Work and Days

Thoughts on the Therapeutic Style

Who is the “They” now in California?

How does one explain how California is broke, tens of billions of dollars in aggregate debt, despite having among the highest sales and income taxes in the nation?

We are naturally rich beyond belief—timber, oil, agriculture, a long sea-coast, wonderful weather, mountains, sea, and valleys—and inherited lucrative industries in tourism, computers and software, defense and great universities. Our grandparents left us a once wonderful freeway network, a tripartite higher education system, ports, airports, dams and canals.

So what went wrong, and why are tens of thousands of Californians leaving the state with bachelor degrees and above, while tens of thousands enter without high-school diplomas?

Many answers have been offered—incompetent governance, judicial intrusions, the ballot propositions, trial lawyers, unions, dysfunctional and politically-correct schools, or illegal immigration. But look at it in some sense as the long hoped-for end of the nebulous “them / they.”

For years the open borders lobby accused “them” (whites? The establishment? Conservatives? etc.) of racism in wanting the border with Mexico closed, an end to state entitlements to illegal aliens (remember the Satanic Prop 187?), and deportations of thousands of aliens in state prisons (a cost nearing $1 billion per annum). But now the state legislature is largely controlled by those who in the past argued for de facto open borders and an expansion, not a curtailment, of entitlements for those without legal residence. So whom to blame? There is no “they” anymore. The outsiders are insiders and own the state—and its contradictions they once helped to ensure.

Ditto environmentalism. “They” (fill in the blanks: right-wing employers, CEOs, national companies, etc.) were the villains to be overcome in order to stop drilling off our shores, and to put ever more of our timber and recreational and scenic areas into no-use wilderness areas. We were not to build dams. No more canals. Put aside more farm land. No more nuclear plants. Forget coal. Tax gasoline and make it expensive to refine. It is fair to say now that the environmentalist agenda runs the state, and so there likewise is no more “them” to blame—and we must live with the results. I cannot begin to count in my own personal realm of knowledge the farmers who went broke, the high-tech engineers who moved to Nevada, the small business owners who shut down or moved out of state.

Anyone with capital who wants to start business X, knows that he can be put out of business by one supposed sexual harassment suit, a racial discrimination complaint, trying to fathom 500 pages of state EPA applications, a 10% income tax rate, and now a 9% sales tax to come. In California we hunt out the misdemeanor and ignore the felonies. Drive down my avenue, drop five trash bags of wet garbage on the side of the road, and the chances are great you will never be held accountable (even if your receipts are found in the trash and turned over to the sheriff), but please don’t wire an outdoor light in the barnyard without a permit. You see, anyone who nods and obeys the law and pays, we hound; anyone who simply won’t or can’t, or causes too much trouble, we the state employee simply ignore.

Ditto unions and big government. Ever more high pensions, ever more strict work rules, ever more administrators and high salaries, ever more rules against firing and accountability—and ever fewer to pay for it all. The evil “they” who used to try to moderate unions and state spending are gone—dead, moved away, retired, zilch. And so we the taxpayers work for the unionized government employee rather than vice versa.

So now those who want unchecked entitlements, open immigration, restrictions on resource development, unionized work forces and ever expanded government won—and won big. The problem is, again, the evil “they” who were to pay for all this in ever increased income and sales taxes, to take the blame of being racist, or sexist, or homophobic or greedy, are pretty much gone (cf. the last stand of the 1% of the state that pays the majority of state income taxes). There are no more “greedy” left to pay money or emotional penance, and the therapeutic mindset is now screaming to high heaven as it looks for its awful, but missing mean parent to make it all right.