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How California’s Paradise Become our Purgatory

California has become a test case of the suicide of the West. Never before has such a state, so rich in natural resources and endowed with such a bountiful human inheritance, self-destructed so rapidly.

How and why did California so utterly consume its unmatched natural and ancestral inheritance and end up as a warning to Western civilization of what might be in store for anyone who followed its nihilism?

The symptoms of the state’s suicide are indisputable.

Governor Gavin Newsom enjoyed a recent $98 billion budget surplus—gifted from multibillion-dollar federal COVID-19 subsidies, the highest income and gas taxes in the nation, and among the country’s steepest sales and property taxes.

Yet in a year, he turned it into a growing $45 billion budget deficit.

At a time of an over-regulated, overtaxed, and sputtering economy, Newsom spent lavishly on new entitlements, illegal immigrants, and untried and inefficient green projects.

Newsom was endowed with two of the wettest years in recent California history. Yet he and radical environmentalists squandered the water bounty—as snowmelts and runoff long designated for agricultural irrigation were drained from aqueducts and reservoirs to flow out to sea.

Newsom transferred millions of dollars designated by a voter referendum to build dams and aqueducts for water storage and instead blew up four historic dams on the Klamath River. For decades, these now-destroyed scenic lakes provided clean, green hydroelectric power, irrigation storage, flood control, and recreation.

California hosts one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients. Over a fifth of the population lives below the property line. Nearly half the nation’s homeless sleep on the streets of its major cities.

The state’s downtowns are dirty, dangerous, and increasingly abandoned by businesses—most recently Google—that cannot rely on a defunded and shackled police.

Newsom’s California has spent billions on homeless relief and subsidizing millions of new illegal migrant arrivals across the state’s porous southern border.

The result was predictably even more homeless and more illegal immigrants, all front-loaded onto the state’s already overtaxed and broken healthcare, housing, and welfare entitlements.

Newsome raised the minimum wage for fast-food workers to $22 an hour. The result was wage inflation rippling out to all service areas, unaffordable food for the poor, and massive shut-downs and bankruptcies of fast food outlets.

Twenty-seven percent of Californians were born outside of the United States. It is a minority-majority state. Yet California has long dropped unifying civic education, while the bankrupt state funds exploratory commissions to consider divisive racial reparations.

California’s universities are hotbeds of ethnic, religious, and racial chauvinism and infighting. State officials, however, did little as its campuses were plagued for months by rampant and violent anti-Semitism.

Almost nightly, the nation watches mass smash-and-grab attacks on California retail stores. Carjackers and thieves own the night. They are rarely caught, even more rarely arrested—and almost never convicted.

Currently, Newsom is fighting in the courts to stop the people’s constitutional right to place on the ballot initiatives to restore penalties for violent crime and theft.

Gas prices are the highest in the continental United States, given green mandate formulas and the nation’s highest, and still raising, gasoline taxes—and are scheduled to go well over $6 a gallon.

Yet its ossified roads and highways are among the nation’s most dangerous, as vast sums of transportation funding were siphoned off to the multibillion-dollar high-speed rail boondoggle.

The state imports almost all the costly vitals of modern life, mostly because it prohibits using California’s own vast petroleum, natural gas, timber, and mineral resources.

As California implodes, its embarrassed government turns to the irrelevant, if not ludicrous.

It now outlaws natural gas stoves in new homes. It is adding new income-based surcharges for those who dutifully pay their power bills—to help subsidize the 2.5 million Californians who simply default on their energy bill with impunity.

What happened to the once-beautiful California paradise?

Millions of productive but frustrated, overtaxed, and underserved middle-class residents have fled to low-crime, low-tax, and well-served red states in disgust

In turn, millions of illegal migrants have swarmed the state, given its sanctuary-city policies, refusal to enforce the law, and generous entitlements.

Meanwhile, a tiny coastal elite, empowered by $9 trillion in Silicon Valley market capitalization, fiddled while their state burned.

California became a medieval society of plutocratic barons, subsidized peasants, and a shrinking and fleeing middle class. It is now home to a few rich estates, subsidized apartments, and unaffordable middle-class houses.

California suffers from poorly ranked public schools—but brags about its prestigious private academies. Its highways are lethal—but it hosts the most private jets in the nation.

The fantasies of a protected enclave of Gavin Newsom, Nancy Pelosi, and the masters of the Silicon Valley universe have become the abject nightmares of everyone else.

In sum, a privileged Bay Area elite inherited a California paradise and turned it into purgatory.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004, and is the 2023 Giles O'Malley Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson is also a farmer (growing almonds on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author of the just released New York Times best seller, The End of Everything: How Wars Descend into Annihilation, published by Basic Books on May 7, 2024, as well as the recent  The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump, and The Dying Citizen.

Photo: Sacramento California outside the capital building

Notable Replies

  1. Dr. Hanson left out one of the biggest California face slaps-----the $600 thousand per unit high rise in LA dedicated to serving the homeless population. When regular Californians cannot afford a home or crab together the sum necessary for a decent rental, LA’s homeless will be treated to both luxury and style including a spa and pool.

    Adding insult to our injury, Gavin Newsom is number one on the list to replace Joe should he falter in next week’s debate. America cannot afford the type of government a California candidate would bring.

  2. I left Los Angleles in 1991 and never looked back. Sadly, I have cousins and friends there and they are oblivious to the problems. I truly believe that leftists base their politics on their personal purvue. One relative says she doesn’t read the news because it’s too depressing. I told her that people don’t keep up on politics shouldn’t vote.

  3. When one considers the entirety of the Democrat base, they are all low information voters. Your news-abhorring relative is a perfect example. At some point, they all reach a financial triggering event where the cost of food, fuel, utilities or rent becomes out of reach and only then do they ask how they got there.

    They are saying now that 2023 was the first year in a while when California had more people coming into the state than leaving. But was that due to people looking for jobs or was it the influx of illegal immigrants?

  4. The genesis of California’s decline began in 1994 when a Federal Judge overturned Proposition 187, banning illegal aliens from receiving state benefits. Was it a coincidence that Clinton signed Motor Voter into law the same year? MV was designed to incentivize non-citizens willing to risk voting illegally in our elections. It quickly turned California blue, ensuring a more reliable pathway for almost any Democrat to be elected president, as we have seen. Democrats might have opened the border solely to pad their presence in Congress after the 2030 census. It doesn’t require a leap to believe they also want to turn the entire country into California so they can one day again do what they’ve been doing so far under Biden. Biden’s illegals have to be removed and it doesn’t take a leap of faith to believe that President Trump will do it.

  5. Avatar for task task says:

    VDH will continue to excel making the rest of sick, better than anyone else I read, writing about the great state of California’s decent into a Dante’s like Inferno. We know how this happened because California is no different than any other place and people who rule it, and reside there, are biologically and psychologically no different than any other people elsewhere in the world. What is different is the rules and laws that exist in California enable a culture to develop and prosper that would never have survived in most any other political climate.

    The most important thing that we need to understand, that we seem not to, is why such dilapidation and cultural rot is not voted out? And rather than explain that I would like to emphasize the fact that the reasons it persists is why Democrats have hope that they can maintain power is by using the California model for a national template. It will probably not work… yet. However, they are incrementally managing to make advances. As all they need to do is steal this one final election and America will be gone. Chaos, anarchy, misery and death will continue to emerge and persist everywhere for generations. The wealthy globalists, along with the political gurus in Washington D.C., Beijing, Tehran and elsewhere, will be happy. The rest of us - not so much.

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