The Democratic National Committee has announced that UCLA will host the sixth Democratic debate in California in December. Given California’s outsized role in the Democratic Party, the candidates should be asked questions unique to our state.
A good question to start with would be: Why is California, the most liberal and most Democratic of the big states, also America’s number one impoverished state? Our poverty rate, when adjusted for inflation, is the highest in the nation. How could this be in this state of such great wealth? The quick answer is that we do not produce the good blue collar jobs we did 50 years ago. High school graduates find it hard to get good paying jobs in California. With outrageous home prices, they also cannot afford a place to live.
This leads to the most obvious next question: What should California be doing to alleviate its high poverty rate? The answer is, of course, create good jobs. But California always rates near the bottom when it comes to the state’s business climate, and our business tax climate is one of the worst. So businesses, and the jobs they create, are going to places like Texas. The Dallas Business Journal reports that in 2016 1,800 businesses left California, and 300 of them landed in Texas. More people are moving out of California than are moving in, while Texas will be the fastest growing large state this decade.
Then there is an embarrassing question for the Democratic candidates: Who has the better model for creating jobs and expanding wealth, Republican run Texas or Democratic run California? Californians themselves are answering that question, fed up with homelessness, filth in our large cities, outrageous housing prices and declining job opportunities, young people are leaving California for the western and sunbelt states.
Now should the candidates be let off the hook about our wildfires, which are a regular fall event in this dry state. Beyond the obvious loss of life and property, there is also the reality that our forest fires are cancelling any progress California is making fighting climate change. California’s fires have sent greenhouse gases into the atmosphere equal to dozens of coal fired power plants. The fires in 2018 alone emitted 68 million tons of carbon dioxide; that’s nearly equal to all carbon dioxide resulting from electricity generation in the state.
So let’s ask the candidates to access some blame. A good question would be: Are the fires at least in part California government’s fault? Drive though any forest area and looks at the dead trees and dead brush. The drought, warmer weather and diseases have led to a massive die off of trees over the past decade, with more than 150 million dead trees, a state record, according to Cal Fire. The fuel is just waiting for a spark. Has California tried to manage these forests and remove the dry fuel, until very recently the answer is no.
Is government to blame for the PG&E fire fiasco? The answer is yes. PG&E is a heavily regulated utility; it does nothing without state permission. But in recent years environmentalists and politicians have forced PG&E to spend precious dollars on green energy, instead of clearing the trees around their power lines and upgrading their facilities. PG&E and California government are so inept that even with a blackout in Sonoma County last week a faulty PG&E transformer managed to start the massive Kincaid fire that has already destroyed one of California’s most historic wineries. Will California insist that PG&E shift funding away from green energy and toward fixing its infrastructure? Of course they should but the answer is that they won’t.
Then there is a final question for the Democratic wannabes: Given California’s poverty, homelessness and out of control fires, what are you going to do to keep the rest of the nation from becoming like California?