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With festering problems all around, California is becoming the sick man of America. And where has California’s governor been? Traveling the world.
On Oct. 20, Newsom was in Israel, where he “met with survivors, impacted families and others” of that country’s war with Hamas. Three days later, he was in Hong Kong, then in Beijing the next day, where he was “flexing California’s credentials as a global leader in climate change policy,” Politico reported.
While Newsom was “fully embracing the role of climate governor,” a role he mostly invented, and is surely setting himself up for a White House run, the “damn state” he says he loves has become such a train wreck that the rest of the country is having a hard time looking away.
California has had 39 governors and the state has lost population under only one: Newsom. In fact, it has now lost population for three straight years.
California is also losing businesses at an alarming pace, though it’s fair to say that this trend started long before Newsom was governor. But he’s done nothing that would stop it or even slow it down. That would require an agenda that’s at odds with the progressive politics of Sacramento.
While the frequent-flyer governor is taking “California’s Climate Journey” globally in his effort to “save this damn planet,” Californians continue to wrestle with thorny matters.
First, the largest economy in the U.S. is facing ill winds. The jobless rate hit 4.7% in September, a tick up from 4.6% in August but significantly higher than the 4% posted in September 2022. The national average is holding steady at 3.8%, and only Nevada, at 5%, has a higher rate than California’s.
Other worrisome economic indicators include weak tax collections, diminished “investment in young and growing technology firms,” regional bank failures, income and consumer spending declines, food and energy inflation, and housing market activity that “has dropped off,” says the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), which suggests that the state economy might have tumbled into a recession a year ago.
Now maybe the slowdown is nothing more than “a harbinger for the U.S. economy,” which the LAO floats as a possibility. But don’t bet on it. The American Legislative Exchange Council ranks California’s economic outlook as the sixth worst in the country.
While the Golden State economy sinks, state crime rates are moving in the other direction. New FBI data show that violent crime rose in California in 2022 while it fell nationally. The homicide rate eased back a bit, and is still below the national average (5.7 per 100,000 population vs. 6.3 per 100,000), but robbery and aggravated assault are both trending upward in California while falling nationally.
Just-released rankings also show California’s retail theft problem growing worse, with the state having three of the nation’s 10 worst cities for retail theft.
In the meantime, the heartbreak of California’s chronic homelessness problem goes unresolved. The state still has the largest homeless population in the country, and the second largest per-resident share.
Newsom promised in 2003 that as San Francisco’s mayor he would end homelessness in the city, yet after two terms in that office and almost five in the governor’s mansion, the record shows that he’s failed. Apparently the phantom of global warming is more deserving of his attention.
A newer but no less serious California hardship is the growing homeowner insurance crisis. Some private insurers are abandoning the market while others are limiting the number of policies they write. A combination of natural disasters and the high costs of rebuilding have exposed companies to risks that they have determined will lead to heavy financial losses.
California is in urgent need of strong and practical leadership that will judiciously rather than politically address the growing mountain of livability issues, which includes, in addition to those mentioned above, the state’s over-the-cliff rush to a net-zero power grid, an alarming decline in public education, the perpetual undersupply of water, and a foolish commitment to an unpopular and impossibly expensive reparations scheme.
But even a “present” Newsom hasn’t adequately tackled any of these concerns – and in the case of the state’s energy challenges, he’s actually made matters worse.