Sometimes the best way to deal with something painful is all at once, like pulling a bandage from a wound. That’s what Joel Kotkin does in this piece about California:
California has met the future, and it really doesnâ€™t work. As the mounting panic surrounding the drought suggests, the Golden State, once renowned for meeting human and geographic challenges, is losing its ability to cope with crises. As a result, the great American land of opportunity is devolving into something that resembles feudalism, a society dominated by rich and poor, with little opportunity for upward mobility for the stateâ€™s middle- and working classes.
It’s one of the better pieces I’ve read on the challenges facing the Golden State. The key problem is that there’s no room for an economy that will support anybody but the rich and their servants in the grand plan that has dominated California politics for decades. That grand plan doesn’t resemble anything we would think of as America.
For any plan to “work”, as Mr. Kotkin puts it, it must include the jobs that will pay ordinary people what used to be thought of as an ordinary income, enough for them to live in what used to be thought of as an ordinary way.
The reality is that two-thirds of the people won’t be doctors, lawyers, financiers, engineers, architects, college professors, or any other job in what’s thought of as the “professional class”. When job growth is limited to hospitality, retail sales, and the lower echelons of the healthcare sector and we don’t limit the number of people who can compete for those jobs, simple supply and demand tells us there is no way those jobs will pay enough to support a middle class lifestyle.
We are a large, diverse country and we need a commensurately large, diverse economy. We need more than hospitality, retail sales, education, and healthcare. We need farming, mining, manufacturing, lumber, energy production, and the thousands of other “brown” jobs that are jobs that ordinary people can do. As Jared Bernstein pointed out recently (and as I’ve pointed out for years) that means ending the currency games that enables other countries to buy Treasury bonds with the dollars they receive in trade rather than buying goods made in the U. S. A.
Sadly, the trends Mr. Kotkin points to are not limited to one state. We have seen the future and it is California.