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Is California the Nation’s Future?

The Daily Beast introduces Joel Kotkin’s essay by saying, “California’s slow-motion tragedy could end up as a national one, warns Joel Kotkin.” According to Kotkin:

“Barack Obama learned the rough sport of politics in Chicago, but his domestic policies have been shaped by California’s progressive creed. As the Golden State crumbles, its troubles point to those America may confront in a second Obama term.”

Kotkin then goes on to write:

“Obama regularly asserts that green jobs will play a crucial role in the future of the American economy, but California, a trend-setter in the field, has yet to reap such benefits. Green jobs, broadly defined, make up only about 2 percent of jobs in the state—about the same proportion as in Texas. In Silicon Valley, the number of green jobs actually declined between 2003 and 2010. Meanwhile, California’s unemployment rate of 10.9 percent is the nation’s third highest, behind only Nevada and Rhode Island.

“When Governor Jerry Brown predicted a half-million green jobs by the end of the decade, even The New York Times deemed it ‘a pipe dream.’”

He then compares job creation in California and elsewhere, writing:

“ . . . Well, Texas has created 200,000 oil and gas jobs over the past decade; California has barely added 20,000. The state’s remaining energy producers have been slowing down as the regulatory environment becomes ever more hostile even as producers elsewhere, including in rustbelt states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, ramp up. The oil and gas jobs the Golden State political class shuns pay around $100,000 a year on average.

“Instead, California has forged ahead with ever-more extreme renewable energy mandates that have resulted in energy costs roughly 50 percent above the national average and expected to rise substantially from there. This tends to drive out manufacturing and other largely blue-collar energy users."

Kotkin concludes his essay saying, “The increasingly delusional nature of the state’s politics . . . It’s hard to see how these policies, coupled with a massive income tax increase on the so-called rich (families, as well as many small businesses, making over $250,000), can do anything other than widen the state’s already gaping class divide. Yet given the power of Californian ideas over Obama, one can expect more such policies from him in an electorally unencumbered second term. California’s slow-motion tragedy could end up as a national one.”

The entire essay is well-worth reading. You may also enjoy reading last weekend’s interview in the Wall Street Journal where the Journal’s Allysia Finley talks with Kotkin “about what is driving the middle class out of the Golden State.”

And if you think Kotkin is off-base, consider the following question raised by Shannon Love at Chicago Boyz on November 1, 2008, almost exactly 3 1/2 years ago:

"One really has to ask the obvious question: If Obama’s economic policies work so well, why isn’t Detroit a paradise?

"In 1950, America produced 51% of the GNP for the entire world. Of that production, roughly 70% took place in the eight states surrounding the Great Lakes: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York."The productive capability of this small area of earth staggers the imagination. Virtually everything that rebuilt the industrial bases of Europe and Japan came from those eight states. Cars, planes, electronics, machine tools, consumer goods, generators, concrete – any conceivable item manufactured by industrial humanity poured out this tiny region and enriched the world. The region shone with widespread prosperity. People migrated from the South and West to work in these Herculean engines of industry.

"The wealth, power and economic dominance of the region at the time cannot be overstated. Nothing like it has existed in human history.

"Yet, a mere 30 years later, by 1980, we called that area the “rustbelt” and it became synonymous with joblessness, collapsing cities, high crime, failing schools and general hopelessness.

"What the hell happened?

"Obama happened.

"Of course, not Obama personally but rather the same ideas that Obama espouses. What those ideas did to the Great Lakes states, they can do to the entire country.

"What did they do wrong?"

Resource: You can read more by Joel Kotkin at his New Geography website.

UPDATE (5/18/12): A Reuters story posted at Breitbart's Big Government today reports in part:

"Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney warned on Friday that the U.S. economy faced a huge fiscal hole and high taxes like the state of California if he did not win November's election against President Barack Obama.

"Seeking to keep his focus on economic issues, the comments were a departure for Romney, who usually holds up Europe's economic troubles, not California's, as an example of what could happen to the American economy.

"There are only two ways to go: Like America in the past," Romney said. "Or like California, where they raise taxes higher and higher and higher. They scare away employers ... and they have huge deficits," he said in a telephone town-hall meeting with voters from four swing states."


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