California, the Great Destroyer

In 1996, the California legislature created the high speed rail authority.

In 2008, voters passed a $33 billion bond to build an envisioned 800 mile project eventually to link Sacramento with San Diego.

Fifteen years later, a scaled-down plan from Bakersfield to Merced remains not even half finished. Yet the envisioned costs will exceed that of the original estimate for the entire project.

The rail authority now estimates that just the modest 178 mile route—only about a fifth of the authorized distance—will not be completed at least until 2030. Past high speed estimates of both time and cost targets have been widely wrong and perhaps deliberately misleading.

Total costs for the entire project are now estimated at nearly $130 billion. Many expect that figure to double in the next quarter-century. Planners also concede there will likely not be much high speed rider demand from San Joaquin Valley residents willing to pay $86 to travel at a supposed 200 mph from Bakersfield to Merced.

Nine years ago voters amid drought and water shortages also passed a state water bond, authorizing $7.5 billion in new water projects and initiatives.

Some $2.7 billion was targeted for new dams and reservoirs. The current water storage system had not been enlarged since the early 1980s, when the state population was 15 million fewer residents.

So far not a single dam or new reservoir has been built. And Californians expect more water rationing statewide anytime the state experiences a modest drought.

In 2017, a $15 billion bond authorized a complete remodeling of Los Angeles International Airport—recognized as one of the more congested, disorganized, and unpleasant airports in America.

Now the cost to complete the project has grown to an estimated $30 billion, with a proposed finish date of 2028—11 years after the project was authorized.

And the ongoing LAX remake is considered one of California’s more successful public construction projects.

In 2002, California began construction on the eastern span replacement of the iconic San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge—less than half of the bridge’s total length.

It was scheduled to be finished in five years at a cost of $250 million.

The job in fact took 11 years. And it cost $6.5 billion—a 2,500 percent increase over the estimate.

In contrast, original construction of the entire Bay Bridge began in 1933, at the height of the Great Depression. Yet the job was completed in a little  more than three years.

The list of such delayed, canceled, or prolonged projects could be expanded, from the proposed widening of the state’s overcrowded, antiquated, and dangerous north-to-south “freeways” to the now inert Peripheral Canal project that would have allowed the California aqueduct to transfer needed water southward by precluding the present inefficient pumping into and out of the San Francisco delta.

So what happened to the can-do California of former governors Pat Brown, Ronald Reagan, George Deukmejian, and Pete Wilson? They had bequeathed to the Baby Boomer generation a well-run state, renowned for its state-of-the-art infrastructure.

All four governors, a Democrat and Republicans, had ensured the nation’s most sophisticated higher education system, iconic freeways, and model water transference systems.

The current disaster has many parents.

A coastal culture of globally rich elites began passing some of the most stringent environmental and zoning regulations in the nation. Such Byzantine roadblocks deliberately stalled construction and skyrocketed costs—all of little concern to the “not-in-my-backyard” wealthy in their secluded coastal enclaves who had ensured the virtual end of infrastructure investments.

The state’s public unions and bloated bureaucracies guaranteed Soviet-style overhead, incompetence, and unaccountability. The more California raised its income taxes—currently the nation’s highest topping out at 13.3 percent—the more it borrowed, spent, and ran up huge annual budget deficits.

The nation’s highest gasoline taxes along with steep sales and property taxes—coupled with unaffordable fuel and housing, a homeless epidemic, dismal public schools, out-of-control crime, and mass, illegal immigration—soon all led to a bifurcated state of rich and poor.

The middle class either became poor or fled.

Indeed, businesses and millions of the middle class hightailed it out of California over the last three decades in one of the greatest state population exoduses in our nation’s history. But they also took with them the very prior experience, expertise, and capital that had once made California the nation’s envy.

In contrast, millions of impoverished illegal immigrants arrived over the last 30 years without legality, English, or high school diplomas.

And thus millions were immediately in dire need of costly state-supplied health, education, housing, and food subsidies. Currently well over half of all California births are paid for by Medi-Cal. Well over a third of the resident population depends on the state to provide all their health care needs.

Twenty-seven percent of California’s resident population was not born in the United States. That reality created a vast challenge of civic education to ensure assimilation and integration. Unfortunately, millions entered California at precisely the time of a new tribalism and racial essentialism that has taken hold of the state’s government, media, schools, and universities. Tribalism, not the melting-pot, is California’s paradigm.

California is a one-party state. There are no statewide Republican elected officeholders. Progressive Democrats also enjoy a supermajority in both houses of the legislature. Only 12 of 52 congressional seats are held by Republicans. And almost all of California leftwing politicians are funded or influenced by Silicon Valley—the richest corridor in civilizational history, with $9 trillion in market capitalization.

In sum, a now broke California became a medieval society of Leftwing ultra-rich and Leftwing ultra-poor. On one end, there was no longer the skill or expertise to modernize the state. And on the other, an elite became more interested in dreaming of heaven on earth for itself as it ensured a veritable hell for others.

There is one thing, however, that California does quite well: demolition.

Currently it is destroying four dams on the Klamath River that had provided clean hydroelectrical power, water storage, flood control, and recreation. The media, the bureaucracy, and the politicians acted with unaccustomed dispatch to obliterate the dams and thus supposedly to liberate salmon to swim better upstream.

And the state is blowing up these dams partly by directing hundreds of millions of dollars voters had allotted for reservoir construction—adding insult to the injury of state voters.

A haughty green California also regulated timber companies out of business. It ceased traditional selective logging and clearing of brush from its forests.

It also limited cattle grazing of grasses and shrubs. And it embraced  new “natural” forestry initiatives that postulated that rotting dead trees, dense brush, and tall summer grasses—dry kindling for devastating forest fires—created a rich “sustainable” ecosystem for wildlife. Letting nature be would prompt occasional “natural” corrective fires as in the nineteenth-century past.

The predictable results were massive, destructive—and once preventable—forest fires in the Sierra Nevada mountains and foothills. During California summers, their vast plumes of soot and smoke have polluted the skies for months and sickened residents, destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses, and wiped out billions of dollars in valuable timber even as lumber prices soared.

And California’s lesson for the nation?

If you want to topple a statue, re-label an historically named street, burn up millions of pine and fir trees, blow up a dam, turn parks and the public square into dangerous and toxic squatter cities, then the state can do all of that and in record time.

But try building something to ensure Californians can travel quickly and in safety, or have affordable power, homes, and fuel, and assured water?

All that is simply beyond the current state’s comprehension, ability, and desire. So like modern Vandals or Goths, contemporary Californians are far better destroying the work of others than creating anything of their own.

And what is next? We await the 2024 national elections, when a few California politicians may run for our highest offices, no doubt with the campaign promise, “I can do to America what I did to California.”


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55 thoughts on “California, the Great Destroyer”

  1. Speaking of budget overruns, Willie Brown, former mayor of SF and former Speaker of the Assembly wrote in the SF Chronicle a number of years ago:

    “News that the Transbay Terminal is something like $300 million over budget should not come as a shock to anyone. We always knew the initial estimate was way under the real cost. Just like we never had a real cost for the Central Subway or the Bay Bridge or any other massive construction project.

    So get off it. In the world of civic projects, the first budget is really just a down payment. If people knew the real cost from the start, nothing would ever be approved. The idea is to get going. Start digging a hole and make it so big, there’s no alternative to coming up with the money to fill it in.”

  2. Depressing to read, and I live several thousands of miles from the formerly Golden State.
    If America nationally elects Newsome or any of his fellow travelers, our Country deserves whatever fate awaits us.
    I suggest Newsome, Harris, Pelosi and Schiff all be forced to run a non stop gauntlet. The salutary affect would be to prevent them from campaigning and spare the American people from seeing these disgraced on TV.

  3. Paul Alan Thompson

    How did the US build the interstate highway system in the 1950-1970 period? That could not happen today.

  4. Hi Victor,
    regarding your recent discussion of Michelle Obama entering the Presidential race I think the Dems will wait until after their convention and bring Michelle out as the party savior. So late in the campaign that she will really not have to campaign at all. Tony DeSantis

  5. Professor Hanson: Please send your article directly to Ron DeSantis so that he may be properly prepared for his debate with Gavin Newsom. Thank you.

  6. As always, VDH is spot on in every way, shape and form. These truths, and more, need to become better known throughout the country before Newsome (and accomplices) hoodwink the entire country and institute these policies nationwide. Thank God for Victor Davis Hanson.

  7. I’m sure Gavin is the man to carry on the Biden legacy of national destruction. Yes, he is eminently qualified. And I’m betting that there are plenty of women of color at the level of competence of Kamala lining up for the Veep nomination. After two terms of Gavin and Kamala-light, Mexico may need to complete the border wall to keep American illegal migrants out.

  8. As California goes so will the nation. Unless the political spectrum does a reverse course the United States of America will become a memory. What a sad, dismal end to, arguably, mankind’s greatest achievement in prosperous, peaceful organization.

  9. Our housing costs here in Utah are insane. Homes that sold for mid 300’s a few years ago are selling for a million plus dollars now. Utah people, generally speaking, don’t have that kind of money, but I suspect that the fleeing Californians often do. I’m concerned that refugees from the state bring both their big bucks and their screwy ideology. If Californians enmasse are so unhappy with the status quo, why did they keep Newsome when they had the chance to boot him?
    It makes no sense, but I suspect that every remaning decent state in the U.S. is on it’s why to becoming “California-ized.” What a depressing thought. That truly will be “the end of everthing.”

  10. The upcoming debate between Gov. Newsom & DeSantis will be interesting, if DeSantis can get beyond the talking points & one-line recriminations. Moderators should let them actually debate the various issues, since only two of them.

  11. California, as befits its forerunner reputation, is running a vast experiment to see how best to destroy a once-robust economy and achieve equitable impovershment. This is a beacon of light to destroyers in other states and at the national level. Gov. Newsom is proud to do us all such a favor, and seems to feel we’d welcome his relocation to DC. The current national chaos is too haphazard to suit him.

  12. Dennis Cleveland

    Originally from California. Modesto, Ca.
    Witnessed its decay over the years. Saddened most about San Francisco and my home town of San Diego. I believe California is past the point of no return.
    Great article.

  13. “They had bequeathed to the Baby Boomer generation a well-run state, renowned for its state-of-the-art infrastructure.”

    The Generation Gap is now an abyss.

  14. If the people elect Newsom in 24, they get what they deserve. I will not help anyone, when the walls start falling in. But the communist our in control. The democrat, whoever it is, will win. Or will be installed. There is no honest voting anymore. The communist run the damn thing and there will be only one way to get it back and voting ain’t it. We need some other countries on the people’s side to win.

  15. Mr. Victor Hanson,
    You are so spot on, at least in my opinion, as I have lived in Fresno county
    Both in the mountains and valley for all but three young years of my 84
    Years. These “fixable” situations we continue to add to our existing blunders
    Have become the norm in our society.
    The employed tax paying people have lost their voice, not just in fresno
    County , but across the Nation. In addition it seems to me the majority of
    Americans are blind to what is going on, especially folks born after 1980
    As I was blind to the Great Recession of the 30’s.
    Keep up the good work Mr Hanson, I pass on as many of your articles as
    I can……..

    Ron Shipman
    Kingsburg, Ca

  16. It’s astonishing that Newsom seems to think he merits positive attention–rather than the scorn he deserves.

  17. Sickening. Sickening voters ever let it come to this devastation.
    Victor, I’m sorry this happened to your home state you and your family poured their heart, soul and weary bodies into. It’s crimminal.
    Other states learned nothing from California mistakes. Can’t get their noses out of the air either.

  18. Mario G. Bolusi

    “California, the Great Destroyer, was quite an enjoyable read. Your ability to see this crazy world around us, and crystallize it into a few succinct, informative sentences never cease to amaze me. If you were in front of me right now, I would kiss you on your forehead.
    Thank you.

  19. Even as a Jr. high student in 1975, my teacher, Mr. Davis, taught us in our student government class about Gov. Jerry Brown, Reagan, Pat Brown etc., and the amazing job that CA politicians did. As a High School Civics teacher today, I can’t explain the history of CA politics because so many students are convinced that the US and US Consitution are Racist, sexist, and on and on. I understood and was proud to be a Californian in junior high and understood more than most adults understand today. What has happened to the state that I now want to leave when I retire? VDH explains what happened. It’s so sad. It’s a lesson that every state must understand.

    1. If you can’t convince misguided children why their views are not based on reality, as VDH so clearly shows is possible, you should have never been a teacher in the first place.

  20. Ughhh now I’m really depressed! I’m 67, been here most my life. Left for Oregon for the 90’s. Things really changed from when I had left in 89. I have to blame the Democrats. I honestly believe that the elections are completely rigged. I don’t know anyone who is a fan of our current governor.

  21. Victor,
    My husband and I just watched your interview with Peter Robinson. The one that was filmed at your family ranch in Selma.
    My husband works with a man named Dennis Panoo who’s from Selma. His brother Tony still works their ranch on Conejo Ave. You had mentioned in this video or another that Mexican and Indian families lived near you so we were wondering if this family is one of the ones you spoke about. They are raisin farmers too, well Tony is still farming their 60 acres. Dennis works at PG&E with my husband. They are good friends and go to football games and Nascar races together. My husband grew up farming back east and I worked a cow ranch on weekends. I was a city kid who always dreamed of living on land. Seems like people who have a common frame of reference find friendship without really knowing why.
    For all the years I have been reading and listening to you. It is the first time my husband and I have watched something more than a Fox News hit of yours together. We actually watched it twice it was so interesting.
    It is too bad some of the older books that were mentioned are not available anymore. I will have to check some of the used bookstores and see if I can find a copy. I guess only farmers like me are interested in “The Land Was Everything” I have all of your newer books. Some of your WW2 books are on my Gift List on Amazon. Now if my kids will just shop from that list. The last thing I need is another pair of pajamas or another kitchen appliance.

  22. Our Republic was hijacked 160 years ago and to almost everyone it looks “normal.” But “normality” is destroying every element of our Republic. My proof?


    2. FREE COPY OF David M. Zuniga’s book, “The Great WE-SET!” free pdf download.…

    3. OUR PRESS RELEASE! is pinned on my profile page Twitter@donal_wood. WATCH it for Regular Update Reports of our Progress.




    And here is what we want to take back. Are you for or against these?


    1. We The People gave birth to our servant the Congress and WTP stipulate Congress’ powers and limits. (Art. 1, Legislative). (Agree or Disagree?)

    2. We The People gave birth to our servants the presidents and WTP stipulate their powers and limits. (Art. 2, Executive). (Agree or Disagree?)

    3. We The People gave birth to our servant the US Supreme Court and WTP stipulate the Supreme court’s powers and limits. (Art. 3, Judicial). (Agree or Disagree?) See our book on the duty of the county Grand Jury.

    4. We The People retain every imaginable power we didn’t delegate to our servants. Our servants were given only 17 powers an

  23. As usual Victor you hit it out of the park. The same Political Parties make promises and never fulfill them.Only the voters can turn this around. Local elections really matter we need to get people to to polls and vote them all out.
    Thank you for trying to save this country 🙏

  24. VDH has accurately described the debacle that is California over the past 30 years. The only positive in this situation, is that it provides a real-world picture of progressivism. It is a stark warning to the rest of the US of what NOT to do!

  25. This is the best summation I’ve ever read of the destruction of California by the left. The ignorance and evil of the left is a plague upon our great nation. Excellent work, Victor. Thank you for your service to our country.

  26. Solutions?
    Unfortunately, I love California and do not see anywhere else I want to live.

    I’m sure our new senator will help . . . (not).

  27. We simply cannot allow Gavin Newsom to become our next president.

    Keep the pressure on.

    Expose the idiocy.

    Bring this fool down.

    Trudeau and Newsom, two peas in a pod.

  28. Timothy Alexander

    Wow! Frightening! I guess the Silicon Valley elites plan is to become feudal overlords. With the middle class fleeing I suppose there will be enough poor left to become their serfs.

  29. Pepe Sobreruedas (Miami, FL)

    Although I refuse to financially support California with a tourist visit, I’ve loved your take on the state since the days when you published “Mexifornia,” and I saw you for the first time in a “Booknotes” tv interview, when C-Span was a nominally non partisan and objective enterprise, steered by Brian Lamb…Since Brian’s departure from the spotlight (I know the pathetic staff keeps assuring inquiring call-in viewers that Brian remains toiling in an office down the hallway from the production studio-although we never get to see or hear from him anymore), I can no longer watch C-Span as they have become a propagandist mouthpiece for their corporate lords at CoNcast/MSLSD (but I digressed)…How prescient was your book title “Mexifornia,” appropriately taken from California’s penal system, which turned out to be a sad harbinger for the state once known as the “Golden State…” I read most everything you write and I thank you for sharing your thoughts in such concise and rhythmically pleasant prose…

  30. Margaret Miller

    100% correct. If Americans don’t fight against the wealthy, Globalist Marxist elitists’ destruction of this country, we will lose it! Trump 2024. Save our country!


  32. I left in 2002 for Central Florida and have not looked back. Very sad to see the utter dismal destruction of what was built by our parents and prior generations when both Democrats and Republicans spoke to each other and came together to solve problems for the common good. Now, corruption and greed prevail in Government Service and employment.

  33. William Fleeman

    A beautiful and revealing synopsis of its symptoms. But what it to note is the role of California’s Proposition 9, The Political Reform Act of 1974, which gave rise to California’s Fair Political Practices Commission.

    The singular brilliance of this initiative and its subsequent enforcement commission was to codify a set of definitions which insured that public sector employees – serving in a capacity as elected or appointed officials – would be considered categorically exempt (by virtue of their public sector employment) from potential temptations and bias in the conduct of the elective and appointed duties. In other words, they were to be considered immune from conflicts of interest in the conduct of their duties based solely upon their status as current or former public sector employees.

    It is this singular distinction, which has afforded them special status and reporting exemptions in completion of California’s Form 700. Implicit in this distinction is the notion that serving as a public sector employee cannot, of itself, result in subsequent bias or otherwise interfere with their duties in “making decisions in the best interest of the public and not enhancing their personal finances.”

    The regulation ignores the reality that the largest line item operating expenditure for public sector agencies involves “employee compensation and benefits’. How can this not be a conflict of interest and what have been its consequences for the public?

  34. This is the funniest sentence I’ve read in a while:

    Planners also concede there will likely not be much high speed rider demand from San Joaquin Valley residents willing to pay $86 to travel at a supposed 200 mph from Bakersfield to Merced.

    I would bet there’s not much demand for going the other way either.

    No one better chronicles the descent of California than VDH. I saw it happening nyself in the years I lived there before I exodused. As for the parents of the disaster, it’s very simple: radical America-hating leftists; in other words, the Democrat party.

    And please stop calling them “progressive.” Feel free to use, instead, my description.

  35. Thank you for informing us of the background and history of this debacle. It is beyond comprehension that any intelligent leader could visit this Hell on us, turning the golden state into a sewer. I grew up in the valley when Stockton was a college town. I hear now that it’s gang infested and very dangerous. Heartbreaking.

  36. Dennis Simonson LEO

    Such straight out visceral commentary. I love it. Move out of CA and run for a national oft. Brilliant. Thanks.

  37. As native Californians it broke our hearts to flee California. We tried to fight and get involved i.e. opposing a homeless shelter along the Santa Ana river in our Orange neighborhood (which rapidly devolved into encampments along the river that stretched for miles). Sadly, the County of Orange rammed this through with little regard to the position of the neighbors to the shelter. They had “neighborhood meetings” to supposedly illicit feedback, only to allow testimony from costal elites in Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel and Newport Beach testify even though they lived 20+ miles away.

    Even before this we saw the writing on the wall and started taking “field trips” around the country to see what best suited our needs and desires. We ended up moving to Eagle Idaho six years ago and never looked back. Sadly, the migration from liberal hell holes like California, Washington, and Oregon have resulted in liberals bringing their ideals and “BS” with them. Within the last 3 years we have seen an increase in homelessness, crime, graffiti, traffic, and obnoxious people. I feel terrible for the native Idahoans, and know how they feel since they, like us California refugees, were invaded….

  38. So many nimrods looked at Europe and saw the ease with which high speed rail was built and implemented. Well, as with nuclear power plants, when the government owns the industry things get done much more quickly. That doesn’t mean that there is no graft and political payoffs, just far less opportunity for that to occur. Does setting up a “public” corporation eliminate such graft, theft, and political payoffs?

  39. Amen. I saw the writing on the wall for California when I was a college student in the ’80s and started my business. By the end of the decade, most of the small manufacturing clientele I had built up had left for more friendly environs. Upper-middle class families (including my parents and siblings) who paid the highest taxes were leaving, being replaced with low income and low skilled labor from the south that not only paid little in taxes, but put the highest demand upon state services. Whenever I’d make the point in an academic environment that this was not sustainable, I was either told that this was no problem or that I was just a racist. By the ’90s, it became clear to me that unless I struck it rich as a tech tycoon (didn’t happen, but not for the lack of trying) the costs of living in California would consistently outpace my efforts to increase my income. By 2000, I too left the state.

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