California to middle class: Drop dead

April 30, 2012

By Steven Greenhut

SACRAMENTO — The new USC study pointing to a much-slower rate of population growth in California has been greeted by demographers and urban planners as good news, in that it supposedly gives our state’s leaders a little breathing room to better plan for the future. The rate of growth has slowed to about 1 percent a year, the result of fewer immigrants coming here and many Californians heading to other states.

“The cooling pace means the state, city and county governments and other entities will have more time to prepare for a bigger population than they did in years past, allowing for more effective planning,” according to the Los Angeles Times, paraphrasing the study’s authors. “That could ensure that new roads and parks, for example, are put in areas where they are most needed and where growth is likely to be sustained, they said.”

That’s an absurdly optimistic spin. California’s elected officials have been doing as little planning as possible, unless one counts planning to spend tens of billions of dollars the state doesn’t have on a high-speed rail line that will partially replicate what the airlines already do. Our leaders are battling new water-storage facilities and punishing farmers with absurd water-use restrictions. They impose roadblocks to building new highway systems, and land-use regulations make it nearly impossible to build the homes and businesses necessary to meet the needs of a growing population. You can hardly call that planning.

Declining growth

The state is still growing, but this decline in the rate of growth is a symbolic turning point: The California Dream is over. People don’t want to come here even though this is, with little question, the most beautiful state in the union. Americans – even those who like to mock our state – ought to think about what this means for our nation.

California has always been a magnet – a land that has attracted people from across the nation and the world. It’s a place that was known for its entrepreneurial spirit and open culture. But it has been turned into a regulatory and tax nightmare, a place where those who already have money can live in their coastal palaces and enjoy the splendor of the landscapes, but where it’s unnecessarily difficult to move one’s way up the economic ladder. The USC study doesn’t reveal anything new as much as it confirms established trends.

Four million more people have left California for other states in the past two decades than have come here from other states, according to demographer Joel Kotkin. The population growth has been coming mainly from immigrants and in-state births, but now the USC study shows that immigrants are going elsewhere. A cynic might say that California’s liberal elites have ended the state’s contentious battles over illegal immigration by destroying opportunities here.

Kotkin, an old-time liberal, sees troubling trends. “Basically, if you don’t own a piece of Facebook or Google, and you haven’t robbed a bank and don’t have rich parents, then your chances of being able to buy a house or raise a family in the Bay Area or in most of coastal California is pretty weak,” he said in a recent Wall Street Journal interview. “The new regime wants to destroy the essential reason why people move to California in order to protect their own lifestyles.” He says the state is run for the benefit of the very rich, the very poor and public employees.

Unhealthy society

This is not a healthy society. And the demographic changes point to an aging population. Far from reducing the burdens on the state government, this will increase them. State officials are not building to meet future needs, but they have been squandering future dollars on excessive pay and pension packages for public employees. Look for a battle between spending to provide services for lower-income Californians and retirement benefits for the most powerful special interest group in the state, public employees.

There’s no chance the state’s most serious fiscal issues will be solved or even addressed soon. Earlier this month, Democratic Assembly leaders announced that they have no time to deal with the governor’s modest pension reform plan. They do have time to deal with hundreds of other bills, most of which range from the silly to the crazy. What’s the chance they will handle any of the other issues restricting California’s economy?

Gov. Jerry Brown points to economic growth in Silicon Valley as evidence of the success of his policies, but that area is an anomaly. The rest of the state is struggling. The anti-business, anti-growth policies pursued by Brown’s party will not make the situation better. People fleeing California are small-business owners, young families and tax-producers. They also tend to be more Republican, which means that, as the exodus grows, so, too, will grow the state’s tax and political problems. There will be fewer taxpayers and less political competition.

California’s leaders want a slower-growing population. Many Californians, even more conservative ones, will be happy that there will be fewer people and less development. But it’s disturbing that California’s official policy has been to punish people who want to pursue their dreams here. The state’s draconian land-use policies involve limiting growth, thus inflating the cost of property near the coast and pushing less-affluent people inland and to other states.

“What I find reprehensible beyond belief is that the people pushing [high-density housing] themselves live in single-family homes and often drive very fancy cars, but want everyone else to live like my grandmother did in Brownsville in Brooklyn in the 1920s,” Kotkin said, pointing to the “smart-growth” policies that dominate development decisions across California.

California remains a beautiful place, but it no longer is the destination for entrepreneurs, free spirits and dreamers. These are the fruits of modern-day progressive policies. This should be the cause of much sadness.

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  1. queeg
    queeg 30 April, 2012, 11:35

    Who wants to be a producer and criticized for it???

    We all suspicion the millionaires next door driving faded lime green Pintos….cowering from the tax’ers, OCCUPY, regulators, generic moochers and envious cyber posters….

    Do they have guns and religion….brokerage accounts….gold ducats….kids in private school….give to charity…..legally vote….support local police….join, manage community organizations for the public good….

    You bet….

    Reply this comment
  2. David H
    David H 2 May, 2012, 08:34

    … and worship the Beast.

    Reply this comment
  3. Beelzebub
    Beelzebub 3 May, 2012, 15:33

    Kotkin only tells half-truths. So obviously he has agendas too. Now be college grads and think for a second. 4 million producers have fled to other states in the last 2 decades. Yet CA’s population increased from about 30M to 38M from 1990 to 2010. hmmm. Now let’s add another little factoid into the mix. US tax data reveals that illegals are using ITIN filing numbers to collect literally $billions$ in child tax credits from our federal government. And the outflow has consistently increased from 2005-2010. In 2005 the outflow (tax credits (minus) taxes paid) or difference was about $280M. In 2010 that outflow increased to $3.2 BILLION. What does that indicate? Of course, that more illegals are flooding into the country, benefiting from the tax system – and NOT going back home. Outflows of tax credits to ITIN account holders are going UP – not down.

    You don’t believe me? Ok. That’s fine. Do you believe the Inspector General of the Treasury Tax Administration? Let see what he says:

    “Although the law prohibits aliens residing without authorization in the United States from receiving most Federal public benefits, an increasing number of these individuals are filing tax returns claiming the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), a refundable tax credit intended for working families. The payment of Federal funds through this tax benefit appears to provide an additional incentive for aliens to enter, reside, and work in the United States without authorization, which contradicts Federal law and policy to remove such incentives.”

    There you go. Checkmate. Mr. Kotkin missed a HUGE piece of the puzzle here. Seems like a guy as smart as he is would have easily connected the dots. For some strange reason he didn’t. Hmmmm. That’s why I’m here. To tell you the WHOLE truth 😀

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