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Joel Kotkin | California is a preview of Obama’s America





Some East Coast commentators like Jeff Greenfield saw the election as “a good night” for the Golden State, which the President carried by 20 points, 10 times his margin elsewhere — a massive bear hug from Californians. It certainly was a great night for Democrats, who now have a two-thirds majority in the state legislature and can spend a massive tax increase that targets families making over $250,000 a year.

These results assure that California will serve as the prime testing ground for President Obama’s form of post-economic liberalism. Every dream program that the Administration embraces — cap and trade, massive taxes on the rich, high-speed rail — is either in place or on the drawing boards. In Sacramento, blue staters don’t even have to worry about over-reach because the Republicans here have dried into a withered husk. They have about as much influence on what happens here as our family’s dog Roxy, and she’s much cuter.

California now stands as blue America’s end point, but contrary to the media celebration, it presents not such a pretty picture. Even amidst our decennial tech bubble, the state’s unemployment is among the highest in the country, and is trending down very slowly. Over the past decade, California has slowed as a source of fast-growth companies, as a recent Kauffman Foundation study shows, while other states such as Washington, Virginia, Texas and Utah have gained ground.

Old-style liberals might point out that California’s progressive policies have not done much for the working- or middle-class folks often trumpeted as its beneficiaries. Instead income inequality has grown far more than the national average. True, the fortunate sliver of dot-com geniuses make billions, but the ranks of the poor have swollen to the point that the state, with 12% of the nation’s population, account for one third of its welfare cases. Large parts of the state, notably in the interior regions, suffer unemployment in the 15% range and higher.

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