California Golden Dreams


California may yet be a civilization that is too young to have produced its Thucydides or Edward Gibbon, but if it has, the leading candidate would be Kevin Starr. His eight-part “Dream” series on the evolution of the Golden State stands alone as the basic comprehensive work on California. Nothing else comes remotely close.  read more »

Who Killed California's Economy?


Right now California's economy is moribund, and the prospects for a quick turnaround are not good. Unable to pay its bills, the state is issuing IOUs; its once strong credit rating has collapsed. The state that once boasted the seventh-largest gross domestic product in the world is looking less like a celebrated global innovator and more like a fiscal basket case along the lines of Argentina or Latvia.

It took some amazing incompetence to toss this best-endowed of places down into the dustbin of history. Yet conventional wisdom views the crisis largely as a legacy of Proposition 13, which in effect capped only taxes.

This lets too many malefactors off the hook. I covered the Proposition 13 campaign for the Washington Post and examined its aftermath up close. It passed because California was running huge surpluses at the time, even as soaring property taxes were driving people from their homes.  read more »

Can California Make A Comeback?


These are times that thrill some easterners' souls. However bad things might be on Wall Street or Beacon Hill, there's nothing more pleasing to Atlantic America than the whiff of devastation on the other coast.

And to be sure, you can make a strong case that the California dream is all but dead. The state is effectively bankrupt, its political leadership discredited and the economy, with some exceptions, doing considerably worse than most anyplace outside Michigan. By next year, suggests forecaster Bill Watkins, unemployment could nudge up towards an almost Depression-like 15%.  read more »

California Meltdown: When in doubt, Blame the Voters!


By rejecting the complex Sacramento budget settlement, Californians have brought about an earthquake of national significance as has not been seen since the passage of Proposition 13 over thirty years ago. Once again, California voters handed politicians something they fear more than anything else, constraints on the ability to raise taxes and raid revenues for their pet interests.

Some, like long time Los Angeles Times statehouse reporter George Skelton thinks it’s the voters’ fault, as he suggested in his recent op-ed. The problem, we are told, lies with voters. The state’s massive fiscal crisis, which I and others warned was coming, was apparently unforecastable to California politicians and their enablers, like Skelton.  read more »

In California, the Canary is Dead


Canaries were used in early coal mines to detect deadly gases, such as methane and carbon monoxide. If the bird was happy and singing, the miners were safe. If the bird died, the air was not safe, and the miners left. The bird served as an early warning system.

Domestic migration trends play a similar early warning system for states. California’s dynamism was always reflected by its ability to attract newcomers to the state. But today California’s canary is dead.  read more »

The Worst Cities for Job Growth


One of the saddest tasks in the annual survey of the best places to do business I conduct with Pepperdine University's Michael Shires is examining the cities at the bottom of the list. Yet even in these nether regions there exists considerable diversity: Some places are likely to come back soon, while others have little immediate hope of moving up. (Please also see "Best Cities For Job Growth" for further analysis.)

The study is based on job growth in 336 regions – called Metropolitan Statistical Areas by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which provided the data – across the U.S. Our analysis looked not only at job growth in the last year but also at how employment figures have changed since 1996. This is because we are wary of overemphasizing recent data and strive to give a more complete picture of the potential a region has for job-seekers. (For the complete methodology, click here.)

Sacramento 2020


Even in the best of times, Sacramento tends to be a prisoner to low self-esteem. The region's population and economic growth have been humming along nicely for the past decade, drawing ever more educated workers from overpriced coastal counties, but the region's leaders have often seemed defensive about their flourishing town.  read more »

Sacramento: A City on the Verge?


Sacramento is a city on the verge. Over the last 20 years, I have watched it emerge from a "cow town" lassitude. This has been viewed as a well earned epithet by newcomers from either coast and a fond trademark to many long time Sacramento traditionalists. Although there was evidence of hyperbole in both camps, the city's lack of cultural and intellectual activities, its dependence on an economy driven by agricultural and state government has contributed to creating an often torpid local environment.  read more »