It takes a kind of malignant genius to destroy California, but the state’s ruling elites are well on their way to assure its decline. If the downward spiral continues, it will stand as a testament to the insane variety of progressive policies that have driven middle and working class people, as well as numerous companies, out of the state.
No place on earth came into this century with more going for it than California. It is a naturally beautiful state, home to some of the world’s mildest climates, enormously fertile both in its land and its people. It has long been the epicenter of technology, entertainment and space exploration: the last great Western dominated industries.
Yet today California suffers among the US’ highest rates of unemployment, with the highest percent living in poverty and massive net outmigration. The causes here are manifold, but they start with climate policy. Ever since Jerry Brown returned to office in 2011, the state has made climate policy not just a priority, but an obsession. Virtually every major state initiative from housing and energy to economic growth hinges around climate catastrophism and the need for California to lead the battle to stop it.
These climate-centric policies are no winner for most Californians. Indeed, as the state ratcheted up its regulations, the effect has disproportionately hurt working class and ethnic minority families (roughly 40 per cent of the state’s population is Latino). The highest energy prices in continental US and draconian regulations have reduced potential employment in key blue-collar industries such as logistics, manufacturing, and home construction.
The impact of California’s regulatory regime also extends to the middle class, who pay among the country’s highest taxes, and groan under the nation’s most prolific series of regulations. By slowing and even stopping new housing growth in the less expensive periphery, California has become the state home to seven of the nation’s ten least-affordable housing markets.
Perhaps the biggest blow to the middle class has come in terms of jobs. A Hoover Institution report released last year observed that in 2020 California had only one-seventh the number of company-initiated capital projects than did the leading state, Texas. Additionally, from 2018 to 2021, 352 companies headquartered in California moved their headquarters out.
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Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.