- - Sunday, December 27, 2020

California, a state with limitless resources and natural beauty, is sinking.

It has the highest rate of adult illiteracy in the United States — and probably the hemisphere — with almost one-quarter of the adult population illiterate.

It has greater income inequality than all but a handful of states.

Depending on how one counts, it has the highest or one of the highest tax burdens of any state and the highest regulatory burden of any state.

At the moment, it has the seventh-highest unemployment rate among states.

Finally, it has the least reliable and among the most expensive electrical systems in the United States. This year, California has had dozens of hours of blackouts caused by lack of power plants — including the two nuclear power plants they are in the process of prematurely closing — and by deficient vegetation management and outdated equipment, which has both caused and exacerbated wildfires.

In response, the Californians, of course, plan to shut down even more power plants.

These pathologies have not gone unnoticed by the residents. According to the American Community Survey, from 2007 to 2016, about a million more people moved out of California than moved into California. This net migration equals about 2.5% of its population.

Companies large and small, including Oracle and Hewlett-Packard, have left for elsewhere, mostly Texas.

Despite all this, the “leaders” of the state continue to press ideas seemingly specifically designed to alienate voters. Undeterred by their inability to keep the lights on, California is pursuing a strategy to electrify more of the economy. This includes efficiency mandates and incentives, precluding using natural gas in homes and businesses, and banning cars and trucks that run on gasoline or diesel.

You probably will be shocked to learn that, according to a series of UCLA studies, these policies tend to favor the rich, who use more energy, and place more burdens on those who can least afford it.

Another UCLA study concludes that if not planned correctly – and the chances of this seem pretty high — the shift to wind and solar power could cost more and strain the state’s electrical grid.

You don’t say.

Still, even the UCLA crew can’t get everything right. A professor at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability offered that: “Policy aims need to get beyond efficiency to address absolute levels of consumption and to reflect reasonable need rather than excessive use. … We must ask ourselves how much energy is enough to live a decent and modern life.”

Did you get all that? The state, or at least UCLA, would like to determine how much energy everyone needs, rather than how much they want or can afford.As a final insult to ratepayers and taxpayers, the California Public Advocate’s Office — which is part of the Public Utility Commission and whose sole charge is to advocate on behalf of the ratepayers of California — recently entered into an agreement with the Sierra Club specifically designed to help the Sierra Club to advocate against consumers, against reliable power and against affordable natural gas.

Not surprisingly, this bit of corruption came to light through the efforts of two Democratic members of the state legislature. The media was busy doing something else instead of looking out for the average citizen.

Californians already pay twice as much for electricity as their neighboring states in the West. For that premium, they get blackouts when it’s hot and when it’s windy — to prevent outdated equipment from starting wildfires.

But the Public Advocate’s Office doesn’t seem to care about that. Its real audience has become the environmental community.

The good news is that there are some signs of life.

In the 2020 election, Californians voted to protect gig workers such as Uber and Lyft drivers from government “help,” against government discrimination based on race, and to protect business owners from ruinous property taxes. These are all good things.

But at some point, the citizens of California must demand better than the failures, corruption and indifference that has the once great Golden State teetering on the edge.

• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.

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