California Without the Rose-Colored Glasses

We just came across an article by Joel Kotkin, entitled California’s New Feudalism Benefits a Few at the Expense of the Multitude, New Geography, Oct. 9, 2013 — click here — and we recommend it for its cold look at the once Golden State, without all the traditional foo-foo of the movies, beaches, mountains and Silicon Valley Mountaineers, if you get the idea. Kotkin points out — correctly in our opinion — that there are two Californias: the coastal/silicon valley part, and the inland, not-so-hot part that is studded with high unemployment areas. Certainly, California housing draws a sharp distinction between the very rich and not-so-rich on the one side of the divide, and the merely prosperous and middle class folk on the other. The latter have to spend a disproportionate part of their incomes on housing (actually, they all do, except that the biggies can afford it). What this article discloses is that it is those on the lower end of the economic scale who are leaving the state because California housing consumes an excessive part of their incomes. Again.

So while California Numero Uno is the one that dazzles the visitors with nouveau rich billionaires, movie stars, futuristic computers and Porsche Carreras, California Numero Dos is increasingly home to the impecunious peasantry who work at clerical jobs, flip hamburgers and clean other people’s casas.

“Once   you get outside the Bay Area, unemployment in many of the state’s largest counties—Sacramento, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino,   Fresno, and Oakland—soars into the double digits. Indeed, among the 20 American cities with the highest unemployment rates, a remarkable 11 are in California, led by Merced’s mind-boggling 22 percent rate.

“This amounts to what conservative commentator Victor Davis Hanson has labeled “liberal apartheid,” a sharp divide between a well-heeled,  mostly white and Asian population located along the California coast, and a largely poor, heavily Latino working class in the interior. But   the class divide is also evident within  the large metro areas, despite   their huge concentrations of affluent individuals. Los Angeles, for example, has the third highest rate of inequality of the nation’s 51 largest metropolitan areas, and the Bay Area ranks seventh.”