California Drought — Bad Policy, Poor Infrastructure
California is in the midst of a crippling four-year-old drought. Yet the state has built almost no major northern or central mountain reservoirs since the New Melones Dam of 1979. That added nearly 3 million acre-feet to the state’s storage reserves – a critical project that was almost canceled by endless environmental lawsuits and protests.
Although California has almost doubled in population since the dam’s construction, the state’s politicians apparently decided that completing more northern and Sierra Nevada water projects was passé. So the parched state now prays for rain and snow rather than building reservoirs to ensure that the next drought won’t shut us down.
Curiously, once controversial infrastructure projects such as the New Melones Dam are finished, few seem to complain about the life-saving water they provide the public in times of existential drought. California has taught the nation its unique hypocrisy. We have stopped the Keystone pipeline for now, but if it gets built eventually, few consumers will complain that it transfers oil at a low cost and with greater safety.
California has also schooled the nation on mutually exclusively goals. Its lax immigration policies have made for a rapidly expanding population, and yet it expects a sophisticated infrastructure that ensures plentiful, clean water – and dreams of a pristine, green, 19th-century paradise in a depopulated state.
California’s major north-south highways – the 99, 101 and I-5 “freeways” – often descend into deadly traffic quagmires. They were designed for a state of fewer than 20 million people, not one of more than 40 million. Recent national surveys have rated the state’s road system as nearly last in the nation.
Most people forget that California once all but invented the modern idea of a freeway. But instead of first ensuring motorists safe three-lane freeways, the state is embarking on a $68 billion high-speed rail project.
Californians excel at these postmodern solutions even as they ignore premodern problems. What advantage is gained by providing free iPads to California students if their basic reading and analytical skills are declining to below pre-Internet levels? California is busy mandating transgendered restrooms but is lax in guaranteeing that there will be water in their sinks and toilets.
In good California style, Houston-based NASA talks grandly about its new 21st-century space agendas, forgetting that it cannot even send its present astronauts into space on an American rocket. The fact that a prior generation built the powerful and sophisticated Saturn rockets does not mean that its more sophisticated children can send Americans into space without Russian help.
Government agencies such as the IRS, VA, GSA and NSA are bigger, richer and more self-promoting than ever before. But their huge budgets hardly ensure that they can fairly collect taxes, humanely tend to the needs of veterans, professionally monitor government property, or properly collect and distill intelligence.
The once-vaunted California State University system now struggles with incoming students who are ill-prepared for college courses. More than a third do not meet English or math entry requirements for college work and need remedial courses, which in turn reduces the availability of advanced classes and resources from the traditional university curricula.
Much of the crisis originates from poor preparation in American grade schools and high schools, combined with huge influxes of non-English-speaking immigrants. In the past, the melting pot of English immersion, assimilation, integration, and intermarriage helped immigrants quickly reach parity with the native population, but that old model has since been rejected.
The United States likewise has all but ended enforcement of its immigration laws – as if the idea of open borders and cultural diversity were proper objectives in the absence of preplanning for the ensuing education, housing, transportation, health, and legal challenges. Praising “diversity” in the abstract proves to be of little value unless in the concrete people are willing to open their neighborhoods and schools to mentor the millions of impoverished newcomers in their midst.
California taught the nation that taxes can skyrocket – the state has the highest basket of income, sales, and gasoline taxes in the nation – even as infrastructure, government services, and schools erode. It established the national precedent of opposing new infrastructure projects and then enjoying them once the planners and builders who were criticized finished them. California equated a Silicon Valley smartphone in the hand with knowledge in the head – and the nation at large soon produced the most electronically wired and least knowledgeable generation in memory.
We are all Californians now.
19 thoughts on “We Are All Californians Now”
Move to Singapore. They do not brag about rearing stupid children.
Darn near choked to death upon reading your post. One should never combine Lean Pockets and diet root beer while reading VDH’s papers.
More seriously, I wish I had large amounts of money to pay for huge billboards. The graphic would show the smiling faces of Chinese students standing in front of sparkling new skyscrapers on the left, and pictures of our inner city students (texting, hanging out, smoking up) in front of decrepit buildings on the right. Your words “They do not brag about rearing stupid children in Singapore.” would be in large black letters across the top of the billboard. Some might call it racism, but I call it “democrat policy results.”
But it’s what the lemmings in California vote for time and time again and cannot be denied. Democracy at its moment of truth.
The main thing we Californians (nearly all of us it sometimes seems) have lost and, I believe, is a respect for a living God whose perspective is truth, reality and an awareness of the beginning, the present and the future consequences of things. It seems to me that a common denominator in all things stupid is willful ignorance that there is a real God.
How fitting that the liberals who want this TRAIN don’t see the impending WRECK.
Right to the mark Dr. Hanson! Thank you!
I lived in California for 7 years and loved the beauty and many of the people. I moved to the Southeast in 2013 as it became patently obvious that the election of Obama had fueled the suicidal trajectory of the Golden State. Wouldn’t surprise me to see La Raza become a major political player in the not so distance future.
VDH, do you see yourself moving someday?
Mr Hanson’s perspective is just that a perspective. The reality is we ARE all Californians. Even the Swiss are inviting many immigrants into their previously closed society because they need the bodies to do the work. This workers are from a variety of occupation, software developers and industrial designers to sanitation engineers, but the one thing they have in common is that they want to work and make a better life for themselves. Why do people come to California? Opportunity. There is now an opportunity to solve real problems in education with the implementation of the Common Core. Please volunteer time at your public middle schools to help the kids.
My only question is: are you three really on line at 3 and 4 in the morning?
Och, Californee, we hardly knew ye.
California is a rube factory, a very special rube factory. It’s special because these rubes were taught to be overjoyed that what a rube leader does will have its way with the rubes. Rubes must love their leaders!
The real answer: tar and feather the rube makers! But again, the rube makers have taught the rubes the whole problem is Fox News and Donald Trump and an old TV show with a Rebel flag on the roof of a car.
I left CA for these reasons this year. Unsophisticated voters led like lemmings vote for contradictory and unworkable policies, which VDH points out day after day. I knew that the state was doomed when the Governator’s 4 modest proposals lost at the ballot box in 2005. The state is (almost) too collectively stupid to survive. If it weren’t for all those natural resources, tourism, Silicon Valley and Hollywood, it would be a wasteland like Detroit already, but those 4 lifelines will probably keep it afloat indefinitely like the Costa Concordia of states.
“We are all socialist now, I suppose” Does anyone remember the Brit royal in the 1930’s who made that comment. And whom it was that, Winston Churchill took a very dim view.
Dependency on government generates the dumbing down of each succeeding generation = The dumbing down of each generation creates dependency on government!
I hate to say, or perhaps I don’t, but we need another world conflagration where America has to fight for it’s very survival! Only then will people know what is at stake and realize what is relevant in life! But there is the possibility that we are too stupid to wake up and will end up under the control of a China/Russia axis!
You get what you deserve!
When a large percentage of immigrants start surfing Bodhi might have something to say about that.
We’re doing some of the same things in Oregon now that the Democrats have a super majority in the legislature. As of yet, we don’t have a major drought or as many illegal immigrants, but the same sorts of policies are being enacted. It doesn’t look to end well when theory supersedes pragmatism.
It’s refreshing to see that intelligence and common sense can still coexist at the University level. But of course Stanford is an exception by having some true conservatives on the payroll.
As one rarely disposed to express my opinion in writing to newspaper op/eds, I feel an urge to include my two cents worth “We are all California” published today in the Richmond Times/Dispatch. Particularly as my wife and I are “bi-coastal” grandparents living in both Richmond and the Sacramento area in CA.
Raised in southern California (SoCal) and married to a CA born native, we have truly lived the “dream” that seems to so inspire non-Californians, though, as you point out, its happy ending is seriously in doubt. Our upbringing in the 50’s was a time of great expectations, as thousands were released from the service of our country after WWII in SoCal locations like Long Beach and San Diego, took one look at the post WWII industrial growth and the jobs accompanying it, and of course, the superb (pre-smog) weather, and asked themselves: “What’s to go home to?”. Land use planning in this land of plenty wasn’t even an afterthought. Life was good and looking to get better, and, while not on the range, the sky was “sunny all day”, and the resources cheap and plentiful. Until they weren’t.
Thanks to the federal water projects designed to attract west migrating immigrants to settle California with free water (guaranteed in perpetuity don’t ya know!), the major obstacle to living in this desert climate was eliminated. When even that appeared to not be enough the MWD (LA’s Metropolitan Water District) simply and secretly bought up water rights in places like the Owens Valley and shipped the water south. Voila, problem solved and the growth in SoCal continued without concern: except to Mono Lake and the residence of the Owens River valley. Traffic concerns? Build more “free”ways- a real California construct. Need housing? Build it and they will come.
And come they have, outstripping natural and social resources like a giant swarm of locust. The socially moderate, fiscally conservative Republican leadership of people like Earl Warren, Alan Cranston, and others today only exists in coastal enclaves that birthed such enigmas as the John Birch Society: A long ago doomed group fallen to the crush of immigrants not only seeking what they perceived as a kinder, gentler way of life, but a benevolent one as well. Everything important appeared free or at least very affordable- water, freeways, land and housing. And that mantra continues today despite California’s absolute inability to provide those things any longer. Particularly in SoCal it appears political suicide to state the obvious: We must stop encouraging population increases by building new houses. It is political suicide to blatantly state that of course, thanks to a deaf Supreme Court with rulings like Citizens v United unleashing a torrent of money from special interest groups to which opposition on the basis of fiscal conservancy, or environmental degradation or climate change is futile.
We can no longer afford the generosity demanded by the unionization of government workers like SEIU and fraternal orders (police, fire, etc). But who is going to tell ‘em?. We are actually bankrupting city and state governments throughout California and the nation, and few seem to care. And the ones that care are virtually powerless in the face of opposition funding (see Supreme Court above). But the “dream” continues until I believe we find California (and much of the rest of the nation who use CA politics as a Rorschach test and go along for the “free” rides) beginning to see a “reduction to the mean” of living there upon us, strangled by our “enlightened self interest” as the only standard by which we think (and vote). We seem to have fomented a social democracy we cannot afford, the consequences of which will be disastrous to generations that follow.
You are correct. Even with the highest taxes in the nation, an even cursory look at the facts shows California is broke, and hundreds of Billions in debt. And the governor proudly proclaims to have balanced the state budget. Poppycock! The acid Kool-Aid test is eventually going to show up, and like Greece in the news today, the results will be very ugly. How we (Californians) find the guts and determination to stop this slide into disaster and face the real facts of our financial, environmental and social situations, AND the process by which to persuade the people to man up for the long term benefit of the state, will be interesting. Particularly to the many other states who have serious leadership deficiencies and look to California to skate across that suspiciously thin ice before venturing out themselves.
We have a crisis of leadership in our country. Leaders who can successfully posit new directions that vary from the dogma of the political parties and infrastructure. We have the great minds to address these long term problems. But current politics are tone deaf to their teachings. We need to somehow find and activate the great minds that will be the leaders of the charge into a new age of our countries ultimate success. IMHO our current political party system is not the answer, but stands in the way of our progress.
Thanks for your inspiring editorial… please don’t condense “us” all into Californians. Neither of us can afford it.
J. B. Carter
I’m so glad to see VDH’s essays appear in the San Jose Mercury newspaper. My hope is that Californians will wake up to the insanely destructive path that liberalism has taken us and turn around before it’s too late. I personally would leave this state in a flash if it weren’t for family ties.
VDH’s blogs need to be published in Santa Barbara local papers where are leadership and general citizenry are either under-informed, desperate, super wealthy to buy their way out of any and all crisis, or have decided to simply live for today — otherwise known as the ‘ostrich syndrome’. My family came to CA in 1896, after VDH’s, and like VDH, my cousin still lives in our original family home in Redondo Beach, CA. SoCal realities — beyond the point of no return with too many people, cars, reckless-crowding behavior, ignorance or stupidity — are as headed North, now into Santa Barbara, after voters decided to purchase and transfer water instead of living within our means. UCSB is ruining Goleta and Isla Vista with its mega-development expansion projects that are not subject to any control and oversight and are all off-the property tax roles requiring residents to cross subsidize UCSB via increased fees and decreased service. What I observe are the local wealthy either leaving SB, selling or renting with the middle class frustrated we cannot afford to sell because 45 cents of every dollar must be paid in taxes upon home sale. Who’s buying: foreigners.