THE BLOG
08/22/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Aint Got The Do-Re-Mi : The Beginning of The End of The Californian Dream

The patient survived a suicidal fall off the Golden Gate and is now in intensive care. The bleeding has stopped, but there is massive internal damage and during the next year surgeons will amputate most of remaining limbs including $1.4 billion from the Californian prison system, $4.7 billion from its cities and counties, and $9 billion from its public schools, colleges and universities.

Class sizes will explode, more professors will be furloughed and California's state-of-the-art post-secondary system where the space race and high tech revolutions were first imagined, will fall into the disrepair of a third world post office.

State offices will close three days a month. The poor will go without health care in the state where health care for the poor was invented. 27,000 extra criminals will clog the streets and the 11 percent unemployment rate will only increase while mortgage foreclosures probably climb. Neighborhoods will change. Street crime will rise, of course. Personal safety will decline. There will be more guns and more nasty, desperate drugs and many more shooting deaths. Urban insurance rates will soar.

Also as more state employees become pensioners, the CalPERS pension deficit will increase until California can no longer afford to honor these commitments. There will be a whole, new class of indigents, elderly former state employees. And if the state itself cannot technically go bankrupt, this is not true of its municipalities. Last year, as a result of extremely high salaries for its police and firefighters and current outlays for its large base of pensioners, Vallejo, became the largest city in California ever to file for Chapter 9 Bankruptcy.

So, in the coming years, anticipate vital services like water, power, police, firefighting, every type of city-works and government pension to be cut out from under Californians who live in communities with the smallest tax bases and largest budgets. In Los Angeles, corpses of the indigent poor are now cremated to save the city $200 a piece. At some point, state and municipal taxes will have to increase. But as a first step, cities like Salinas will increase their local sales tax. That will not help much.

Today, although California's population was projected to double from its current 38 million by 2050, smart money is already trickling out of the state. Business employers will soon follow. Next year California may lose one of its 53 congressional seats as a result of slow trickle of out-migration taking place among the middle-class who can no longer live comfortably in California.

Although I have nothing but admiration for Governor Arnold for forcing any budget to happen, the current instrument will only worsen California's problems by reducing its tax base, since there are already nicer, more affordable places to live a better lifestyle. Think Texas! Arizona and Nevada of course have suffered even greater shortfalls than California in the economic devastation of the home mortgage crisis. But in sheer dollar terms, California's deficit is the national champ dwarfing those of other states including New York and New Jersey which also have truly large deficits, and whose unemployment and reduced quality-of-life is now driving similar out-migration. Nationally, (according to the Washington Post) the total deficit facing all 50 states through fiscal 2011 is estimated at $230 billion. Like California, America is facing many years of no frills government...

So now, let's reflect for a moment. How are the neighbors doing?

In 1982, Mexico entered a spiraling tailspin of inflation and devaluation that has only worsened in subsequent decades. The current war against its stupid, savage drug cartels is as much a function of Mexico's economic collapse during the 80s and 90s as are the profound demographic changes that happened in the United States at the end of the last century. After '82, tens of millions of Mexicans fled to America where they changed the demographic composition of the country becoming its largest minority in a short span of 20 or 30 years. Remember the nation-wide demonstrations against the Sensenbrenner bill in 2005? Those Latinos were mainly from Mexico.

The Mexican situation is slightly different because their economic crisis was accompanied by vast environmental devastation. Subsistence farming became impossible due to the prolonged assault on the country's topsoil, and anyway most of the available water had already been redirected to the nation's export agribusiness. There was nothing to come home to so Mexicans stayed in America becoming citizens whenever they could, and sending remittances -- as much as $9 billion in good years -- home to their loved ones.

In California and in other states of America, the economy is now as bad as it was in Mexico in 1982 when all public programs were canceled. It is going to stay that way for many years, but the U.S. has not yet suffered the environmental devastation that made Mexico's la crisis a devastating one-two combination of punches from which the country has never recovered.

Today, however, a second punch -- an environmental or ecological right cross -- is headed straight for California's chin. There is already insufficient water in California to support its current population, industry and agribusiness and the state's water supply -- from the Colorado, from snow melt from the aquifer of the Central Valley -- is actually in decline as climate change raises the state's mean temperatures, desiccates its forests and dries out its topsoil.

In the coming years, droughts, heat waves and increasingly large forest mega-fires (like the ones now beginning near Bishop, Lake Naciemento, San Bernardino and Ventura) will increase the state's irreparable economic devastation while reducing its carrying capacity and making California -- especially southern California -- a truly miserable place to live.

The dream is genuinely over. This is the beginning of the end. As I write this, I am very sad because I have postponed returning to California for 16 years, and in the meantime it has been ruined by greed and mismanagement. Without any help in sight, California is now unable to cope with any major crisis -- a mega-fire, an earthquake, a drought -- so climate change can only continue to kick the state, and keep it down in the coming years.

I remember my first day on the beach in Santa Monica in late August 1980. It was so goddamn beautiful I thought that I would stay in SoCal forever. But we had kids and left for a more affordable life in my native Canada. Now, the Paradise I loved is gone. It's like that song-of-a-girl you were going to find the nerve to dance with before the party ended. For the rest of your life you'll feel the disappointment of not following through.

Sad day. Time too, for the rest of the nation to get their guest rooms ready -- friends will be calling from the coast.