Is California the golden paradise it once was? Would the state that at one time had the eighth largest economy in the world be lucky to have just the eighth largest state economy in the United States? Should you even be living here anymore?
This, according to a recent Associated Press article, is the consensus among the 144,000-person net-loss in California during a one-year period. People fleeing have cited traffic, poor education, a bankrupt economy and lack of jobs as reasons for leaving. Local talk shows are dedicating hours to the subject, while both online and print news sources are showing equal vigor in pursuing the subject.
While startling, the numbers are not the worst ever. In 1994, California’s net loss was 362,000 people, seemingly affirming the 1991 Time Magazine headline: “California: The Endangered Dream.” Yet, both of these were before the dot-com boom, which blessed California with even more wealth and (unfortunately for us today) solidified the temperaments of our elected officials to make our state budget heavily income-tax dependent.
The interesting thing to note about these reasons for leaving is that they aren’t new gripes about California. Illegal immigration, traffic and poor education have been Californian talking points for at least the last 15 years. Newer issues, like an incompetent state government on both sides of the aisle and an utter lack of state budget management, are taking an unfortunate backseat to national economic woes. Where are the protest-hungry college students of yesteryear when you need them? Unfortunately, government inaction isn’t quite as tangible an issue to protest about as war or abortion.
These newer issues, paired with long-standing failures in California, seem to create the ideal recipe for escape. Yet, I can’t ignore this hare-brained idea that I have: The media has it “out” for California. Sure, California has many egregious failures, many of which on their own would be reason for headline news. But what is the real goal of the local news directors in running this story? They too work in California, and giving a platform to people fleeing the state to remind their viewership about state grievances won’t help them personally. And I am way past the naive stance that the media is an egalitarian organization with the intent of alerting the general public to relevant news. Everything, once you pry deep enough, has some perpetuating force moving it forward, and I am at a loss as to what is pushing the news directors and journalists of today. Maybe in this case it is genuine concern.
I want to remind my fellow Californians who think the grass looks greener on the other side of a colloquial expression: “Once you leave California, you can never come back.” Unless you are independently wealthy, one’s house is usually the largest asset someone owns in his or her life. While twice the house and half the mortgage in Idaho may seem appealing, in 10 years when you’ve had all your fill of mashed potatoes, good luck getting a house in California the size of your old one, let alone the one you have now.
This is partially (read: totally) based on hearsay, and touchy-feely economics. It’s also based on the assumption that the cost of living will always be going up — in our troubled economy, who knows if this will be the case in the immediate and not-so-immediate future.
So is this the ideal time to live in California? I couldn’t agree with that. However, there will always be issues that come from living in a large, sometimes incredibly prosperous state. And some people, like me, will choose to ignore those issues and enjoy the great quality of life that this state has to offer.
Michael Boileau is a third-year business economics major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.