“California invented the concept of lifestyle. This alone warrants their doom.” Don DeLillo
I chose California
I wasn’t born in California. Missouri gets that honor. But I have lived in California long enough that nowhere else can claim my allegiance. When I came to California, and Los Angeles in particular, it was like dying and going to heaven. I hated the years I spent in the provincial East gagging on their cultural pretension and I had been desperate in my youth to escape the conventionalism of my midwest home. My take on California was that it was the midwestern idea of heaven. It had all the virtues of midwestern lifestyle with none of the drawbacks. You could buy anything you wanted, anytime and anywhere and the climate was perfect. No snow, except in the mountains where it was useful for skiing. Very little annoying rain with the necessary water being imported from elsewhere. There was culture but no pretension. There were great schools, great roads and parking anywhere you needed it -for free. What was not to like?
Even then, in 1970, when I would drive the Santa Monica Freeway to the beach, I remember looking at the Hollywood Hills and thinking how fantastic LA must have been in the 40’s or 50’s. Raymond Chandler was in the air. Still, even in paradise, life happens and I lost myself in the excitement of marriage, family and job. Gradually the spirit of California began to change. The can do, pioneer attitude became a feeling of ‘I’ve got mine. Too bad for you.” Politicians began to turn on the automobile which made LA possible. Jerry Brown, when he became governor stopped building freeways because building more freeways just encouraged more cars. This insight led him to limit other infrastructure investments as well. In the 70’s California was at the top of all states in infrastructure and driving the freeways was pleasure. Today after 30 years of neglect, it is near the bottom in every category despite having the highest taxes in the country and the the LA freeways are a bad joke.
Starve Infrastructure, Feed Politicians!
You might wonder where all that money, not being spent on infrastructure, went. If not spending money on infrastructure means low taxes, maybe the private sector would step in the fill the void and make California even better. Alas, Jerry Brown and his political hack friends had a better Idea for using that money. They created a new class of professional politicians, well supported with high pay for political service either on an elected basis or on appointed commissions. Today, California is run by the highest paid bunch of political hacks the world has ever known. They have no worries and no accountability even when they are incapable and unwilling to perform the normally expected tasks. California is bankrupt in everything but name. The economy is wrecked. Businesses are leaving due to the high tax burden and wretched services but the political class is unworried. With an education system that teaches kids that they are wonderful without ever having to earn their way, voters want their legislators to care, not to manage and so they continue to elect them. Politicians can’t balance a budget but they can ban supermarkets from giving you a plastic bag. They know what is important. Currently they are debating the earth-shattering concern about aluminum bats which might be dangerous for little league rs. We may not have jobs in California but our kids will be safe.
Time to give up on California?
It is a tough dilemma for someone who remembers what California used to be before the politicians sucked it dry. How bad does it have to get before you give up on the golden state? And where can you go? Can California wake up and slough off the leeches that suck it dry? I have my doubts. I’m afraid that it is too late and that there is too much denial from native Californians schooled on the feel good philosophy pervading the culture. Then again look who is running for governor again this year – Jerry Brown. I don’t know what there is left for him to wreck but it does have me worried. Missouri starts to look better all the time.