On California’s Demise

Robin Smith · Sep. 7, 2020

An elderly gent in California made a comment that sadly captures the mood in the nation’s biggest state: “In California these days, you can’t tell whether mask wearers are fighting the virus, the smoke, or the police.”

In the Golden State, once the destination of men and women looking to achieve the American Dream, the opportunity for fame and fortune has been replaced by high taxes and a diminishing quality of life. According to Rich States, Poor States, a “comprehensive report that ranks the economic competitiveness of states using 15 equally weighted policy variables” published by economists Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore, California has long been on the wrong path for economic success, and its troubles are growing in the midst of this COVID crisis.

California rates as the worst state for its burdensome “progressive” personal income tax, its bottom 10 corporate tax, and its massive regulatory load (including laws hostile to right to work along with the incredible environmental red tape that has led to massive wildfires). The combination means the Golden State is a tarnished counterfeit of its previous self.

Victor Davis Hanson, a brilliant conservative thinker, encountered the older gentleman who made the earlier comment about masks. He asked the man if the rolling power outages due to fire hazards in the extreme heat were pushing him outside in the haze-dominated air since he had no power to run his air conditioner. Hanson said he gave a “novel” answer: “He didn’t care about the power outages since he couldn’t pay the exorbitant electricity charges anyway to turn on his air conditioner.”

The burden of COVID has Americans wearing face coverings while Californians are seeing the anarchical violence ignited by Democratic-Marxists to overthrow law and order — and that’s on top of the smoke-choked air from thousands of wildfires.

Did wildfires just become a problem in the last few years on the West Coast? While climate change gets the blame, the policies and practices of thinning and harvesting dried-out shrubs, trees, and brittle grasses have been halted since they provide a “natural source of food and shelter for bugs and birds.” So, to protect the bugs, the birds, and the bushes, let’s turn off the power to avoid electrical fires, sending citizens outdoors since their solar panels don’t work so well when the sun is blocked from thick smoke. That’s essentially the message of the governing elite and wealthy, who can find alternative means, leave the state, or live in a second or third home while the disasters are carried on the backs of working men and women.

This Dark Age resulting from failed policies of a deep-blue state was predictable. And yet, pitifully, the inability to see that doing the same things is not how to fix a problem is a perpetual toxic mindset. As California is essentially closed for business — well, unless you’re Nancy Pelosi getting special treatment for a blowout — Governor Gavin Newsome has declared, “The federal government has a moral, ethical, and economic obligation to help support the states.”

The largest state economy has been forced closed even as other states have successfully returned to at least some operations. It already receives almost $440 billion in federal revenue — the highest in America — from U.S. taxpayers. And it continues its environmental extremism and open borders/sanctuary cities, with more spent on “free healthcare” for all, including illegals, than on educating children.

Hanson was right: “California, as some of the Democratic primary candidates bragged last year, is the progressive model of the future: a once-innovative rich state that is now a civilization in near ruins. The nation should watch us this election year and learn of its possible future.”

Does that have to be the case?

A few years back, we contrasted California and the great state of Tennessee. We noted that the Volunteer State was open for business, offering a quality of life that was the envy of many due to its broad-based taxation on sales transactions and its devotion to cutting red tape and protecting the rights of workers and business owners while removing barriers to create jobs and grow wealth.

Today, many belittle the state whose motto is “America at its best,” mocking our southern culture that honors family, patriotism, and religious liberty. Yet the same Rich States, Poor States report has Tennessee in the top rankings for business and workers while U.S. News lists it as number one in the country for its fiscal stability and soundness.

Oh, and Tennessee is currently ranked eighth in positioning to come back post-COVID with its continued open-for-business policies and careful spending. Meanwhile, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Vermont, and New York — all governed by leftists — are last.

So, while we look to November to see the best choices at the ballot box, remember that the failed policies of these states need to be left as memories and monuments to disaster while citizens move out seeking recovery and a better way of life.

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