Why are people leaving California, and, who are they?

We did a post recently about the problems of the California pension system.  That prompted a somewhat lively discussion in the comments section about the population of California.  Thanks to those comments, I was reminded of an article I read several months ago that is “exactly on point”, as we lawyers say.

It was an interview with Joel Kotkin, a renowned demographer, and self described Truman Democrat.  He was also a guest on Jim’s show this past week.  You can read the entire article here, and I encourage you to do so as I cannot do it justice in one post.

California’s population has increased by some 3 million people according to the last census, but, that doesn’t tell the entire story.  According to Mr. Kotkin, California is rapidly becoming a state with only three classes of people…the very rich, middle class public employees and those on welfare.  Middle class private sector workers, as well as businesses, are being driven out and relocating to other states for an assortment of reasons.  Nearly 4 million more people have left the state for other states over the past 20 years than have moved into California from other states.  Here is what Mr. Kotkin found.

On the housing front, the “new regime”, basically the progressives who now run California, are implementing their “smart growth” plans to “cram the proletariat into high-density housing” inland.

Basically, if you don’t own a piece of Facebook or Google and you haven’t robbed a bank and don’t have rich parents, then your chances of being able to buy a house or raise a family in the Bay Area or in most of coastal California is pretty weak…

To which Mr. Kotkin says,

What I find reprehensible beyond belief is that the people pushing [high-density housing] themselves live in single-family homes and often drive very fancy cars, but want everyone else to live like my grandmother did in Brownsville in Brooklyn in the 1920s…

And then there is California’s “green energy” policy.

Housing is merely one front of what he calls the “progressive war on the middle class.” Another is the cap-and-trade law AB32, which will raise the cost of energy and drive out manufacturing jobs without making even a dent in global carbon emissions. Then there are the renewable portfolio standards, which mandate that a third of the state’s energy come from renewable sources like wind and the sun by 2020. California’s electricity prices are already 50% higher than the national average… [emphasis supplied]

Further, according to Mr. Kotkin,

Oh, and don’t forget the $100 billion bullet train. Mr. Kotkin calls the runaway-cost train “classic California.” “Where [ Governor Brown] with the state going bankrupt is even thinking about an expenditure like this is beyond comprehension. When the schools are falling apart, when the roads are falling apart, the bridges are unsafe, the state economy is in free fall. We’re still doing much worse than the rest of the country, we’ve got this growing permanent welfare class, and high-speed rail is going to solve this?”

And, were that not enough,

Meanwhile, taxes are harming the private economy. According to the Tax Foundation, California has the 48th-worst business tax climate. Its income tax is steeply progressive. Millionaires pay a top rate of 10.3%, the third-highest in the country. But middle-class workers—those who earn more than $48,000—pay a top rate of 9.3%, which is higher than what millionaires pay in 47 states.

So, the upwardly mobile middle class are leaving California in droves.  There is no reason to stay…taxes are high, electricity costs are high, and going higher, and housing is unaffordable, unless you want to live in high density housing for the “proletariat” somewhere far away from the coast.

This post is far longer than my usual, but, there is a point to be made.  If the progressive left is allowed to dominate this country, California is our future.

But we will have no where to go.



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The Sound Off Sister was an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and special trial attorney for the Department of Justice, Criminal Division; a partner in the Florida law firm of Shutts & Bowen, and an adjunct professor at the University of Miami, School of Law. The Sound Off Sister offers frequent commentary concerning legislation making its way through Congress, including the health reform legislation passed in early 2010.


  1. GdavidH on July 22, 2012 at 11:01 am

    “Meanwhile, taxes are harming the private economy. According to the Tax Foundation, California has the 48th-worst business tax climate”

    And Ct. is only 44th….. ?Dannel P. is working on closing that gap.

  2. Benjamin Less on July 22, 2012 at 11:07 am

    I thought the population of California came into town on Hippie School Buses in tie-dyed shirts and head bands back in the 60’s?? Now after years of living it up they’re all leaving in Range Rovers and Cadillac Escalades.? Though as pointed out presently, taxes are high, cost of living is high, people are cramped and confined and perhaps not seeing an “American Dream,” they must remember how they came into town and I think they’re leaving it equipped with leather seats, a dozen cup holders and A/C.
    I see progress.

  3. Dimsdale on July 22, 2012 at 11:19 am

    So, bottom line: liberal/progressive policies kill the middle class, and the middle class responds by moving.? Unfortunately, if the liberals have their way, and do to the country what they have done to California (where Cali leads the country follows?), the increasingly oppressed middle class of liberal controlled states will have no place to go.? Eventually, even the rich will get wise in California and? flee like the rich French are presently fleeing France under Holllande’s “leadership”.
    Ever notice how the price of houses and rental property is highest in cities with liberal control?

  4. winnie on July 22, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Maybe the saying should be “Go midwest, young man!”? Those are the only states that seem to get it these days.

  5. sammy22 on July 22, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    You may also want to add that retirees cash in on their highly appreciated houses and move to other less expensive states. But, young people still want to move to CA for the same reason as that they want to move to NYC: “it’s happening there”.?

    • Dimsdale on July 22, 2012 at 1:53 pm

      Sounds like it won’t “be happening” for long.? And retirees cash out their houses all the time, but will there be people to buy those houses at the inflated rates, or will they have to settle for less?
      It shouldn’t be long before the feds force the successful, non liberal controlled states to bail out California.?? They should really ask Mexico….

    • phil on July 23, 2012 at 8:05 am

      Ask Mexico?? As soon as I resolve some issues here in corrupticut,? I’m moving to Mexico, where I can sit on the beach and live out my last days, if not in luxury, at least in affordable comfort.? Affordable health care, too, without insurance.

    • Dimsdale on July 23, 2012 at 8:38 pm

      If Mexico is so great, why do we have 20 million of their citizens here?

    • OkieJim on July 24, 2012 at 11:58 am

      Mexico is a beautiful country, with a people who’ll steal your heart (and some say they’ll steal your hubcaps, too, but that’s never been my experience). But Mexico is also probably one of the most dangerous places on Earth right now. As much as I love Mexico, I’ve got to decline that offer until they get *our* drug problem under control. It’s tragic.

  6. Plainvillian on July 22, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    The California experience encapsulated in the words of 2 cartoon characters:?
    Pogo “We have met the enemy and he is us.”? to which Alfred E. Neuman replies, “What, me worry?”
    Is Corrupticut be far behind California?

    • Benjamin Less on July 22, 2012 at 9:18 pm

      During mid-July Malloy stood next to striking nursing home workers in Milford, CT under the Service Employee International Union Local 1199 of New England.? When a Governor promotes a sector of employment or awards a 4 year guarantee on “No Firings” or layoffs for State and Municipal workers – you can see the “zip” left a long time ago.? Running the private sector business out of town as the state sustains a 7.8 – 8.0% unemployment rate – there really is no debate that Connecticut is just the teet feeding extension of all Washington’s federally aided social programs.? There really is only two jobs in CT.? One I mentioned and the other is “Collecting.”
      We’re all waiting in CT for our free homes and forgiven mortgages.? We will get free cable and internet soon and maybe cars and free insurance as well for the non-employed.? We just have to get that okay for the medicinal weed growing in our cellars and attics and this New England world will be perfect.? *puff*
      I love CT.

  7. sammy22 on July 22, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Starting with Ronald Reagan in 1967 to the present, California has had 4 Republican Governors and 3 Democrat. This “tells” me that there have been and are, a sizable number of non-Liberals in CA.

    • Dimsdale on July 23, 2012 at 10:30 am

      But a overwhelming Dem majority in the legislature renders the power of the governor more or less moot.? Case in point: MA and CT, or the federal govt (the recent decline of the economy coincides with Democrat control of Congress in 2007).

    • OkieJim on July 24, 2012 at 12:01 pm

      I lived in California for quite a while. There are indeed a large number of conservatives in California; but the Demorat majorities in both state houses have gerrymandering down to a science — conservatives are almost unelectable. And it’s sad, because in the post Prop 13 environment, only a conservative is going to be able to tell you how to form fiscal policy, something California has almost none of.

  8. ricbee on July 22, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    Arnold was the biggest Liberal of them all.

  9. Tim-in-Alabama on July 22, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    The biggest problem coming out of California are the escapees who move to other western states and start voting for the same kind of paternalistic government that ruined life in California. Go East, old man, and ruin life for everyone else.

    • Dimsdale on July 23, 2012 at 10:31 am

      Look what the NYers did to Vermont and Western Mass, and the Mass libs are trying to do to NH.

    • OkieJim on July 24, 2012 at 12:03 pm

      Not true, Tim. You might *think* so — it’s easy to write off California as the “land of fruits and nuts”; but it’s really not so. The migrants from California are seeking what we all seek: freedom. There is none left in California unless you’re hyper-rich, and those numbers are declining every year, too.

  10. wildcat on July 23, 2012 at 12:14 am

    Research UN Agenda 21 and specifically ICLEI ( pronounced IK-LY) (International Counsel on Local Environmental Initiatives).? The Progressives have been working on this for years….a major focus under this program attacks private property rights through such things as imminent domain, blight laws, razing of dilapidated properties, and changes in zoning laws in an effort to move “the masses” into condos and rental units.? More bang for the buck this way; high taxes without the need to build and maintain all those pesky roads, bridges and infrastructure outside of the cities.? Not to mention much better control of people’s movements and lives in general. The Agenda addresses such aspects as housing, land use, health, food , and transportation- high speed rail, bike paths, buses to nowhere.? Fabian Socialists on steroids!? California has been moving along this path for many years.? Unfortunately, CT (or as I like to call it, California East) has been following many of the same missteps (ie greenhouse gas initiatives, alternative energy source requirements).? I heard today that Cal. is proposing a tax on miles driven to help save the planet.? How long before Malloy proposes the same here?? But hey, if you live in one of these…

  11. Marilyn on July 23, 2012 at 6:37 am

    Can You Say, U.N,Agenda 21.? My little town in Western Ma. is trying through it’s planning board to do the same thing.? We finally got a conservative on the board to stop the assault on private property.

    • JBS on July 23, 2012 at 9:52 am

      I have been shouting in the wilderness for years about Agenda 21. (Keep digging as there is much more than the UN is admitting) It’s insidious! It pops up in liberal planning, newspaper articles and opinion pieces — many times the people promoting it don’t know it, they are useful tools. For instance, the packing of low-income (awright, welfare) people into multifamily dwellings. Promoting trains, too. Right out of Agenda 21.?
      The wealthy won’t have to deal with all of the high-density housing problems and the attendant noise and congestion. The elites will be ensconced in luxury. Kinda like it is now, except with no middle-class. (The trains will bring low-wage workers (servants) to the privileged and take them back to their squalid “homes.”)
      Keep telling people about Agenda 21. It’s NOT tin-hat stuff. Everything is right out there on the Net, they aren’t trying to hide anything except the actual implementation plans. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzEEgtOFFlM
      California is the Progressive’s experimental laboratory. What a monster it has become.

    • wildcat on July 23, 2012 at 6:05 pm

      Hey JBS …You may feel alone in the wilderness sometimes but fear not; others of us are aware of the “agenda” 21 and it’s many tentacles.

  12. JollyRoger on July 24, 2012 at 3:54 am

    7/23/12:? Obama visits Oakland CA theater @ $1,000/seat.? liberals protesting!
    Obama visits Piedmont, CA private residence @ $35,800/plate.? Local police didn’t know he was coming- but why should they?
    Cost to taxpayers? Presidency for sale? Who cares?

  13. JollyRoger on July 24, 2012 at 4:16 am

    Regarding above comment, please note the wealthy folks visited in Piedmont CA.? Then visit their website and follow links to the quoted comment at bottom.
    “Though manifestations of racism like Jim Crow segregation, Indian removal and Japanese internment appear to have been eradicated, racism remains an integral part of American society.? It is woven into the very fabric of our culture, our language, our government, our economy.? And to truly dismantle this structural racism, we need a powerful social change movement that holds racial justice as a primary, fundamental goal.? Only then will we be able to create a racially just society.”? http://akonadi.org/section/view/about_us

  14. JBS on July 24, 2012 at 7:25 am

    The people leaving California are the ones who can leave. They have the money, from a house sale, pension, moveable employment, etc. to fund moving.
    The people left are the uber-rich, still successful business people and rabid liberal ideologues.? And, the poor,, many of whom are on welfare.
    One-eighth of the population of CA is dependent on government welfare? Not to mention all of the others subsisting on Social Security, Disability, SNAP Stamps, local welfare programs, incarcerated, etc.
    It is the California comfortable class who are felling — they can’t stay in their comfort zone in California.


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