Which Sinks First: The Creaky Queen Mary or Foundering California?
The Queen Mary, docked in Long Beach since 1967, could sink “if something is not done soon,” the media reported last week. An overactive imagination isn’t needed to see this as a metaphor for California.
“After years of neglect by a string of operators,” says the Los Angeles Times, “the Queen Mary is so creaky and leaky that it needs $23 million in immediate repairs, according to a trove of court documents and inspection reports released last month. There is growing concern that if something is not done soon, the ship could fall into critical disrepair and be in danger of sinking.”
Replace “operators” with “policymakers,” “the Queen Mary” with “California,” “needs $23 million in immediate repairs” with “needs to turn away from its progressive policies,” and “ship” with “state,” and the story still makes sense. And we don’t even need “a trove of court documents and inspection reports” to figure this out. California’s troubles are obvious to all, even those in Sacramento and local halls of government who are in denial.
(For an overview of California’s current ills as well as the solutions that would reverse the current trend of self-destruction, go here.)
Based on the most recent Census Bureau, California truly is sinking. Not by much. It lost only 0.46% of its nearly 40 million residents last year, as 182,083 moved out than moved in.
But even a small number is big news when:
- It’s the first time the state has lost population since at least 1900, when the California Department of Finance began to keep records.
- The state’s congressional delegation dropped from 53 representatives to 52 due to the loss. It’s the only time in the state’s 171-year history that it’s lost representation in the U.S. House.
- And businesses continue to flee.
For more than a decade, thousands of businesses have been running from California to states where taxes are lower, regulation is lighter, and the business environment far less hostile. In his most recent report, relocation specialist Joe Vranich, who took his former Irvine-based business out of California, believes there were at least 13,000 business “disinvestment events” between 2008 and 2016.
If all were well in California, there’d be no exodus to talk about. But residents and business owners feel a need to escape what they see as a foundering state. They’re not rats making a getaway right before everything crashes into the sea, or defectors to some “California way.” Just everyday people making rational decisions.
Like the Queen Mary, California can stay afloat if the right repairs are made. And also like the Queen Mary, what’s needed to be done is no secret. We again refer readers to “California: Been There, Done That,” a handbook that if used properly could reverse that sinking feeling felt all over the state.
We can’t save the Mary. (The city of Long Beach thinks it can, and has “taken control” of the ship from its previous operators and brought in a new company to manage the business over the next six months.) But we do know what it takes to keep California above water.
Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.