Lately I've been seeing a lot of articles concerning the state of affairs in California, particularly with regards to the business climate, cost of living, quality of life, etc. I rarely see articles praising California; everyone seems to focus on bashing the state.
My family moved to California (from western New York State) in 1972, when I was ten years old. From day one, I hated it there. I'm quite certain my opinion of the entire state was terminally colored by the rotten elementary school I attended, where I was teased and bullied unmercifully for six months (while my parents had a house built) until I relocated to a different (and less hostile) school.
After that first traumatic year, I suppose you could say I got along okay in the Golden State, but I never felt settled or at home, and never had any intention of staying. Nevertheless, you know how it is: inertia goes a long way in keeping someone in the same spot for years and years.
I can quite honestly say the best thing that I ever got out of California was my husband. I've been eternally blessed by marrying this most wonderful man.
When we got married in 1990, it didn't take us long to start devising a plan to leave California. By that point we didn't really have much of a quarrel with the state. We were both well employed, we were renting a nice house with a spacious back yard for our dogs; in short, we were doing fine.
But both of us had the yearning to leave. It just seemed California was too crowded, too expensive, too regulated, and (for me) too hot. The state seemed to stifle independence and self-sufficiency. We weren't sure exactly where we wanted to go, but we knew we needed to get out of the urban zones for which California is justifiably famous and have room to stretch our legs and be more independent. We considered the northern portion and/or the eastern section (along the Sierra Nevada chain) but in the end we up and moved to southwest Oregon in 1992, where we happily stayed for ten years before moving yet again to Idaho.
So my roots in California are fairly deep. My family still lives there. So does Don's family. We have endless dear friends who live there. But neither of us has the slightest desire to ever return (except to visit, of course).
It seems California's regulatory nature and hostile business climate have worsened in the two decades since we left. My older brother is particularly faithful about filling me in about California's woes, and although he's firmly entrenched in that state, he has no illusions about its problems.
Supplementing my brother's emails, I've also been seeing more and more news articles about California's problems. A WND columnist wrote two pieces (here and here) outlining some of the issues. It seems the state is beyond fixing because its issues are too big. What will become of it is anyone's guess.
It's well documented that businesses are leaving California in droves due to the hostile climate and high taxes. Other states have proven more welcoming and enticing, with far lower costs of living as well as more favorable tax incentives. "The Golden State's fastest-growing entity is government and its biggest product is red tape," notes Allysia Finley in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece in which she interviews urban studies Professor Joel Kotkin. Dr. Kotkin notes that the high home prices keep many young people out of the housing market (I can testify!).
The cost of living in California is so astronomical that the middle-class can't afford to live there. Let's put it this way: if Don and I tried to acquire in California what we have here in Idaho -- namely, twenty acres with a good-sized house and a barn -- we'd be spending upwards of a million dollars, easily. And we'd have a mortgage to match. But we spent one-tenth of that by moving to Idaho instead. And we bought this place solely on the income from a home craft business, for Pete's sake. Try doing that in California.
Ironically the state is a magnet to those unable or unwilling to work because the welfare benefits are incredibly generous. This contributes to the income disparity and overall decrease in the tax base for the state, which is why the state continuously increases taxes on the middle class. Catch-22 anyone?
Someone sent me an interesting article on InfoWars (a site I normally avoid because I dislike its conspiratorial they're-out-to-get-us mentality) entitled Sixteen Reasons to Move Away from California. I found I couldn't disagree with a single one of them.
California is a state with a staggering amount of beautiful natural terrain. Ocean beaches, dry hot desert, flat valley floors, high mountains, lush forests, temperate woodlands... it's astounding how many different biomes can be found in one state. There are also pockets with low population (notably the northern-most areas). But the long arm of government reaches every single one of those isolated pockets. No matter how far away from urban areas someone might live, they will still be taxed and regulated to a far higher degree than almost anywhere else.
It saddens me to watch California's slow-motion crash-and-burn. It saddens me that a state which was once a golden land of opportunity for millions -- including my parents, back in 1972 -- is now a state people must flee in order to seek opportunity.
And it saddens me even more that California politicians -- both Democrat and Republican -- don't get it. They don't get why people and business are leaving. They don't get that higher taxes are not greeted with cries of joy from the overtaxed. They don't get that more red tape and higher regulations don't entice businesses to be creative or innovative. They. Just. Don't. Get. It.
So despite the distance from beloved family members, I sure don't regret leaving the Golden State.