They start again, the many former governors. Jerry Brown derisively called them “declinists”.
They have ammunition. It’s been more than a decade since California lost its status as the fastest growing US state. A further consequence of this is that this fall the state will lose some representation in Congress for the first time in over a century.
It’s not because this state has lost population, except during the pandemic, which has killed more than 92,000 Californians so far.
Today’s declinators are at least as wrong as Curt Gentry was in the late 1960s, in his classic-minded book, “The Last Days of the Late, Great State of California.”
Gentry wrote alarmingly of a great earthquake separating California from North America. He foresaw the desertion of industry, along with the population. Wrong, wrong and wrong – at least until now, some 54 years after its publication date.
But with the exception of the earthquake, critics of California today see the same impending disasters. They see ongoing departures from software headquarters making Oracle Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Enterprises, a remnant of the once-dominant computer and accessories company with the eponymous name, as the latest disastrous start, with many more to follow. They also denounce the fact that industrialist Elon Musk became a resident of Texas to evade state income tax, while leaving Tesla’s headquarters and main factory where they were. in California.
And they ignore the fact that other Silicon Valley giants, groups like Google, Facebook, Mozilla, Netflix, Adobe, eBay and many others, are not only staying but expanding their local footprint.
That’s largely because universities like Stanford and UC Berkeley aren’t going anywhere, continuing to produce the most inventive minds in America and the world. That’s why California companies received more than half of all US venture capital investments last year.
Then there’s the pandemic’s effect on housing: By sending much of California’s white-collar workforce to home offices, the virus has altered some conditions and slowed population growth.
It’s visible in San Francisco more than anywhere else in the state. While house prices and rents elsewhere in California have risen or at least held steady in most places, they are down from two years ago in San Francisco, which saw many workers choosing to live further away from work, moving to more rural locations, some in other states.
Development slows down in the hyper-populated city. Many new developments already licensed will not be able to get the capital they need to proceed until at least next year, some analysts report.
If high rents were a cause of slowing growth in California, perhaps San Francisco’s recently lower prices will begin to recover from this disease once the threat of the coronavirus subsides. It would be foolish to expect a lot of growth here while this scourge remains significant.
Meanwhile, the departure of more than 135,000 Californians (about 0.0034%, not even a half-hundredth of 1%) over the past year has already made things a little more pleasant, resulting in fewer traffic jams. and lighter loads on medical facilities that have been operating at or above capacity for most of the past two years. Additionally, there could be less need for heavy investment in new power supplies and an easing housing shortage.
In short, losing a bit of population might not be such a bad thing.
Of course, while Texas makes headlines for attracting business by promising no state or local taxes for a decade or more, California continues to produce a much larger gross domestic product; $2.8 trillion to $1.8 trillion was the margin for the first three quarters of 2021.
Declinists, of course, are nothing new. Some of the leaders of the past decade were people in the relocation industry, whose public pessimism about California was largely designed to increase their own bankroll. But this is not new: as early as the 1840s, Horace Greeley, the New York newspaper publisher who advised young people to “Go West”, lamented “the deplorable confusion and uncertainty” of certain aspects of California .
Like Gentry, his criticisms have proven irrelevant. So yes, California has seen slower growth. But that might not be such a bad thing and it might not last long either.
Email Thomas Elias at [email protected] His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It,” is now available in a softcover fourth edition. For more Elias columns go to www.californiafocus.net