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Saturday, November 6, 2010

California at War with Itself

"What is to be the consequence, in case the Congress shall misconstrue ... the Constitution and exercise powers not warranted by its true meaning, I answer the same as if they should misconstrue or enlarge any other power vested in them ... a remedy must be obtained from the people, who can by the elections of more faithful representatives, annul the acts of the usurpers." — James Madison

When I came to California in 1962 there was a split in the state between north and south. The south wanted more freeways and water while the north wanted to keep their water and not build freeways. In San Francisco the state was building the Embarcadero Freeway (SR-480), a viaduct that would cross over the city’s Embarcadero district. This proposed construction caused such a ruckus in San Francisco that construction was halted and the route realigned with a portion of the viaduct unfinished and sitting above the city like some sort of memorial to an ancient god. Finally the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake caused so much damage the viaduct was torn down, never to be rebuilt.

This was also the case of water when Governor Edmund “Pat” Brown pushed forward the construction of the California Aqueduct. The 715 mile California Aqueduct is a system of canals, tunnels, and pipelines that conveys water collected from the Sierra Nevada Mountains and valleys of Northern and Central California to Southern California. The people in Northern California did not like of the idea of spending millions on a project that would take water from the Sacramento Delta and send it those greedy folks in Southern California.

At some point in time, perhaps in the 1970’s, this north-south divide changed into an east-west divide. It was the conservative counties along the slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Central Valley, the Inland Empire and San Diego who were now at odds with the people living in the coastal and bay area counties. It took several more years for Los Angeles County to join the coastal gang with San Diego siding with the Inland Empire. There are a few exceptions such as San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties.

This split is not about freeways and water; it’s about how the state is governed. The richer coastal people want more government, left-wing polices, and more spending on social issues. The inland people want less government, less spending and less control from Sacramento. The coastal people continuously vote democrat while the inland folks go for the Republican candidate. The major problem for the state is that more people live in the coastal counties than the inland counties.

With the surge of legal and illegal immigration (about 12 million) Los Angeles County has gained largest Hispanic voting bloc in the state. As of the last election there were 17,285.883 registered voters in California. The coastal counties of: Alameda, Contra Costa, Humboldt, Los Angeles, Marin, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, Sacramento, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Sonoma, San Joaquin and Solano have 9,783,156 (56.6%) of those voters. These counties averaged a 60% plurality for Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer with San Francisco weighing in at 79% and Los Angeles at 62.7%.

Conversely the inland counties averaged a 53% plurality for Whitman and Fiorina. It’s fairly easy to see why the Golden State continues to vote Democrat in state and national elections. There just isn’t enough weight in the Republican vote to move California to the right. It will take a major change in the demographics of this state to change it from blue to red. Click here to view an interactive map of how California voted.

Joel Kotkin of the Manhattan Institute writes in the Summer 2010  edition of The City Journal; “California’s supposedly progressive economics have had profound demographic consequences. After serving as a beacon for millions of Americans, California now ranks second to New York—and just ahead of New Jersey—in the number of moving vans leaving the state. Between 2004 and 2007, 500,000 more Americans left California than arrived; in 2008, the net outflow reached 135,000, much of it to the very “dust bowl” states, like Oklahoma and Texas, from which many Californians trace their origins. California now has a lower percentage of people who moved there within the last year than any state except Michigan. Even immigration from abroad seems to be waning: a recent University of Southern California study shows the percentage of Californians who are foreign-born declining for the first time in half a century. For the first time in its history as a state, as political analyst Michael Barone has noted, California is not on track to gain a new congressional district after the 2010 census.”

“This demographic pattern only reinforces the hegemony of environmentalists and public employees. In the past, both political parties had to answer to middle- and lower-middle-class voters sensitive to taxes and dependent on economic growth. But these days, with much of the middle class leaving, power is won largely by mobilizing activists and public employees. There is little countervailing pressure from local entrepreneurs and businesses, which tend to be poorly organized and whose employee base consists heavily of noncitizens. And the legislature’s growing Latino caucus doesn’t resist regulations that stifle jobs—perhaps because of the proliferation of the California equivalent of “rotten boroughs”: Latino districts with few voters where politicians can rely on public employees and activists to dominate elections.”

“Blessed with resources of topography, climate, and human skill, California does not need to continue its trajectory from global paragon to planetary laughingstock. A coalition of inland Latinos and Anglos, along with independent suburban middle-class voters in the coastal areas, could begin a shift in policy, reining in both public-sector costs and harsh climate-change legislation. Above all, Californians need to recognize the importance of the economic base—particularly such linchpins as agriculture, manufacturing, and trade—in reenergizing the state’s economy.”

“The changes needed are clear. For one thing, California must shift its public priorities away from lavish pensions for bureaucrats and toward the infrastructure critical to reinvigorating the private sector. The state’s once-vaunted power system routinely experiences summer brownouts; water supplies remain uncertain, thanks to environmental legislation and a reluctance to make new investments; the ports are highly congested and under constant threat of increased competition from the southeastern United States, the Pacific Northwest, and eventually Mexico’s Baja California. Fixing these problems would benefit the state’s middle and working classes. Lower electrical costs would help preserve industrial facilities—from semiconductor and aerospace plants to textile mills. Reinvestment in trade infrastructure, such as ports, bridges, and freeways, would be a huge boon to working-class aspirations, since ports in Southern California account for as much as 20 percent of the area’s total employment, much of it in highly paid, blue-collar sectors.”

“Another potential opportunity lies in energy, particularly oil. California has enormous reserves not just along its coast but also in its interior. The Democrats in the legislature, which seems determined to block expanded production, have recently announced plans to increase taxes on oil producers. A better solution would be a reasonable program of more drilling, particularly inland, which would create jobs and also bring a consistent, long-term stream of much-needed tax revenue.”

“These shifts would likely appeal to voters in the areas—such as the Central Valley and the “Inland Empire” around Riverside—that have been hurt most by the recession and the depredations of the hyper-regulatory state. Indeed, the disquiet in the state’s interior could make the coming gubernatorial election the most competitive in a decade. Jerry Brown, the Democratic candidate, certainly appears vulnerable: his campaign is largely financed by the same public-sector unions whose expansion he fostered as governor; more recently, serving as state attorney general, he was the fiercest enforcer of the Global Warming Solutions Act, which opens him to charges that he opposes economic growth. One hopeful sign that pragmatism may be back in fashion: a new proposed ballot measure to reverse the act until unemployment drops below 5.5 percent, where it stood before the recession. Since unemployment is currently near 13 percent, that would take radical change off the table for quite a while.”

“Still, it isn’t certain that California’s inept and often clueless Republicans will mount a strong challenge. For them to do so, business leaders need to get back in the game and remind voters and politicians alike of the truth that they have forgotten: only sustained, broadly based economic growth can restore the state’s promise.”

To read the full article in The City Journal please click here. It is well worth your time, especially if you love California as I do.

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