O.P. And, among the fringes, there are those who cannot accept that California is a minority-majority state, with whites making up about 39 percent of the population. They’ve seen the future and don’t like it one bit.

I won’t even bother trying to trump Egan’s race card, because it has lost its sting. But I will finish with one last thought.

We on the right aren’t rooting for California to fail. But we are desperately afraid that it will — and take the rest of the country with it.

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