Guzzardi column: California is off the rails and a disaster zone
When former California Gov. Jerry Brown announced his ill-conceived, ill-fated high-speed train that no one wanted, and no one ever thought would be completed, he unwittingly sent the message that the once Golden State would soon be spiraling into disaster. Before current Gov. Gavin Newsom killed the train, California had squandered $5 billion on the boondoggle, and cost projections soared billions more from the original estimate. New York Times’ analysts pegged the train’s final total at a staggering $100 billion.
Brown envisioned himself as a forward-thinking leader who would secure California’s self-proclaimed position as the nation’s preeminent cutting-edge state. Brown put California on the cutting-edge, all right, but of catastrophe.
Consider a short list of what California has become since the bullet train flop. California, a sanctuary state for illegal aliens, has cemented its position as the nation’s inequality leader, with disparities between rich and poor greater than those in Mexico and Guatemala. Speaking of poverty, California is also America’s capital in that sad category. According to the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, California outstrips states traditionally associated with acute poverty — Mississippi, West Virginia and New Mexico.
But nothing better summarizes California’s tragic condition than this recent Wall Street Journal headline: “California’s Biggest Cities Confront a ‘Defecation Crisis.’” The Journal observed that California passed legislation that outlaws plastic straws, because they are an environmental outrage, yet it allows human waste to pile up in Los Angeles, San Francisco and in too many other municipalities. Substance abuse, mental illness and absence of low-cost housing have contributed to tens of thousands of people living on the streets, spawning a public health, safety, security, environmental and humanitarian crisis. It’s now just waiting to explode, exposing community residents to deadly diseases not seen in years.
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Homelessness is a complex and not-easily-solved problem. But solutions remain more elusive when officials are disinterested or unwilling to get serious. While the California Assembly busied itself with banning straws, Newsom and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris have been otherwise occupied encouraging more people to come to California even as their state is figuratively falling into the Pacific Ocean.
Their public statements and their Washington, D.C., proposals indicate that all three support major increases in California’s population — the very last thing that state needs, and certainly no solution.
Earlier this year, Newsom signed a bill that would provide, under California’s Medicaid program, taxpayer-funded health care benefits to illegally present low-income adult aliens under age 25. Children under 18 are already covered. Free medical coverage represents a huge pull factor for foreign nationals considering illegal entry into the U.S.
Harris in her presidential quest has eclipsed the senior senator in the media, but Feinstein has amassed a solid voting record in favor of more guest workers, and promoting a more liberal refugee and asylum policy, looser borders and amnesty. Since California is the preferred destination for many immigrants, Feinstein’s expansive immigration positions will translate into more state residents.
As for Harris, she has cosponsored S. 386, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, a job-busting bill for U.S. tech workers, which would over a decade open the door for 600,000 Indian nationals employed on H-1B visas to gain permanent residency. Many of them work in population-dense Silicon Valley.
The mantra of immigration advocates remains the same: more. But more immigration is inconsistent with today’s California and national reality. Within three decades, California’s population will hit 50 million, and the U.S. will exceed 400 million, 25 percent more than current levels.
Before promoting more immigration, and therefore more people, the focus should be on permanently resolving compelling problems like homelessness.
Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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