Can California be Saved?

Victor Davis Hanson
Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Crime is back up in California. Los Angeles reported a 20.6 percent increase in violent crimes over the first half of 2015 and nearly an 11 percent increase in property crimes. Last year, cash-strapped California taxpayers voted for Proposition 47, which so far has let thousands of convicted criminals go free from prison and back onto the streets. Now the state may have to relearn what lawbreakers often do when let out of jail early.

The state may be entering the fifth year of a catastrophic drought, but California has not started building any of the new reservoirs that were planned but long ago canceled under the unfinished California Water Project. Water may remain scarce, but legislators — many of whom have their daily water needs met by the ancient reservoirs and canals that their grandparents built — don’t seem overly bothered. They prefer to designate transgender restrooms, ban plastic bags at grocery stores, and prohibit pet dogs from chasing bears and bobcats. Never has a region been so naturally rich but so poorly run by its latest generation of custodians.

California endures some of the highest gasoline taxes, sales taxes, and income taxes in the nation. Yet its roads and public schools rate near the very bottom of U.S. rankings. Traffic accidents in California increased by 13 percent over a three-year period — the result of terrible roads and worse drivers. Almost half of all accidents in Los Angeles are hit-and-runs where the drivers leave the scene.

California has lots of petroleum and natural gas. It used to be a pacesetter in building nuclear and hydroelectric plants. Yet because of inept governance, the state’s electricity and gasoline prices are among the highest in the nation. Why is California choosing the path of Detroit — growing government that it cannot pay for, shorting the middle classes, hiking taxes but providing shoddy services and infrastructure in return, and obsessing over minor bumper-sticker issues while ignoring existential crises?

The cause is political. California is a one-party state, without any serious audit of authorities in power. The California State Assembly currently includes 52 Democrats and 28 Republicans. The California State Senate has 26 Democrats and 14 Republicans.

All of the state’s executive officers are Democrats. Both of its U.S. senators are Bay-area progressives. California’s House delegation is overwhelmingly liberal and Democratic. The party in power can do as it pleases without being held accountable at the polls. But what turned a once bipartisan and purple state bright blue? A perfect storm of events.

Originally published in National Review. To read complete article please go here.

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