Over at the New York Times, where the California Comeback tune is sung louder than anywhere outside Jerry Brown’s office, Timothy Egan has written a heartfelt paean to what he sees as the Golden State’s bright future. Egan boasts that, despite “California-hating naysayers” predicting a Greek style collapse, California in fact “is dreaming once again”:
All of it together — the rerouted rivers, the train moving at the speed of Superman, taxing the rich and welcoming a Latino majority — is a road not taken by any other state. You can laugh at the sunbaked barbarians, even wish them ill. But you should not fail to see in their fledgling renaissance another chapter in the American experiment, no less daring than the Golden Gate Bridge or the castle that Hearst erected at continent’s edge.
Fittingly, the same day Egan’s hymn was published, the California State Auditor reported the state’s net worth – its assets minus its liabilities – at negative $127.2 billion. Also reported were $167.9 billion in long-term obligations, not including $60 billion in unfunded liabilities for retiree health care, or those for state employees’ future pensions. These are not just “bills.” These are benefits for public employees and services for the poor that won’t be delivered as promised.
California’s public school system, both one of the most expensive and one of the poorest performing in the country, is not improving. The state’s prison system is both so overcrowded and underfunded that the US Supreme Court deemed conditions “cruel and unusual punishment.” And despite 9.8 percent unemployment (tied for highest in the country), tax, regulatory, and zoning policies make blue-collar job creation in manufacturing and real estate development next to impossible.
Egan and other turquoise dreamers seem to look at tenured teachers, happy prison guards, and fleeced one-percenters and believe conditions are promising enough to move on to romantic dreams of the future. Over the heads of undereducated kids, the chronically unemployed, and the poor, they see a high-speed train zooming along the sparkling coast. This is not how progressives used to think.
[California image courtesy of Shutterstock.com]