Lost Angeles

Appearing in:

The City Journal

It seems appropriate that the city where America’s movies are made has enjoyed such a dramatic trajectory. Los Angeles began the twentieth century with barely 100,000 residents. By century’s end, 4 million people were living there, making it the nation’s second-largest city, while another 6 million were occupying the rest of Los Angeles County.

But in the new century, Los Angeles has begun to fade, and it can’t blame its sorry condition on the recent recession. The unemployment rate is one of the highest among the nation’s largest urban areas. Streets are potholed. Businesses and residents are fleeing. In virtually every category of urban success, from migration of educated workers to growth of airport travel, Los Angeles lags behind not only such fast-growth regions as Dallas, Houston, and Raleigh-Durham, but also historical rivals like New York.

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How Los Angeles Lost Its Mojo

Appearing in:

Wall Street Journal

Los Angeles today is a city in secular decline. Its current political leadership seems determined to turn the sprawling capitalist dynamo into a faux New York. But they are more likely to leave behind a dense, government-dominated, bankrupt, dysfunctional, Athens by the Pacific.

The greatness of Los Angeles stemmed from its willingness to be different. Unlike Chicago or Denver or New York, the Los Angeles metro area was designed not around a central core but on a series of centers, connected first by railcars and later by the freeways. The result was a dispersed metropolis where most people occupied single-family houses in middle-class neighborhoods. Read more

California Wages War On Single-Family Homes

Appearing in:

Forbes

In recent years, homeowners have been made to feel a bit like villains rather than the victims of hard times, Wall Street shenanigans and inept regulators. Instead of being praised for braving the elements, suburban homeowners have been made to feel responsible for everything from the Great Recession to obesity to global warming.

In California, the assault on the house has gained official sanction. Once the heartland of the American dream, the Golden State has begun implementing new planning laws designed to combat global warming. These draconian measures could lead to a ban on the construction of private residences, particularly on the suburban fringe. The new legislation’s goal is to cram future generations of Californians into multi-family apartment buildings, turning them from car-driving suburbanites into strap-hanging urbanistas.

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Is The Information Industry Reviving Economies?

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

For nearly a generation, the information sector, which comprises everything from media and data processing to internet-related businesses, has been ballyhooed as a key driver for both national and regional economic growth. In the 1990s economist Michael Mandell predicted cutting-edge industries like high-tech would create 2.8 million new jobs over 10 years.  This turned out to be something of a pipe dream. According to a recent 2010 New America Foundation report, the information industry shed 68,000 jobs in the past decade. Read more

California’s Demographic Dilemma: A Class And Culture Clash

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

The newly released Census reports reveal that California faces a profound gap between the cities where people are moving to and the cities that hold all the political power. It is a tale that divides the state between its coastal metropolitan regions that dominate the state’s politics — particularly the San Francisco Bay Area, but also Los Angeles — and its still-growing, largely powerless interior regions.

Indeed, the “progressives” of the coast are fundamentally anti-growth, less concerned with promoting broad-based economic growth — despite 12.5% statewide unemployment — than in preserving the privileges of their sponsors among public sector unions and generally affluent environmentalists. This could breed a big conflict between the coastal idealists and the working class and increasingly Latino residents in the more hardscrabble interior, whose economic realities are largely ignored by the state’s government.

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California’s Third Brown Era

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

Jerry Brown’s no-frills inauguration today as California governor will make headlines, but the meager celebration also marks the restoration of one of the country’s most illustrious political families. Save the Kennedys of Massachusetts no clan has dominated the political life of a major state in modern times than the Browns of California. A member of this old California Irish clan has been in statewide office for most of the past half century; by the end of Jerry Brown’s new term, his third, the family will have inhabited the California chief executive office for a remarkable two full decades since 1958.

Brown, at 72 the oldest governor in state history, may well determine the final legacy of this remarkable family. His biggest challenge will be to reverse the state’s long-term secular decline — a stark contrast to the heady days of the first Brown era, presided over by paterfamilias Edmund “Pat” Brown.

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Hasta La Vista, Failure

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

In his headier and hunkier days, Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke boldly about how “failure is not an option.” This kind of bravado worked well in the gym–and in a remarkable career that saw an inarticulate Austrian body-builder rise to the apex of Hollywood and California politics.

But Schwarzenegger’s soon-to-be-ended seven-year reign as California’s governor can be best described in just that one simple world: failure. It has been so bad that one even looks forward to having a pro, the eccentric Machiavellian master, Jerry Brown, replace him.

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California Suggests Suicide; Texas Asks: Can I Lend You a Knife?

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

In the future, historians may likely mark the 2010 midterm elections as the end of the California era and the beginning of the Texas one. In one stunning stroke, amid a national conservative tide, California voters essentially ratified a political and regulatory regime that has left much of the state unemployed and many others looking for the exits.

California has drifted far away from the place that John Gunther described in 1946 as “the most spectacular and most diversified American state … so ripe, golden.”  Instead of a role model, California  has become a cautionary tale of mismanagement Read more

California’s Failed Statesmen

Appearing in:

Orange County Register

The good news? Like most rock or movie stars, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with California. It’s still talented, and retains great physical gifts. Our climate, fertility and location remain without parallel. The state remains pre-eminent in a host of critical fields from agriculture to technology, entertainment to Pacific Rim trade.

California can come back only if it takes a 12-step program to jettison its delusions. This requires, perhaps more than anything, a return to adult supervision. Most legislators, in both parties, appear to be hacks, ideologues and time-servers. This time, when the danger is even greater, we see no such sense of urgency. Instead we have a government that reminds one more of the brutally childish anarchy of William Golding’s 1954 novel “Lord of the Flies.” Read more

The Golden State’s War on Itself

Appearing in:

The City Journal

California has long been a destination for those seeking a better place to live. For most of its history, the state enacted sensible policies that created one of the wealthiest and most innovative economies in human history. California realized the American dream but better, fostering a huge middle class that, for the most part, owned their homes, sent their kids to public schools, and found meaningful work connected to the state’s amazingly diverse, innovative economy. Read more