A state with immense riches to tap and yet:
By many criteria, 21st-century California is both the poorest and the richest state in the union. Almost a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line. Another fifth is categorized as near the poverty level — facts not true during the latter 20th century. A third of the nation’s welfare recipients now live in California. The state has the highest homeless population in the nation (135,000). About 22 percent of the nation’s total homeless population reside in the state — whose economy is the largest in the U.S., fueling the greatest numbers of American billionaires and high-income zip codes.
But by some indicators, the California middle class is shrinking — because of massive regulation, high taxation, green zoning, and accompanying high housing prices. Out-migration from the state remains largely a phenomenon of the middle and upper-middle classes. Millions have left California in the past 30 years, replaced by indigent and often illegal immigrants, often along with the young, affluent, and single.
If someone predicted half a century ago that a Los Angeles police station or indeed L.A. City Hall would be in danger of periodic, flea-borne infectious typhus outbreaks, he would have been considered unhinged. After all, the city that gave us the modern freeway system is not supposed to resemble Justinian’s sixth-century Constantinople. Yet typhus, along with outbreaks of infectious hepatitis A, are in the news on California streets. The sidewalks of the state’s major cities are homes to piles of used needles, feces, and refuse. Hygienists warn that permissive municipal governments are setting the stage — through spiking populations of history’s banes of fleas, lice, and rats — for possible dark-age outbreaks of plague or worse.
The very idea makes the mind reel: San Francisco, San Jose, Silicon Valley—all gone dark. The electric-car charging stations, the $500-a-plate sushi restaurants, the rows of workstations at Google, Uber, Facebook, Twitter, and Salesforce—all suddenly unplugged. This summer, blackouts could plunge large swaths of California into darkness—an act of deliberate policy, not equipment failure or operator errors.
Pacific Gas & Electric, Northern California’s largest power supplier, recently announced that it will begin shutting down parts of the grid, possibly for days at a time, to help reduce the risk of wildfires. Known as “de-energization,” the process sounds like a metaphor for societal collapse—a return to the Dark Ages—but the policy carries a certain perverse logic.
Just contemplate the minds which conceive of these sorts of things, thinking it quite OK.