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California Fail October 5, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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I have lived in California for much of the past 40 years and I never thought I would read an article entitled Will California Become America’s First Failed State.

The article does a decent job of describing our current predicament but provides very little historical context to help understand why we are in dire straits. For that context, we have to go to Robert Cruickshank at Calitics:

The dream is that anyone can come to California, enjoy its natural beauty, and reinvent/find/embrace themselves here, all enabled by the availability of basic economic security and prosperity. […]

It died because of the specific way we went about implementing that dream. In the second half of the 20th century, the California Dream was enfolded within a specific set of land use policies that ultimately undermined the progressive aspects of that dream. Whereas California of the 1960s provided free schools, a generous welfare state, and invested in infrastructure, all of which enabled people to come here and actualize their self-potential, California of the 2000s traps most of its residents in a spiral of downward mobility that endangers not only their ability to be who they want to be, but their ability to be healthy, to be fed, to survive.

This has happened because those that benefited from the earlier iteration of the California Dream, which was predicated on suburban sprawl, have decided to pull up the drawbridge behind them, to blow up the public services that made the Dream possible, and to hoard the remaining benefits and wealth for themselves at the expense of everybody else. The California Dream was about providing a good and secure life to everyone. Now, it is about denying that Dream to everyone who wasn’t able to buy a home before 2000, who wasn’t able to attend college before 1992, who doesn’t make enough money to afford their own health care.

California’s problems are not just short-term losses that can be recouped after the recession is over. Via the LA Times:

As thousands of laid off California teachers sit out the school year, educators are worried about the long-term effect of losing so many teachers. Some instructors are considering leaving the state or even the profession, and if history is any indication, fewer young people will pursue careers in teaching. […]

The state is facing a looming teacher shortage as baby boomers reach retirement age and fewer young people are expected to enter the field. Nearly 55,000 teachers could retire over the next seven years, according to WestEd, a San Francisco-based nonprofit research and education agency.
In addition, the layoffs are having a ripple effect on the next generation of teachers: Past economic downturns in California have produced fewer teachers. In the years after the dot-com bust, the number of students enrolled in teacher preparation programs declined 13% and the number of new teaching credentials dropped 17%, according to the Santa Cruz teachers center.

The problem of course is made worse by the drastic cutbacks in higher education that will prevent thousands of teachers from being trained.

California is in a downward spiral which cannot be reversed until we rethink the nature of the social contract and build institutions that can acknowledge our mutual responsibilities.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

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