The Cautionary Tale of the Once Golden State

This is a cautionary tale about a beautiful state in our beautiful country.

When God was making the world, he saved his very best work for that part of it that we now call California. California, if it stood alone, would be one of the most envied countries in the world. It’s natural wealth is staggering.

California has abundant water from the Sacramento River that flows from the Cascades and the San Joaquin River that flows from the Sierra Nevada Range. Together, these two rivers irrigate thousands of acres of rich, productive farmland that grow more than one third of the nation’s food.

About 45 percent of California is covered by forests and California boasts the greatest diversity of pine tree species in the country.

California has abundant oil and natural gas resources, much of it offshore and easily recovered.

California is blessed with the best weather of any state in the Union. Much of the state enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers.

And much of California is exquisitely beautiful. California has long attracted those who wish to enjoy an aesthetically pleasing environment together with a multitude of ways to make a nice living.

The people came. California is the most populous state in the Union with nearly 34 million residents, making it larger than the entire nation of Canada. California is the seventh largest economy in all the world.

Success in California should be a foregone conclusion. The state has everything going for it.

Except for sensible government. Therein lies the cautionary tale.

California is liberalism writ large. It has been a disaster.

Despite its nearly unimaginable natural wealth, California is bankrupt. The state has been paying its bills with IOUs, its credit rating is shot.

The Democratic-dominated state legislature and the feckless Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently reached a deal to close a $26 billion budget gap. But the deal is only a band-aid and huge, crippling, unbridgeable deficits loom in the future. California’s government now has 389 commissions, boards and agencies with bloated payrolls and overlapping jurisdictions.

California, once the fastest growing state in the Union, is now losing residents every month. More legal residents leave California every month than come in.

Where once California was a hotbed of entrepreneurism, today any business that can do so leaves the state. High taxes and Byzantine regulation in California have created one of the most hostile business environments in the country. Business owners are leaving and taking jobs with them. Instead of leading the nation in economic recovery, which California has done on numerous occasions in the past, California is a leader in the nation in unemployment with a rate of 11.6 percent, higher than all but Michigan, South Carolina and Nevada.

Fewer jobs has led to reduced tax revenue which has led to budget deficits that have led to tax increases that have led to more out-migration of people and businesses that has led to further reduced tax revenue that has led to more tax increases and so on and so on in a cycle that apparently cannot be broken.

Environmental zealots and far-left politicians have conspired in California to create severe land use restrictions that have artificially and irrationally created a shortage of houses. This led to an unsustainable run-up in California home prices that led to speculation and a housing bubble that finally burst, contributing in significant  measure to the much ballyhooed mortgage meltdown.

California was once the Golden State, rich in resources, beauty, human capital and opportunity. Today, its bloated state government is dominated by militant public employee unions and an army of bureaucrats in a maze of agencies that all conspire to stifle business, thwart land development, tax productivity for the benefit of the unproductive and generally make doing business in California an exercise in extreme frustration. A frustration that more and more companies are choosing to avoid.

When it comes to the debate between liberal and conservative, one need not engage in a theoretical discussion of opposing philosophical views. One need only point to California, one of the most liberal states in the country, and examine the results.

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Paul Gleiser

Paul L. Gleiser is president of ATW Media, LLC, licensee of radio stations KTBB 97.5 FM/AM600, 92.1 The TEAM FM in Tyler-Longview, Texas.

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1 Response

  1. You are completely correct about California.

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