The California paradox of having among the highest taxes and among the worst services is also echoed in state-by-state rankings of public school test scores. California continues to place near the bottom.
Do those sky-high California gas taxes translate into superb roads? Not yet at least. Reason Foundation's 20th annual highway report ranked California roads 47th in the nation.
In the last 20 years, 3.4 million middle- and upper-middle-class Californians have fled paradise for low- or no-tax states. In contrast, the state currently has had the largest influx of residents who immigrated illegally. Although exact numbers are impossible to obtain, estimates suggest that about 3 million Latin American nationals are residing in California. Many are hardworking immigrants, but most arrive illegally, don't speak English, and don't have money or a high school education.
Ensuring foreign nationals minimum parity with U.S. citizens requires huge state inputs in education, law enforcement and health services. The 2012 census listed California as having the highest poverty level (23.5 percent) of any state in the union. A state with roughly 12 percent of the U.S. population is now home to 33 percent of the nation's welfare recipients.
What, then, is the state's strategy for recovery? More taxes, regulations and government.
Apparently, officials in Sacramento assume that the state's rich inheritance, coastal culture, and natural beauty and climate will ensure that most Californians stay put, keep innovating, and pony up far more in sales, income and gas taxes.
The exorbitant cost of living will simply be the shakedown price of being a resident of hip Newport Beach or Palo Alto -- places believed to be safe, if not immune, from the turmoil growing elsewhere in the state.
So will California recover its past glory -- or go the way of Detroit?
It may do both.
Coastal greens, progressive Bay Area gays, liberal urban elites and hip dot-com workers will probably not soon flee the temperate, scenic corridor from Berkeley to San Diego. For at least a while longer, they will be wealthy and confident enough to afford the living costs that high taxes and myriads of regulations ensure.
Yet for the strapped middle classes in the interior of the Los Angeles basin and the Central Valley, there is a perfect storm raging. They can ill afford the soaring taxes, high unemployment, costly illegal immigration, escalating crime rates, substandard roads, record power and gas prices, underwater home values and dismal schools.
In short, the California coastal corridor still resembles Germany, while much of the interior is becoming Greece.