California Dreamin’ of a Roof Over Your Head

We urge our readers to check out an interview with Joel Kotkin in the Wall Street Journal (Weekend Interview – April 20, 2012), by Alicia Finley, entitled Joel Kotkin: The Great California Exodus. A good read, that.  Mr. Kotkin has written about urban/suburban problems, particularly in California for years, and is knowledgeable about them. Whether you agree with him or not, you should read this article. Click here.

Mr. Kotkin is “singin’ our song” when he stresses that a major weakness of California is its housing cost. “Basically, if you don’t own a piece of Facebook or Google and you haven’t robbed a bank and don’t have rich parents, then your chances of being able to buy a house or raise a family in the [San Francisco] Bay Area or in most of coastal California is pretty weak.” His astute point is that if you are going to settle for living in the inland parts of California, where housing costs are lower — but not low — you will discover that the climate and amenities are not all that different from what’s available in other western ststes, like Utah, Nevada and Texas, so you may as well live in those places and enjoy better employment opportunities, lower housing costs, lower taxes, less onerous government regulation, and  neighbors who are not committed, as they increasingly are in California, to the creation of a radicalized society that is run for the benefit of the rich, the poor, and unionized government employees, while driving the middle class out.

“According to Mr. Kotkin, [the] upwardly mobile families are fleeing in droves. As a result, California is turning into a two-and-a-half class society. On top are the ‘entrenched incumbents’ who inherited wealth or came to California early and made their money. Then there’s a shrunken middle class of public employees and, miles below, a permanent welfare class. As it stands today, about 40% of Californians don’t pay any income tax and a quarter are on Medicaid.”

What that means is that more and more Californians have no stake in assuring fiscal soundness of their society because they figure it’s somebody else’s money that’s being blown on them. So what’s not to like?

“And things will only get worse in the coming years as Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and his green cadre implement their ‘smart growth’ plans to cram the proletariat into high-density housing. ‘What I find reprehensible beyond belief,” says Mr. Kotkin, ” is that people pushing [high-density housing] themselves live in single-family homes and drive very fancy cars, but want everyone else to live like my grandmother did in Brownsville in Brooklyn in the 1920s.'”

Follow up. Today’s Los Angeles Times informs us in a front-page article that things are looking up. How? In the words of the headline, Housing Market May Be on Rise at Last (L.A. Times, April 25, 2012, at p. A1). But wait a minute! Wasn’t it a rise in home prices that got us into deep doo-doo out here? Wouldn’t increased affordability of California housing rather than a return to the days of the “bubble” be better for us in the long run?