Friday, January 4, 2019

Tomorrow's America

From time to time Victor Davis Hanson invites us to peer into America’s future. You know which future it is: the one where blue state Democrats pull all the levers of political power, where generous entitlement programs and lax immigration laws fill the nation with unassimilated Central American migrants, and where a hollowed out middle class has picked up and left.

Hanson did not have to go very far to see into our future. It’s today’s California. If ever there was a divided state, it’s clearly California. Home to the greatest disparity between the overeducated and the undereducated, California has attracted some of the best and the brightest. It also houses large numbers of functional illiterates.

Hanson explains:

California ranks first among the states in the percentage of residents over 25 who have never finished the ninth grade— 9.7 percent of California residents, or about 4 million Californians. It also rates 49th in the number of state residents who never graduated from high school — or about 18 percent of the current population….

In many global ratings of world research universities, California has four universities (Cal Tech, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and UCLA) in the top 20 — more than any other single nation except the United States itself. Yet the 23-campus California State University system — the largest university in the world — has a student body in which about 20 percent are not proficient in English. The remediation rate (unable to meet minimum college admittance standards in math and English) of incoming freshmen was about 35 percent — at least until such gradations, along with required remedial education, were recently considered archaic, offensive, or worse, and thus scrapped.

One appreciates the genius of Californians. If a large percentage of entering college students are not proficient in reading or math, the solution is to abolish all proficiency tests… on the ground that they are racist.

Try on a few more facts about the Golden State:

In exchange, California public-school test scores rank between 44th and 46th in the nation. Its roads and infrastructure are rated in various surveys between 42nd and 45th. Driving from the state’s interior to the coast on roads mostly unchanged from 45 years ago takes about twice the time as in the past — if carefully planned at particular times and days of the week.

One no longer just drives on any two-hour or longer journey in California. Instead, he navigates, with the planning, apprehension, and wariness of a 16th-century galleon captain sailing to the New World.

And, of course, California homelessness and crime rates are a disgrace:

Indeed, one of the landmarks of the new California mentality is denial and self-righteousness that assume it is illiberal to notice that a quarter of the nation’s homeless population sleeps on California streets, or that violent crime is 20 percent higher in California than the national median, or that San Francisco ranks No. 1 in per capita property crime rates of all the nation’s largest cities.

Rest assured, progressive Californians feel very badly about this. They do not, however, care about the causes or solutions to the problems. They are too busy bathing in their feelings, and especially in their empathy.

And then there are the rich:

… so there is a separate state of Coastal California, a manor of prosperity. And it is probably the richest urban area in the world, or rather in the history of civilization — drawing on its geostrategic location, long coastline, weather, climate, blue-chip universities, and high-tech industries. Residents have the disposable income and leisure to live the life of aristocrats — and do so if gauged by their lifestyle choices, travel, hired servants, and appurtenances.

California residents buy far more Lexuses and Mercedes than people buy in any other state; 16 percent of all in-state car sales are luxury brands. The reigning ideology of aristocratic wealth, however, is neither conservatism nor blue-stocking Republicanism, but a strange blend of capitalism and socialism.

Needless to say, it takes a ton of money to ignore what is going on around one. It’s like an aristocratic elite walling itself off from insurgent peasants… but not daring to call a wall a wall. Hanson is right to consider it medieval. The wealthy cut themselves off from the poor, but happily pay exorbitant taxes in order to shut the poor up. I have called it protection money. Hanson sees it in terms of penance and absolution. The guilt ridden elites hand out tax money in order to punish themselves for being so much more rich than everyone else:

Or, rather, it’s explained best in the medieval terms of absolution and penance: a Gallic-like psychological syndrome of wanting lots of money in the concrete but in the abstract justifying such retrograde appetites by promoting cultural progressivism, with the caveat that the wages of entitlements, high taxes, illegal immigration, radical environmentalism, soaring home prices, multiculturalism, and diversity do not really affect those in Palo Verdes, Malibu, Healdsburg, or Menlo Park.

In other words, the costly effects of green mandates on power and gasoline, the rising bloated diversity bureaucracy in the public schools and colleges, the release to the ocean of millions of acre feet of precious stored water in reservoirs, and the $100 billion high-speed-rail debacle under way in Fresno and Kings County are simply the psychological atonements for living the life in a cloistered Versailles.

And yet, many of the taxes and the environmental mandates hurt the poor much more than the rich. Carbon taxes are notoriously regressive. Apparently, progressives have not noticed.

They have noticed that California is losing its middle class. But they do not care. They reason that the presumably white middle class should get out of town, the better to make way for the hordes of Central American migrants. As for the notion that these new migrants will become major contributors to anything but homelessness and crime… good luck:

Certainly, the missing 10 million-plus who left California over the last generation and their absent offspring help explain why Hillary Clinton won the state by well over 4 million votes. It is not just a conservative perception that migration out of California has largely been an affair of the middle and upper-middle class who tired of California’s regulatory morass, or of those who, after cost-benefit analyses, have sought a more lucrative retirement elsewhere. Would-be Calexit leader Shankar Singam, in a recent television appearance, was unapologetically candid in celebrating the departure of the middle class from California. Indeed, he saw it as a sort of win-win bargain for the state: The tired people are leaving, and the energetic people are replacing them. So Singam argued that the United States “should be grateful for us” for ridding the state of its middle class: “If everyone in the middle class is leaving, that’s actually a good thing. We need these spots opened up for the new wave of immigrants to come up. It’s what we do.”

We do not need to speculate about what will happen when all of the new migrants take up residence. They might be looking for opportunities, but they are severely undereducated and incapable of taking advantage of the opportunities. In the end, California’s greatest companies will be forced to look outside the state to find qualified staff:

Third, both legal and illegal immigration have also radically changed the demography of the state. It is not just that about 40 percent of the nation’s 11–20 million immigrants live in California, a state in which now one in four residents was not born in the United States.

Rather, it is the result of two or three generations of mass influxes of impoverished residents who on average arrive without a high-school diploma, English proficiency, capital, or often legality. California now hosts one of three Americans who are on some sort of federal, state, or local welfare supplement. About a fifth of the state lives below the poverty level. Half of all births in California were paid for by the state-run Medi-Cal program, and 30 percent of Medi-Cal births were to mothers of undocumented immigration status. The San Ysidro border crossing between Tijuana and San Diego is the world’s busiest, where some 70 million people cross on foot and in cars into and out of California each year.

The undereducated masses were living in poverty in their old countries. They have moved to California and they still live in poverty:

The presence of millions without English and without diplomas helps explain much of the alarming poverty in California, for the most part concentrated away from the coast, in the eastern environs of southern California, some of the coastal foothill communities, and the state’s Central Valley.

Two Californias… a foreshadowing of a future where there will be two Americas:

The effect of so many immigrant poor has certainly transformed California into not so much two different states as two different worlds: a highly sophisticated, highly regulated, and uniform coastal gentry versus an impoverished interior of largely immigrant and first-generation Californians who have little ability or desire to adhere to California’s labyrinth of rules and regulations. Well over half of all immigrant households in California receive some sort of public assistance. One unmentioned fact of California’s metamorphosis is the kinetic effect of millions of immigrants from the poorest regions of an impoverished Mexico — increasingly the state of Oaxaca — joining one of world’s most highly educated and affluent populations, in the California coastal corridor.

California’s rich are whistling past their own graveyard. More and more the state will become like the nations to the south: oligarchies where an elite few own all of the assets and where the uneducated poor resort to crime:

There is a new mentality in which the virtue-signaling elite enjoy the cheap labor of the poor and do not much care about the poor’s inability to access reasonably priced gasoline and electrical power, safe neighborhoods, and quality schools and infrastructure. From their secure keeps, they square that circle by offering generous entitlements, open borders, and progressive empathy — and lots of self-righteous bumper-sticker rhetoric.


trigger warning said...

We used to visit Healdsburg on a regular basis to taste and buy wine. We're strictly mail-order now.

But I'm happy for California. Can't think of a more deserving bunch of people. Reminds me of an old country song about the Golden State:
"All the gold in California
Is in a bank in the middle of Beverly Hills
In somebody else's name..."

Sam L. said...

The problem with the out-migration of the middle-class(?) is that they carry the California virus, and will vote the way they'd been voting. I remember reading of an Oregon bumper sticker 40 years ago which said "Don't Californicate Oregon". They'll Californicate their new states.

Prof. Reynolds keeps saying that states should have a team that talks to California emigrants to deprogram them.

trigger warning said...

Sam, same problem when I lived in Colorado. Played out in spades. Texans, beware. But it's not a deprogramming problem. Just shares some symptoms like a glassy-eyed look and a lemming-like tendency to mass together. Unfortunately, the only efficacious treatment, dezombification, is still in clinical trials.

maddog said...

new jersey...california without the earthquakes...

James said...

Arithmetic will catch up to them. It may take awhile but that it will is certain.