Last fall, The Babylon Bee posted a piece of biting satire that said the U-Haul company had named Gov. Gavin Newsom as its salesperson of the year for the third time in a row “after a record-setting sales quarter.”
“Thanks to Gavin Newsom, literally every middle-class family has moved out of the state!” said the company’s fictional Western Regional Director Fennick Buggstein. “It’s been impossible to keep up with demand! Also, most of our workers left the state too, which kind of stinks.”
The closer satire is to the truth, the funnier it is. So the Bee’s post is, as they say, comedy gold.
The California exodus is not humorous, however. It’s real and growing worse. According to the most recent Census Bureau data, four of the nine counties that lost population from April 1, 2020, to July 1, 2021, are in California: Los Angeles (the biggest loser with 184,465 quitting), San Francisco (sixth, 58,764), Santa Clara (seventh, 50,751), and Alameda (ninth, 33,797).
The only California county ranked in the top 10 in growth was Riverside, which gained 35,631 residents, good for third in the country.
Though it remains the most populous state, California lost one of its 53 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives based on the 2020 Census. Growth has been stalled for more than a decade.
The plagues of California have long been earthquakes, landslides, natural drought, raging wildfires, and floods. Despite the risks, the state has always been a draw for the millions craving the California dream.
Over the last two decades, though, a new set of plagues has emerged: rising crime, man-made drought, poverty, smothering pandemic restrictions, high unemployment (thanks to those restrictions and the delay in lifting them), housing costs that take far too large a portion of income, punitive taxation, poor streets and highways, a regulatory regime hostile to business, extreme energy costs, and a homelessness problem that has become a public safety and health threat. The California dream has become for many an exercise in survival.
Meanwhile, counties in red states gained residents. At No. 1 in numeric growth is Arizona’s Maricopa County, whose population grew by 58,246. Counties in Texas, Florida, and Utah, along with Riverside, round out the top 10.
The California exodus is not a mystery. It’s driven by public policy. Rather than address the state’s problems, elected officials promote policies that help them avoid the hard work of solving complex challenges. Sometimes legislation is used to attack red states that the governor and his party disagree with rather than focus on the problems here at home. At other times, policies are enacted that just make today’s problems even worse. Falling into the latter category are useless climate legislation, laws and regulations that increase energy costs, violations of workers’ freedom (and theft of their livelihoods), executive orders that wouldn’t pass even a semi-judicious lawmaking body if they were submitted for a vote, and unrelenting efforts to be a state where “people can’t do anything,” to paraphrase comedian Bill Maher.
But people can still move. Or could, past tense. U-Haul’s locations across the state are “all out of trucks,” says the imaginary Buggstein, “and no one is willing to drive a U-Haul back to California.” Unfortunately, Newsom is on his way to his fourth salesperson of the year award.