Opinion: California demons

Photo/Jim Wilson/The New York Times / Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks about homelessness while standing in front of prototypes of tiny homes in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday, March 16, 2023.

The state of California, where people once moved to find beauty, prosperity and great weather, is rapidly becoming a failed state.

People are leaving in droves. Between July 2021 and July 2022, California lost roughly 211,000 people, according to data from the state's Department of Finance. Half of those -- 113,048 -- were from Los Angeles County, the state's largest. Around 160,000 Angelenos left in the last 12 months. Teachers and employees in the nation's second-largest school district have gone on strike, closing schools. Aren't students far enough behind after COVID-19 closings?

Meanwhile, the homeless population is growing, reparations for Blacks are debated in San Francisco, school names are changed because politicians discovered some of the previously honored may have owned slaves, and gas prices and taxes remain high. Does Gov. Gavin Newsom seriously think he could run for president on such a record should President Biden decide not to run?

In a delicious irony, San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen (D) has demanded the hiring of more police officers to fight rampant crime in her district. This after joining the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 in its demand to "defund the police."

The TV pictures of the homeless do not look like California as recently as a decade ago. "As of 2022, 30% of all people in the United States experiencing homelessness resided in California, including half of all unsheltered people," according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Like most Democrats, Gov. Newsom thinks throwing more money at the problem will solve it.

If money were the solution, the problem would have been solved, but Democrats have more experience with taxing and spending than they do solving problems. California spends billions of dollars annually on the homeless. Legislators want to reform the way the state distributes its money, saying the current system is ineffective. Who knew?

Gov. Newsom is presiding over a budget deficit of $22.5 billion and is only now asking for more accountability from communities receiving the state's largesse. The real problem is with California voters -- and voters in other states with similar problems. If they keep electing Democrats with the same policies, they should expect the same results.

Democrats have controlled the state legislature since 1970, except for a brief period in 1995 and 1996. The last Republican governor of California was Arnold Schwarzenegger, who left office in 2011 and was considered by some a nontraditional Republican. He appointed Democrats and independents to office and aside from a more conservative approach when it came to taxes and spending, Schwarzenegger followed the Democratic line on such issues as abortion, gay rights, gun control and the environment.

Why don't politicians and voters see the light when policies aren't working? Largely, I think it's tribalism. We seek information from cable TV networks, certain publications and the internet that support what we already think. Too many Americans are not open to ideas and policies that challenge their own. How does that attitude work elsewhere? In business, if a sales plan isn't working, most owners try another. Only in politics and government is failure not a sufficient reason to try something else.

When you must navigate around homeless tents, trash, needles, human waste and crime, you are not living in a safe, free state. California could clean up its act if it wanted to, but that would require adopting some conservative principles and changing leadership. Unfortunately, it appears California politicians and too many voters are content with letting the "stink" continue.

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