The Other California


Life in the Central Valley is becoming increasingly schizophrenic. On the one hand, even with water cut-offs, overregulation, and government hostility, agriculture is booming and will have a record export year—despite the world slow-down. Food and fiber are in short supply due to world population growth, diversion of crops for ethanol, and statist mismanagement of farming abroad—at a time when years of poor prices in the state have led to vacant ground, thousands leaving agriculture, and less production. All that has combined to make California commodities more valuable to the nation (and the world) than ever before. We are coming off last year’s near-record wet year that gave us so much snowmelt that even the environmentalists could not divert all the irrigation water. The harvest was mostly free from rain; so it was a good farming year.

But there are endemic and existential problems here that are only getting worse. The Fresno Bee is running a series of articles on the Hispanic second generation high school drop-out rate in the central valley—about 60% of males simply vanish from high school. Unemployment in valley towns is about 20%. There is no manufacturing base any more to speak of: employers have fled from overregulation, high taxes, poor transportation (the 99 “freeway” is almost unchanged from the 1960s in most places), and a labor base lacking competitive skills and literacy. Prisons and government are the main big employers. To visit a valley town at about 10AM on a weekday is to see thousands of idle working-age males, as if we are one-large Home Depot parking lot with laborers milling around for day jobs.

The combination of millions arriving here from Mexico and Latin America the last thirty years without legality, English, or a high school diploma has now rippled into the second generation. Government support and education programs, unfortunately of the chauvinistic salad bowl sort, only made the situation worse—as if millions arrived in America only to be told in our schools and government programs that their destination was not all that much better than the home they so desperately had fled from. Victimization and dependency were the natural dividends. It was a tragedy of the highest order to junk the old assimilationist melting-pot model at just the moment immigration devolved from legal and measured to illegal and huge. The second- and third-generation Mexican-American middle class, which runs the valley small towns, is facing a sort of surreal experience, in suffering firsthand much of the crime and social costs of illegal immigration which it once supported in theory out of ethnic sympathy, but now in fact sees was a disaster. As a childhood friend recently put it, “I did not leave Mexico at 10 to have it come back here at 60.”

The now insolvent state had vastly expanded social programs in the last decade and now can’t pay for them, creating a strange cycle of adding millions to the social services roles and then suddenly cutting way back on the level of state support.  The social symptoms of cold turkey cutbacks are bizarre—I lost all the copper wire in my agricultural pumps this summer after the nth break-in, and the local town has suffered a crime epidemic, losing everything from its bronze honorific plaques to its street manhole covers (and stolen no less for recycling by well-paid insider public employees!). Crime seems as if we are northern Italy around 450 amid a collapse in civilization.  Farms out in the countryside are like gated outposts, with the realization that anything that can be taken after dark probably will be. I expect most youths who drive in my yard are there to take something—and am usually proven right. There is no confidence in local law enforcement; it targets the misdemeanors of the law-abiding that earn the county’s revenue, and ignores the felonies of the law-breakers that means untold state expense. In any case, jails are past full; and no one has any answers to how one can divert tens of thousands of youth from crime and listlessness to gainful employment. Closing the borders, returning to an assimilationist model, and encouraging vocational education are deemed illiberal. But even they would not do much without jobs—contingent on less regulation, less taxation, and better infrastructure. Often I wish that the Dean of Education at UC Berkeley, the Governor, and some Silicon Valley execs would live in Parlier, Selma, or Sanger for a year to see their abstractions reified.

This is the other California, quite a different state from the thin coastal strip from San Diego to San Francisco where the state’s elites in tourism, Hollywood, the major universities, government, and Silicon Valley enjoy the good life without the interior’s worries over rampant crime, the housing collapse, record unemployment, flight out of state, and ethnic and racial tensions. Driving from my farm outside Selma to Palo Alto each week to work at Hoover is similar to a leaving Mississippi to enter Connecticut.

Jerry Brown has few choices other than to reduce government by employee attrition. To raise sky-high income and sales taxes is to increase already massive flight out of state by the pilloried 1%; to cut back and reform government is to incur furor from his union base. Yet under Brown, huge state government of the past, prior to 2008, is slowly shrinking due to lack of funding. State workers retire, they are not replaced and the problem becomes more the retirement system’s and less Sacramento’s. California’s huge fossil fuel reserves, timber,agriculture, and mining riches, together with a wonderful climate and geography, could fuel a renaissance. In most surveys of the world’s best universities, California places at least four in the top 15, more than any other single nation except the U.S. itself. But tragically the state is controlled by a well off postmodern elite that is opposed to such development and sees no connection from tapping such natural wealth and its own affluent shell—inasmuch as it rarely ventures to the interior to witness the catastrophe it has brought on so many others so much less fortunate.

All that said, there is elemental challenge living in the valley that is not all to the bad, given the reminder that we all need to stay alert and active to the end.

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive

    I recently drove to Tracy and back on 580, and was shocked to find the road almost impassable, so bad was its state of maintenance. Our coastal enclaves are falling into a more genteel disrepair, while the interior collapses altogether. I wonder if the residents of Rome were as unaware of the decay of civilized life in their outlying provinces.

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    Wow! Dystopia, thy name is the central valley of California.

    Dr Hanson, given the critical agricultural role that the central valley plays in our nation’s food pantry, do you see the problems you outlined possibly leading to some sort of shortage or even famine?

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  3. Profile Photo Inactive

    When will we wake up? Who will wake us up?

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  4. Profile Photo Inactive

    Dr. Hanson, I hopde you are armed and know how to use it.

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    I live in the Valley roughly one hundred miles north up Highway 99 of Dr. Hanson. The water issue for farming around these parts is not as bleak; its the West Side that has been sequestered at the behest of the Delta Smelt (a minnow like fish); but water prices continually go up as do the cost of installing micro-drip sprinkler systems to make its usage more efficient.

    Any kind of long term recovery for the Valley outside of agriculture has been effectively nullified by SB 32–California’s very own bright and shiny cap and trade scheme. There once was a respectable manufacturing base in the larger towns which was slowly winnowed over the preceding two decades; SB 32 ensures what was already expected…it will never return. Folks say to each other ‘this can’t be for real, can it?’ Sure it is. Slowly and excruciatingly over twenty years carbon credits will be distributed–not more generously to the politically connected mind you–fairly and equitably and by the time of its full implementation, the markets will have adjusted and our green energy future will be upon us and no one will be any the wiser.

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    The housing disaster brought scores of construction jobs–filled mostly by transplanted immigrants–and left in its wake lost savings and financial ruin for tens of thousands of people. Worse, those who came to fill these jobs and those wiped out by the bubble’s burst refuse to move away to seek employment elsewhere because of naive hopes their property value will return to the insanity of 2004 to 2006 levels, or because of generous government handouts eliminating the incentive to do so.

    Violent crime and robberies are way up in Valley towns that dot the 99; Madera, Merced, Modesto, Stockton, are scary places. Sure they are livable and the small rural towns are filled with churches and farmers markets and neighborliness, but stumble upon a methed-out copper thief or Latin American gang activity and good luck.

    I agree with Dr. Hanson that those of the other California, the green and progressive one, live here with the proles for a spell to witness their vision in its corporeality.

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    Thanks Victor for the honest news reporting. This is the result of 40 years of a completely schizophrenic view of life wrapping itself around the consciousness of California like the Alien (not illegal but the Sigourney Weaver kind). California must fight for it’s life and yet it’s like the vicious embedded parasite has total control.

    So much potential. So much craziness. I have relatives that I love very dearly living in California. I’ll do a little praying. Maybe like a left wing scrooge Governor Moonbean will snap out of it and wake up the next morning with all the right ideas. Oh boy, I’ll do a lot of praying.

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    Victor, I suppose you have met or know of David Horowitz. He said an interesting thing many years ago that the only place in America where the Democrats (and usually the most left-wing of them) had taken over with no competition from Republicans or conservatives was in the inner cities. It is there that we can see what they want for the rest of the country. It’s a kind of plantation system. They keep their constituencies afraid of conservatives, they give them straw men explanations of what the conservative solutions are and they hire them every now and then for rent-a-mob activities.

    It looks like these “activists” have branched out and are taking over the whole state of California, doesn’t it? What’s next?

    You do have good universities but you also have UC Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley — the enemies within.

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  9. Profile Photo Contributor

    A powerful, moving report, beautiful and horrible. Thanks, Victor.

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    If what Kaus wrote is true, then the Tea Party has no shot at California’s Hispanic Voters?

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    John Marzan: Hmmm… do you think the Tea Party has a shot at courting California’s Hispanic Voters? · Nov 30 at 9:27pm

    How about Rubio for VP — would that help? I know he’s a Cuban but he’s speaks the lingo. He could make inroads in places that are marginal. Surely, he could help a lot.

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    Larry Koler

    John Marzan: Hmmm… do you think the Tea Party has a shot at courting California’s Hispanic Voters? · Nov 30 at 9:27pm

    How about Rubio for VP — would that help? I know he’s a Cuban but he’s speaks the lingo. He could make inroads in places that are marginal. Surely, he could help a lot. · Nov 30 at 9:35pm

    He could help in some areas, but he is not enough to make California vote for a REpublican president again.

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  13. Profile Photo Inactive

    VDH talks immigration and california

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  14. Profile Photo Inactive
    John Marzan: VDH talks immigration and california · Dec 1 at 9:38pm

    Great stuff – thanks.

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