Something is Rotten in California


By Richard Colman

The good, old days:  From 1945 to 1965, California was the place to be.

California had jobs, growth, a quality educational system (especially the campuses of the University of California), water projects, freeways, beaches, ski resorts, Yosemite, the redwoods, Hollywood, and places — like Carmel and the Napa Valley — to visit.

All of these things are still there.  But the thrill is gone.  Something is wrong.

Did government get too big?  Were there too many unskilled people entering California illegally?  Whatever happened to speaking English?  Why did transportation and parking become such a mess?  Did California’s taxes become too high?

Visit any California big city like San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Oakland.  What do people see?  They see tents on the streets filled with homeless people.   They see discarded syringes.  They see horrible schools.  They see rampant crime.  They see rot and decay everywhere.  Usually, these urban ills have been confined to New York City and Chicago.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, the economic system in California seemed to work.  Agriculture, the aerospace industry, and the health care industry were booming.  In the 1960’s, a Kaiser health plan cost $5 a month.  Tuition at the University of California (any campus) was $180 a year.  Now, Kaiser can cost $1,000 a month, and tuition at a campus of the University of California is around $12,000 a year.

During this era, the California state legislature passed bills offering better motor-vehicle transportation and more educational opportunities.  Abundance, not poverty, was everywhere.

In the 1970’s, things began to change.  Starting around 1973, housing prices started to escalate.  In 1973-74, there were long lines to buy gasoline.  Jobs became hard to find.  Near San Jose, new industries were forming based on the invention of the silicon chip.  Companies like Apple Inc. began to make personal computers.

From the early 1980’s to the late 1990’s, California began to thrive again.  Governors like George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson, both Republicans, were running the state.  Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton were in the White House.  (Reagan and Bush were Republicans; Clinton was a moderate Democrat.) 

Between 1982 and 1999, California appeared to be undergoing some sort of Renaissance.  Jobs were plentiful, taxes were a high but reasonable, and firms like Intel, Apple, and Oracle began to dominate the landscape.

Then, on September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists attacked New York City and Washington, D.C.  On American soil, about 3,000 people were killed.  It was the biggest disaster since Pearl Harbor, when, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Hawaii and led the United States to enter World War II.

The September 11, 2001, attacks were blamed on Islamic radicals called the Taliban.  America went to war.

Now, 17 years later, the nation is still — in Afghanistan — fighting the Taliban.  In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq, and Americans are still dying there.

It’s time to win the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq or bring the troops home 

These wars are hurting all of America, including California 

And look at what is happening in California.  Forty-six percent of people living in the Bay Area, according to a June 2018 survey released by the Bay Area Council, a business group, plan to leave.  The state legislature seems more interested in banning plastic straws than in making the state more congenial to good living.

The legislature now wants to mandate that more companies put woman on corporate boards of directors.  Is the next step to mandate that company boards cannot have more than two percent Jews?  Currently, Jews are two percent of the American population.  The legislature is becoming a dictatorship.

In the area of land use, the state legislature has passed a bill (Assembly Bill 2923) that will give BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) the power to create apartment houses on BART-owned or BART-controlled land.  Gov, Jerry Brown, a Democrat, has not signed or vetoed the bill.

BART is crime-ridden.  Recently, three people were killed on BART in five days.  BART cannot run a transportation system properly.  Why should anyone believe that BART can do a decent job in real estate?

The answer to California’s overpriced housing mess, traffic jams, and parking problems is to get government, especially the state legislature, out of the way.  Let the market work.  And if the market does work, perhaps 30 percent of California’s 40 million people will leave.  Then, housing will be affordable, traffic will tolerable, and parking spaces will be abundant.

Richard Colman is the founder and president of Biomed Inc., a biotechnology, publishing, and informatics company.  He is a biochemist and earned masters and doctoral degrees from the University of California at Berkeley.  He lives in Orinda, California.

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