Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Harsh Truth About California. And Our Nation?

Accounting for California’s Suicide: A weird sort of utopian mindset.

Victor Davis Hanson at National Review describes the healthy and prosperous California of two decades ago, and compares it to the flailing and swiftly deteriorating basket case it has become today. Then he gets to the crux of the reason why:
[...] If we can agree that Californians have somehow squandered a rich natural and inherited wealth, what were the root causes of this collective suicide?

Critics disagree. Some cite expanding but inefficient state government, out-of-control state pensions and oppressive taxes. Or are the chief problems costly prisons and astronomical rates of incarceration, illegal immigration, unchecked welfare, and excessive regulation and environmental restrictions?

All these explanations may be valid. But less discussed is the underlying culprit: a weird sort of utopian mindset. Perhaps because have-it-all Californians live in such a rich natural landscape and inherited so much from their ancestors, they have convinced themselves that perpetual bounty is now their birthright — not something that can be lost in a generation of complacency.

Californians count on the wealth of farming but would prefer their rivers to remain wild rather than tapped. They like tasteful redwood decks but demand someone else fell their trees for the wood. Californians drive imported SUVs but would rather that you drill for oil off your shores rather than they off theirs. They pride themselves on their liberal welfare programs, but drive out with confiscatory taxes the few left to pay for them.

Californians expect cheap imported labor to tend their lawns and clean their houses, but are incensed at sky-high welfare and entitlement costs that accompany illegal immigration. Lock ’em up, they say — but the state is bankrupted by new prisons, constant inmate lawsuits, and unionized employees.

In short, after Californians sue, restrict, mandate, obstruct, and lecture, they also get angry that there is suddenly not enough food, fuel, water, and money to act like the gods that they think they have become.

This is spot-on in so many ways. When I moved to San Francisco in 1981, California was the strong and prosperous state Hanson describes at the beginning of his article. Over the twenty four years I lived their, I witnessed the deterioration he speaks of in the middle of his article.

One of the reasons I had moved to California was to further my education. I had gone to a very expensive college in Boston for a year, and was extremely disappointed in the quality of the education. California colleges and universities were supposed to be good, and less expensive.

I enrolled in SF city college a couple of times, but always ended giving up on it. The quality of the education was inferior. At best I felt it was a dumb-downed grade factory for functional illiterates; at worst, a politically correct brainwashing camp. I couldn't bear it.

I could earn such fabulous sums of money going to work at jobs most people didn't want to do, that school seemed like a waste of time. Bothering to show up for work and speaking English were job skills that served me well, I didn't need the brainwashing, thank you.

But unfortunately, the brainwashing had an effect on much of the population, and the "good life" that people had to work for in the past, suddenly began to be talked about as a "right" that everyone was entitled to, rather than a goal to work towards. I watched California become a land of spoiled people spoiling a once prosperous and healthy state. Hanson observes:

[...] Biannual state proposition initiatives, often put on the ballot by narrow special interests, allowed voters to vote for additional entitlements and benefits without providing the money to pay for them. Yet Californians are not an informed electorate, as the state’s mediocre public high schools experience 30 percent dropout rates. [...]

California lost the capacity to maintain that prosperous and healthy state, by killing the heart of the engine that drove it. And the "Utopia" mindset is the dagger that was used to do it.

San Francisco is full of people who "live for today"; they are mostly renters, and they spend their money on fancy cloths, cars, electronic gadgets, concerts, movies, vacations, restaurants, etc. They lavish all their money on themselves, or even worse, live on extended credit, so they can "live the good life" to the maximum, while simultaneously complaining about people who have more than they do. People like Pat, Andy and me, who worked hard and saved money, bought a house and built up a business. They would whine that "it's not fair" that we have what they don't.

We sacrificed, we did without all the above luxuries, so we could attain the things we wanted. They could do the same too, if they wanted. But if you were "rude" enough to point that out to them, they would start screaming at you, "What are you, some kind of REPUBLICAN?".

Those are the same people Hanson describes in his article. People who feel they are entitled to that which they did not earn. People who live on credit. People who have voted for entitlements and benefits without providing the money to pay for them.

Is it any wonder that people like us, who worked and saved, sold up and left? And Hanson points out that educated people with job skills are still leaving California in droves. The state is teetering on financial collapse. But unfortunately, I don't think this problem is limited to California. The mindset that Hanson speaks of is taking root elsewhere, and spreading across the country, like so many California trends do.

Today the Democrat Party is being led by San Francisco (Pelosi) style Democrats. I've posted about what they did to San Francisco, and much of the rest of California as well. I've posted about how the radical "Greens" among the Democrats caused California's energy crisis, which plagues the state to this day, and how Obama and the Washington DC Democrats are adopting a similar plan for our nation, which will likely have similar consequences.

Please read the entire article by Hanson, it's not very long but well worth your time. We have a lot to learn from California. Mostly, not to follow their example of the past two decades. Entitlement utopianism and people living beyond their means on credit ruined California, and now that same mindset is threatening to ruin the rest of our country. And it will, if we don't stop the rot now.

I see the same trend happening here in Oregon, and many other states that are accumulating debt by passing entitlement legislation without financing to support it. If that trend continues unabated, the consequences will likely be devastating.

Related Link:    Daily duh! - debt is the problem not the solution

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