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East-West Observations

Having just returned to the East Coast from California, half a year of absence perhaps sharpened my perceptions of my former home, the formerly-Golden-State . . . and some of them are worth sharing.

There are many, many people -- most of them upwardly-mobile types under the age of 50 -- who confessed that they were jealous of my family's move east, and confided to me that they would happily leave if they could.  They hate the taxes, and they are angry at the million little ways that arrogant state and local governments are exploiting them to bring in revenues.  

One complained about the way police hide, waiting to give out tickets -- and are so mechanistic about it that it's clear that it's all about collecting the fines from drivers, not about public safety.  (From my own observation: A parking ticket in Pasadena: $46.90 (for a meter that's been expired for a half-hour.  Same offense in a suburb outside New York: $15.00).

But it's not just the upwardly-mobile types who are distressed -- people of modest means are outraged, too.  One, who has worked as a housekeeper, complained about the wastefulness of the "train to nowhere" and is angry because in San Bernadino -- where the average income is $39,000 -- police and firemen make more than $100,000 (that might be why her city is going bankrupt).  

Another, who has worked as a hairdresser for years, is going to court to collect back child support owed her.  The DA told her that if she had only been willing to go on welfare, the state would have helped her pursue her claim more vigorously (presumably to get some of its money back); because she has supported herself, however, and lived in a tiny apartment (while her ex-husband has lived in a substantial home), she is largely on her own.

Culturally, I'm not sure things are much better.  An acquaintance mentioned that the Asian students at her children's school casually taunt the "white" kids, telling them that they aren't as smart and lack the work ethic to get ahead.  What goes unstated is the presumable reaction were the roles reversed -- which would be quite right -- but isn't racial taunting unacceptable in any form?

Overall, I was struck by the massive levels of frustration I encountered across socioeconomic lines -- and the sense of almost helplessness (and hopelessness) that resonated in all the remarks.  What a sad fate for wonderful people in a once-wonderful state.

What's scary is that California has been the laboratory for liberalism in the United States, at least over the past decade or so.  How horrible to think of its fate befalling the nation as a whole.


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