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Hit the Road, Jack

Chances are you know somebody who has moved out of California recently. Maybe more than one. Probably several. Without giving it much thought, I can name more than a dozen friends in the past year alone who have headed to Tennessee, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Idaho, Colorado and other destinations. And the beat goes on with more friends announcing their intentions to vacate the Golden State every day.

It’s a damn shame, to be honest, because California has/had so much to offer. California Deamin’ wasn’t just a song – it went to the heart of the place – sunshine, beaches, mountains, movie stars, good jobs galore, and much more. So, what happened? We’ve still got the sunshine, beaches, and mountains but it seems that so much else has gone sideways. The movie stars that used to dazzle us have turned into whiny little woke poseurs who enjoy the profligate lifestyle we afford them while lecturing us on our paltry existence. Same with our sports stars, our corporate and tech giants, and don’t even get me started on the rapacious progressives we elect to public office.

Now our media elite would have you believe those of us fed up with the tarnish and rot that has taken hold of California are mostly a few disaffected conservatives, mostly lower income blue collar or elderly folks that the state is better off without. After all, they remind us, California remains the land of opportunity that will continue to attract the rich and powerful (and beautiful) to our sun-drenched shores.

Maybe they’re right. But the statistics tell us a different story. In reality the state has suffered net outmigration every year since 2000 losing more than 2.6 million people. That’s more than the combined populations of San Francisco, San Diego, and Anaheim, and it’s only getting worse. According to a 2019 UC Berkeley poll, roughly half the state residents have considered leaving!

Outmigration was slower in the early years of the century but bumped up noticeably during the ‘Great Recession, losing contractors and other skilled labor that is still impacting our ability to build new housing today. Picking up even more steam in the past few years, departures have more than quintupled since 2015, jumping from under 50,000/year to over 240,000 in 2020, costing us a Congressional seat for the first time in the state’s history. And I can assure you they’re not all blue-collar bumpkins.

The recent pandemic only exacerbated that reality as people discovered that enforced working and learning from a distance translated into a very real opportunity to work and learn from a distance – like out of state. That’s borne out by recent statistics from the IRS noting that 77% of the increased leakage came from those in their prime earning years of 35 – 64, with 82% being in higher income brackets and nearly 40% earning over $100,000/yr. That’s a lot of taxpayers heading for greener (and lower tax) pastures.

If this trend continues, and there’s no indication it will stall out anytime soon, who’s going to be left to pay for all the progressive largesse? Who’s going to pay for the increased services to the 160,000+ homeless and millions of ‘undocumented immigrants?

Who’s going to cover Sacramento’s pipedreams of eliminating gas powered vehicles in the next decade? Who will pay for the necessary electrical capacity to power all those EV cars and trucks when we can’t even keep the juice on to our homes in the summer now? Will the wealthy elites happily continue to pay the highest income taxes in the country even as Sacramento proposes more schemes to achieve ‘equity’ and get them to ‘pay their fair share’? Throw in declining education and burgeoning crime and you have the makings of a perfect storm that will only hasten the exodus.

It’s a sad state of affairs that has befallen the state. I think transparency and accountability departed the state on the first bus out. But somebody (or a bunch of somebodies) had better start demanding answers from the out-of-touch Sacramento tax-and-spend progressives, the soft-on-crime DA’s, the teacher’s unions, the public employee’s unions, and the others who have run amok like kids in a candy store with our state policies and our money. Recalling a Governor is child’s play compared to the real work that needs to be done. Good luck with that.

Written by Gene Wunderlich, Sr. Staff Writer

Prior to his retirement in 2021, Wunderlich served on a number of local non-profits and boards. He spent the past decade as a legislative advocate for the housing and real estate industries as well as a coalition of local Chambers of Commerce advocating on behalf of small and local businesses.

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