Friday, January 6, 2017

California's Feudal Future

COTTonLINE's favorite demographer - Joel Kotkin - also chronicles California's peculiar path to the future. Writing for RealClearPolitics, he describes CA as headed on an idiosyncratic trajectory quite unlike that of the rest of the country. His title is timely: CA as Alt-America.
The two biggest points of contention going forward are likely to be climate change, which has come to dominate California’s policy agenda, and immigration, a critical issue to the rising Latino political class, Silicon Valley and the state’s entrenched progressive activists.

California’s recent economic success seemingly makes it a compelling “alt-America.” After a severe decline in the Great Recession, the economy has roared back, and since 2010 has outpaced the national average.

Indeed, a closer examination shows that the California “boom” is really about one region, the tech-rich San Francisco Bay Area, with roughly half the state’s job growth recorded there since 2007 even though the region accounts for barely a fifth of the state’s population.

According to the most recent Social Science Research Council report, the state overall suffers the greatest levels of income inequality in the nation; the Public Policy Institute places the gap well over 10 percent higher than the national average.

If California remains the technological leader, it is also becoming the harbinger of something else -- a kind of feudal society divided by a rich elite and a larger poverty class, while the middle class either struggles or leaves town.

Apologists suggest it’s only the poor and uneducated who are leaving, but it also turns out that California is losing affluent people just as rapidly, with the largest net loss occurring among those making between $100,000 and 200,000.

Coastal California is becoming the golden land for affluent baby boomers rather than young hipsters. Surfing dudes will increasingly be those with gray ponytails.

Instead of a role model for the future, the Golden State seems likely to become a cross between Hawaii and Tijuana, a land for the aging rich and their servants.
The area near Santa Barbara where we winter is exactly that: affluent old gringos and bright, hardworking young Hispanics. For now, the model seems to work.