Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Arnold Schwarzenegger has made a big splash in the media by entering the California governor’s race. But the real news out of California came a few days before Arnold’s political bombshell.

The latest census data show — for the first time — that more Californians have been moving to other states than people in other states have been moving to California. Between 1995 and 2000, California had a net loss of more than 600,000 people to other states. People are voting with their feet.

California’s total population has not gone down, however. Immigrants have replaced Americans. Apparently California is still considered to be preferable to Mexico or Central America.

After years — indeed, generations — of being a magnet for people and businesses, California is now exporting both, including particularly young people. Why?

One reason is that California’s politicians are following a strategy which has worked well politically in New York City — milking the productive people in order to support the unproductive, whose votes count just as much and are easier to get.

This may be killing the goose that lays the golden egg, but that is all right politically, so long as the goose doesn’t die before the next election.

A classic example is San Francisco’s monthly stipend paid to the homeless, who nevertheless panhandle and make themselves a nuisance on the streets in other ways, much to the dismay of downtown business owners. Recently, a San Francisco hotel association asked its guests not to give money to panhandlers because this just kept them hanging around, creating problems.

Instantly, a San Francisco official threatened to launch an investigation of hotels’ charges if they didn’t back off from telling people not to give money to panhandlers.

This is, after all, the left coast, where parasites are at least as valued as producers. That’s apparently what equality is all about.

Illegal immigrants are at least as valued as native-born U.S. citizens. Indeed, illegal immigrants living in California can go to the state’s tax-supported universities, paying less than native-born Americans from neighboring Oregon or Nevada are charged.

Since it is California, the very phrase “illegal immigrants” is taboo. These are “undocumented” people. Even when they are caught committing crimes, California officials will not report them to the federal immigration authorities for deportation.

Then there are the environmentalists. Nothing is to be built that would offend them — as virtually anything would. Even a dangerous section of highway along the Northern California coast where people have fatal accidents with some regularity is not to be allowed to be improved because that would “spoil” the area and — worse yet — allow more people to move in.

Environmentalists are against crowding — at least crowding where they live. Of course, this means that other places where they don’t live will be more crowded than otherwise. But, somehow, that doesn’t count. Nor do the people who die on a highway that the greenies don’t want fixed.

And we mustn’t forget the rioters, for whom San Francisco is the place to be. First of all, nobody who is anybody calls them rioters, no matter how much vandalism and violence they commit, including violence against the police. The politically correct word is “demonstrators” — and this is the place to be politically correct.

San Francisco’s district attorney can always find reasons not to prosecute “demonstrators,” no matter how much evidence there is against them. At the same time, he is ready to throw the book at the police on the flimsiest evidence or even with no evidence.

They say that California is a state of mind — and you can see what state that mind is in — at least among the political classes. You can also see why many of the people whose work has contributed to building California into a great state are getting fed up and leaving.

Arnold Schwarzenegger already shows that he knows California will have to stop driving business away. But it will take a lot to terminate California’s left-coast mindset.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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