For Californians, this years election is not Democrat versus Republican; it is the past versus the future, a choice between the status quo and Siempre Adelante. Since 1958, California has had 30 years of Republican governorship and 30 years of Democrat governorship: including 24 years by the Brown family. With the exception of 1995-1996, the Democratic Party has controlled both houses of the California state legislature since 1970. California’s management of health care, infrastructure, immigration, taxes, budgets, education, and more, have all been in nearly complete control of California’s Democrat leaders for over two generations. They set the legislative agenda, appointed the leaders of every committee and decided the membership of every committee. Given that much time, that much depth, that much consistency we can safely judge the performance of CA Democratic leadership.
By now, California should be the egalitarian utopia they promise. By now we should have a top-notch education system for our tax paying residents. By now there should be a growing middle class. By now, there should be upward mobility for those at the bottom of the economic ladder, By now, our infrastructure should be sound and robust and positioned to support our growing population. By now we should be financially stable or well on our way toward that goal. Well, not exactly.
California has had net negative migration since 1992. It’s not everyone, just those in groups aged 0-15, 25-39, 40-54, 55-65 and 65 and over. That means increases in population are still occurring in the 16-24 age group - students from outside California are moving in to attend the Cal States and Universities of California - the ones whose education you have been subsidizing with your tax dollars. Parents of young children are moving out, the adults in peak earning years are moving out, and the retirees are moving out. Those are the groups that have financial resources and comprise the middle class. If you look at the migration pattern by income, yes the wealthy are fleeing, but the middle class has the most significant number of people fleeing the state with the lowest income group just behind them. Many will blame home pricing and soaring rents, which can be explained by supply and demand. However, as stated in an article by Carson Bruno, "It’s at this point that California’s other policy short-comings – such as its highly progressive tax code, its deteriorating roads, and school infrastructure, plus its prohibitively high electricity and energy prices – start to repel the very people California used to attract: able-bodied-employed-middle-class families looking for a piece of the California Dream. In the words of Billy Joel, “Good luck movin’ up, ‘cause I’m moving out.”
Water, an ever-present concern when you occupy a desert, has been poorly managed. The state has not built a new dam in over 35 years. Back then the population was closer to 20 million, and today it is closer to 40 million. It isn’t just building required infrastructure, it is maintaining it as well. In 2016, 200,000 were evacuated from their homes because of the threat of catastrophic flooding from the ill-maintained Oroville Dam, built in 1968. In 2005, over a decade before the crisis, a private group had warned the state of the dangerous flaw in the design of an emergency spillway for the dam. When the torrential rains of 2016 hit, the spillway failed, threatening a catastrophic loss of property and life, but the dam held, for now.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), 13 of the top 25 MOST TRAVELED YET STRUCTURALLY DEFICIENT - bridges in the US are in California. The ASCE estimates that our poor road conditions cost the average driver $843 annually in additional operating and repair costs. That is on top of the $1,774 in lost time and wasted fuel from traffic congestion. The ASCE gives our bridges a C-, our transit system a C- and our roads a D.
California has $279,000,000,000 in pension and healthcare liabilities. (It jumped by $51 billion last year when they discovered an accounting error.) Of the $279 billion, only $106 billion is funded meaning we have 173 billion dollars in pensions and health care benefits we cannot currently pay. The only answers to that for a state government is to tax your income, tax your property or tax your purchases: one or all of the above are going to happen and soon. California has a larger economy than Russia. We have the fifth largest economy in the world. In the CNBC ranking of Americas Best States for Business, we are number one in technology and access to capital so then why are we number 25 overall? It is because we are 48th for Cost of Doing Business, we are 49th for Cost of Living, and we are 50th - dead last - for Business Friendliness.
The decisions of the majority of voters for the last 50-60 years have gotten us into this mess and to get out will require different choices for the next 50-60 years. Maybe you don’t care because you’ll be gone, from California if not from this world. I understand. Likely you voted Democrat all your life and trusted those leaders to do better, and despite your being disappointed in their performance, you are not to blame. However, if before you leave California or before you leave this world, you continue to vote for the same politicians, the same policies and the same promises - then you are to blame. It is too late to say, ‘I didn’t know any better.’ We know, with 100% certainty, that perpetuation of the people, politics, and policies that got us here will take our state further into debt and disrepair while driving out the middle class. Is that right? Is that just? Is that moral? Is that the legacy you want to leave behind?
From now until we find ourselves on the right track, every election is about change. We must change the culture of our leadership in California. At a minimum, this should be occurring at the local and state level. There are many of you out there who will say, “I will never be a Republican.” I understand, but you could vote for one, for a local or state representative, as a message of change. Many of you will say, “I would never vote for a Republican.” I understand and ask that you don’t vote in your local and state election. Seriously. Many of you do not vote, and it is time for you to step up or you are equally culpable as those voting for the status quo. Print out this voting guide, grab your mail-in ballot or make your way to the polls and vote. Future California is the legacy of today’s voters. Take that responsibility seriously and vote.