Are policymakers, whose actions over decades are responsible for the “let’s get out of here” mood, going to let this happen?
Or are they going to keep making things worse?
The California Community Poll, conducted by Strategies 360 for a group of nonprofits and the Los Angeles Times, offered respondents several reasons to explain why they were considering leaving. More than half (51 percent) said it is because they “can’t make ends meet.” Apparently 30 percent of Californians believe they are unable to live comfortably in their home state.
When broken down by political philosophy, conservatives are more eager to get out, with 59 percent saying they’re either very or somewhat serious about it. (This might give Texans, Floridians and others in red states that California expats are bolting to some hope that the refugees are really voting with their feet and won’t be Californicating the public policy of their new states. But then only 27 percent of those contemplating an exit say it’s because the state’s “policies and laws do not reflect my political views.” Most, 61 percent, say it’s because it costs too much to live in California.)
Less eager are moderates, 40 percent of whom say they’ve given thought to fleeing, and liberals (28 percent).
None of this should come as a shock, since 43 percent overall said they believe the state is on the wrong track (only 28 percent believe it’s not going in the wrong direction and only 8 percent feel strongly about their conviction that it isn’t). Most are troubled by the cost of everyday living expenses, with 81 percent saying they are “totally dissatisfied” with it. California’s economy was next (68 percent dissatisfied), followed by crime (59 percent) and the cost of housing (56 percent).
There are of course solutions. California could become the magnet it was for the century and a half before its population fell for the first time. Let’s call them greatest hits from the broken record of ideas, since the proposals have been offered so many times before.
In the most general terms, California needs less government. Under that heading we would see: lower tax rates and a revenue system that’s not dependent on economic cycles; an end to the hostility toward business that has been chasing out thousands of companies; a realization that solving homelessness is going to require borrowing innovative and proven ideas from other states; the dissolution of the labor union-public policy complex (which, for one, would improve education practically overnight); and a real effort to right the housing market (primarily through a repeal-and-replace initiative to end the tyranny of the California Environmental Quality Act).
An acknowledgment that more spending of other people’s money isn’t always (and if fact rarely is) the answer would also be welcome, as would the liberation of the energy sector and the concession that, yes, lawmakers can cool the threat of wildfires. (Blaming them on the conveniences of our modern economy is a dodge that’s gotten old.)
Other reasonable steps would include veering away from making policy to impress legislators in other blue states, and the left-leaning media. There’s probably not a single bill regarding climate, the environment and labor, any executive order, or state or local agency vote in the last two decades that wouldn’t fall into this category.
Here’s another hint: Forget reparations. They are divisive as well as impossible to administer. There are bigger problems that desperately need to be untangled. And stop enacting useless bans on everything from single-use plastic bags to condiment packets (unless specifically requested by the customer) to automobiles that run on gasoline. It’s a quality-of-life issue.
Finally, get a handle on crime. While the latest data show increases in the rates of violent and property crimes, homicide and rape, the visuals make matters look even worse. No one wants to live in fear.
It’s an ambitious package and it would take years if not decades to work through the needed changes. But then California’s decline didn’t begin on a single random afternoon. Reaching the point where four of 10 are thinking about leaving is the result of a long-term slide.
Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.