California in Danger: Why the Dream is Dying and How We Can Save It


In the latest report from research and policy organization Environmental Progress, "California in Danger: Why the Dream is Dying and How We Can Save It," Michael Shellenberger highlights the most pressing issues facing California today and how we can solve them. Read an excerpt from the executive summary below.

California today is frequently held up as a progressive model for the rest of the United States. In 2011, California had a $27 billion budget deficit. Today, it has a $19 billion budget surplus. In 2012, Californians voted to raise income taxes, particularly on the wealthy, to increase funding for under-performing schools. The state is a renewable energy leader. And its leaders are standing up to President Donald Trump on everything from immigration to marijuana to offshore oil drilling.

But a closer look reveals deeper problems. California is the most expensive state for housing in the country after Hawaii, and today is suffering from one of the most severe homelessness crises in its history. In the face of a housing shortage, Millennials, renters, and employers are fleeing the state. High housing prices siphon away from the productive economy $140 billion annually. At the state and local level, Democrats and progressives have responded by mandating and extending subsidies for low-income housing. But not only are the subsidies and mandates inadequate to meet demand, they also serve to make housing more expensive for the middle-class.

California’s high cost of living is a major factor behind the state having the country’s highest rate of poverty and inequality. When the cost of living is taken into account, California still spends less on K-12 education than all but four other states. California’s income taxes are high but so is it’s sales tax, which is regressive, while property taxes are low and disproportionately burden new and young homeowners. While the operating budget is in surplus, the state is leaving its young with a $366 billion public pension and health care debt.

Read the full report here.

Michael Shellenberger is an author, environmental policy expert, cofounder of Breakthrough Institute and founder of Environmental Progress, and California gubernatorial candidate.