I won’t bore readers with the tedious statistics that I have been talking and writing about for years, including but not limited to the fact that as recently as 2014, the oil industry generated nearly $20 million in annual property taxes to Santa Barbara county. Those revenues were used to help fund essential services including law enforcement, public safety, roads, parks, with the lion share going to K-12 public schools in the county. Unfortunately, property taxes from oil production are down significantly due to Santa Barbara County, the State of California, and the federal government’s lackadaisical approach to doing what is needed to fast-track the re-permitting of the Plains All American pipeline.

Santa Barbara County is losing millions of dollars due to the pipeline sitting dormant in the ground, meanwhile the county CEO’s budget forecast shows a $50 million deficit right over the horizon. Coincidence? Well, for what it’s worth, there’s no word for coincidence in the Hebrew language. 

I also won’t point out the inconvenient truth that California motorists use 40 million gallons of gas each and every day, and in Santa Barbara County, motorists use over 140 million gallons of gas every year…I won’t, because I’ve already done it so many times before. But yet so many of us, especially self-identified environmentalists, seem unperturbed by the fact that California imports over 60% of the oil we use in, including over 50% of from the Middle East. Never mind the national security implications…what about the environmental implications? This oil arrives here via huge tankers traveling across vast oceans, posing an existential threat to some of most pristine marine environments in the world. Once again we are left with this remarkable question; who is going to save the environment from the environmentalists?

Now, if you think the financial crisis facing Santa Barbara County is unique to Santa Barbara County, you’d be wrong. A recent Los Angeles Times story published this week tells a sobering story about California. It exposes the truth about the fiscal condition of our state…a truth some of us have known about, and talked about, for years. In California, a state blessed with great climate, world-class universities, dynamic industries, including high-tech, entertainment, tourism, and agriculture…a diverse population including tens of thousands of legal immigrants with advanced degrees, and still one in five California residents live in poverty, and one in three are dependent on government assistance.

How can this be? What definition of “compassion”, “tolerance”, “inclusivity”, “sustainability”, or “social-justice” would allow this economic and social implosion to happen to the once great “Golden” state? America’s land of milk and honey? This is a travesty of monumental proportion.

The bottom line is the status quo is simply unacceptable. And while I sympathize with those who might choose to focus on how to reform poverty programs in order to save California and federal taxpayers money, I reject that approach in terms of it being the first and highest priority. Yes, needless to say, any and all government social programs should be audited and reformed as necessary to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse. And needless to say poverty programs are especially rife with waste, fraud, and abuse.  But while in some cases poverty can be avoided through wiser lifestyle choices…not every person living in poverty today, especially in California, is living in poverty because they either asked for it, or because they somehow prefer it or deserve it. In some cases, poverty is imposed on them by powerful political forces that couldn’t care less about their economic plight. They might show they care with their words, but not with their deeds.

In many cases, as I have written about in this space, the blame for systemic poverty can be laid at the feet of well intentioned, but misguided public policies borne out of trendy-left special interest politics. Moreover, trendy-left “junk-science” also plays a large role in removing the opportunity for millions to achieve upward economic mobility. Some American industries are notorious for employing minorities, especially Latinos. Some of these industries thrive in California and include agriculture, construction, tourism and hospitality. But another industry that hires a disproportionately large percentage of Latinos, the majority of whom lack a college degree, is the oil and gas industry. Some studies show as much as 60% of oil and gas workers are non-college educated Latinos. And yet look at this chart comparing California to Oklahoma, and New Mexico…these other states get it. Alas, California doesn’t.

For reasons I find peculiar, indeed, reasons that I neither understand nor have much tolerance for, this industry that energizes our cities, our counties, our state, our country, and even the world, is an industry the left loves to disparage. But it is also one of the highest paying industries in the local, state and national eco-system. Where’s the economic justice in that? These jobs are what those of us in the Santa Barbara Technology and Industry Association refer to as head-of-household jobs…just the like jobs in manufacturing, oil and gas jobs lift families out of poverty and place them on the road to a more prosperous, upwardly mobile and middle class life. What could be a more ethical, or moral public policy and priority than that?

California has gone from the once great “ Golden” State to the late great “Broken” State, and in one generation. It is about time we all recognize that, and get about fixing it.