Sometimes I worry that I am becoming a Gloomy Gus with all the negative stuff I write about our tarnished golden state, but I’m a regular Pollyanna compared to the most eloquent prose of Victor Davis Hanson. I was scouring the blogs earlier this morning and found this must-read link on Russ Steele’s site. http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson/california-the-road-warrior-is-here/?singlepage=true I’d suggest reading the rest of my screed before you go to Victor’s, because after you read his you’ll probably want to kill yourself or sell everything you own (except for your firearms) and move to a cave somewhere in the tundra of Alaska.
Like the link says, Victor compares living in the Central Valley to Mel Gibson’s apocalyptic Road Warrior future, desolate and populated by roving homosexual biker gangs whose only purpose in life is to rape, pillage and find enough gasoline to get to the next scene of their raping and pillaging.
There are certainly some aspects of Hanson’s scenario I can agree with. On our recent road trip to the central coast, we first had to navigate our way through the valley to get there. We took a left on Highway 99 at Sacramento, which was once the main artery of north-south traffic before I-5. The old road is narrow and in many places resembles the aftermath of a meteor shower with craters and pockmarks. As soon as it was convenient we exited stage right to hook up with the Interstate, where we believed our journey would be expedited.
And it was, until we passed the urban wasteland of bankrupt Stockton. After that we passed field after field of dead orchards with signs blaming Pelosi, Reid and Boxer for stealing their water. We pulled over at Anderson’s for a bowl of pea soup, which was the last enjoyable experience we had on the freeway. Every mile or so I had to hit the breaks as traffic would slow to a crawl, speed up to 70mph and then slow down again. By the time we got off at Kettleman City I felt like I’d been beaten with a tire iron.
In comparison, traveling on Highway 1 around San Luis Obisbo was a piece of cake. Everybody drove humanely, at a much slower pace. There were a few signs of the recession here and there, but for the most part the coast towns seemed to be weathering the bad times without much pain. (And weather does have a lot to do with it. Who can be happy in bone-dry 110 degree heat?)
On our way back we took 101 north. The fertile fields were awash with the bounty of the land. Fruits, nuts, vegetables, and miles of vineyards stretching as far as the eye could see. If there is a shortage of water there, it certainly wasn’t evident. We passed by the turnoff to Hollister, where I was reminded of the birth of the outlaw biker legend when a gang of rowdies took over the town in 1947.
Which brings us back to the present, and a future that Victor Hansen blames on the progressive policies of an out of touch government that caters to the coastal elites. In reading the comments following his piece, there is much anger out there in the blogo-hinterlands, as in this gem from a Mr. Jack Mehoff: “California is getting what it tolerated. They deserve it. They earned, now they need to own it, and I’m laughing.” Why he is laughing is anyone’s guess, but then we don’t know Jack.
And it is one of the few things we do own in this debt-ridden state. I’ll agree that much of the blame goes to the heavy-handed Democrats in Sacto and DC, but an unhealthy amount should also be pinned on inept city officials who overspent and smooth-talking developers who overbuilt.
Like the coast, we residents of the hill and mountain country are somewhat insulated from the devastation of the valley, until we have to run the gauntlet. We ignore the ugliness, only stopping long enough to fill the gas tank and our bellies before continuing on our journey from one nice place to another. How much longer will it be before the ugliness comes up the road to our town? We ignore it at our peril.
Overbuilt? I thought we were told a house was simply a commodity to be bought and sold. How does an empty house have a cost to the government? I am wondering how a development, with the requirement all the infrastructure must be in place before a white paper is approved by the state, is a negative on the government?
Since property taxes were confiscated by the state under Jerry Brown back in the Prop 13 days, the state forced all the jurisdictions to put in malls, car and retail, to get the 1-2% sales tax of the 8% so they could survive. No, when you have the left in control of the coastal counties my guess is they are well cared for with the tax dollars while the R counties get the shaft. It is terrible democrat policies (except 1996) over our lifetime that has wrecked the place.
How does an empty house have a cost to the government?…*Ahem*…Need you be reminded of the Wildwood Ridge debacle, Todd? After all, t’was you who cast the third vote that put Nevada County taxpayers in hock for a decade.
Well golly RL. Since I have answered your allegations and intimations many times it appears my explanation fell on deaf ears. But, for one more shot at it. How does a empty house cost the taxpayers money? Since all development in California requires the installation of its infrastructure and the payment of property taxes prior to occupancy, how does it cost the county treasury any money?
One word: bonds.
I believe Keachie provided at least part of the answer; squatters, meth labs, crack houses. Aren’t the cities responsible for the police and fire protection?
Anecdotal not proof.
Todd, we are in the process of saving one such house, and you have no idea how grateful the neighbors are for our presence there. The locals were using it for a fu*k house, and first step was removing all the rugs, it smelled so bad.
Todd, I still don’t understand why you don’t own the bad deal the county made on the Wildwood Ridge bonds. It was you, Weir and Schultz that signed off on that one, despite warnings from Chris Dabis. I still have the letter and will gladly reprint it again if your memory fails you.
The bigger point is that municipalities make all kinds of deals with developers to gain jobs and hopefully fill their coffers with new tax money. Sometimes it works, sometimes it don’t. I remember reading about the massive public works program that Stockton hoped would make them a “world class city.” They bet the farm and lost big time. I don’t know whether those councilpeople were Dems or Repubs, but the results have been a disaster. Lincoln is going through the same thing, having to go back on all the promises they made.
When the big four SDA’s were on the table in Grass Valley, the plan was to annex all those developments into the city, and if the city council hadn’t been prudent, we would be stuck with acres of unfinished streets and sewers after the developers went belly-up.
Own the issue? I voted for it and it is in the public record for goodness sakes. I have no problem with the vote cast at the time. That is called a majority. BTW, the subdivision was built and all are paying their taxes into the treasury I believe. Anyway, you still have not answered my request for you to tell us how an empty house, having paid all its fees and built its infrastructure, costs the taxpayers money.
As an aside, Jeff Ackermasn bought and lived in Wildwood Estates.
Todd, here’s the exit question:
Compare and contrast these debt instruments —
1. Mello-Roos bonds in Nevada County (http://www.treasurer.ca.gov/cdiac/default-draw/issuename1.asp?type=Mello-Roos&issuer=Nevada%20County%20CFD%20No.%201990-1)
2. Greek bonds
3. General Motors bonds
Compare and contrast. I would like to learn the vagaries.
You seem to be smart guy, tu tell us.
It’s irresponsible and a cop out to pin this housing mess on a few developers. It is no different than a witch hunt. The real problem is far more the greedy and ignorant home buyers fueled by unregulated banks. People were buying homes using their credit card for a down payment, for god’s sake, and thought they had secured the “American Dream”. So now they want to blame the people they paid millions to so they could have what they couldn’t afford, and now they’ve lost it. Todd is right. The enemy is stupidity and greed.
You’re correct, Greg, and I wasn’t putting the entire blame on developers, just pointing out that they had a role in the housing bust.
I was reading an article somewhere (don’t remember where, too much input to keep track of) about Germany and that only 30+% of the German people own a credit card. Also, the low rate of home ownership in that country due to the high down payment required to get a loan. Most Germans don’t participate in the credit mania that has engulfed the rest of Europe and the U.S. Now Germany is expected to bail out their neighbors’ failed economies.
Is it any wonder that the industrious Germans came within inches of conquering the world back in the forties? They might have won if they hadn’t had a madman leading them.
Think about all the property taxes the banks must be paying on all their foreclosed properties. I wonder if they get some tax break for it?
It wouldn’t surprise me.
Something we can agree on.
We don’t have to wait at all ’cause it’s already a’comin’. The local purple people eaters are on the welcoming committee, and its name (guaranteed to evoke a chorus of denials) is Agenda21.
Those invited in, to drive the wages in the fields to zero, there lies the fault line that is rupturing now. Quarter by quarter, with no thought to the next decade’s bottom line, that’s how we destroyed California. BTW, the physical earthquake shows signs of showing up soon. Too few, too small, of late, in the Golden state.
Sorry, but I’m not letting the developers off the hook on this one. While the right pisses and moans about anything with the word “sustainable” in it, some of the best farmland on the planet has been paved over with miles of ticky-tacky homes with thirsty lawns that suck up acres of water. Not to mention that they were built on known floodplains, and the taxpayers get stuck with the levee repair bills. As for water, there wouldn’t be a free-flowing river left in this state if Republicans had their way. I’m willing to be enough of a heretic to agree with Hanson that demolishing Hetch Hetchy is a dumb idea, but I still maintain that the answer to our chronic water shortages should involve capturing the winter excess in off-river reservoirs instead of damming these beautiful sculptured canyons.
I am no fan of using our farmland for housing and have said so all my adult life. What gets built is approved by elected officials and in California that means mostly democrats. Grass Valley has had mostly Reps and yet even Loma Rica after thirty years has never seen a nail pounded. So your blame is misdirected. The LA basin and San Jose to San Francisco have been run by lefty folks all my lfe and that is where all the massive populations live. So, making a blanket statement is ridiculous. Even Tskoppolos is a democrat. Countrywide was democrat.
Regarding water storage. I have no problem with off river storage either. But, when my little property in Grass Valley has been determined by the Army Corp to be within their jurisdiction and they declare my sloping, dry property as a wetland, then you may change your idea of rational rules. Oh, and if I pay 200k per acre to mitigate, they will sign off.
The problem is liberalism and we get to see its affects every day. Even my sis who cuts hair has been visited and now fined for the first time in 42 years for some infraction by the state “hair police”
Also, how does an empty house cost the state money RL? Since the most money after eduction goes to social services, how does an empty house cost money? Development can be bad but since it is prepaid to the jurisdictions how is that costing them money?
Empty houses become teen hangout or worse yet, ctack houses, The neighbors then argue their property values have gone down and therefore they should have to pay less in taxes.
There is only one direction the finger of blame can be pointed: directly at We the People who have allowed this deplorable condition to take hold and prevail. We have a population of spoiled, lazy, and horribly confused human beings who have allowed themselves to be bullied by the big kids on the block to the extent that they truly believe there is no longer anything they can do to bring this country back to the place of respect and dignity it once enjoyed. We are caught in a maelstrom of ennui and total fear that continues to grow and fester each time we watch the “news” on TV, pick up a magazine or newspaper just chock full of disturbing and ultimately debilitating events of the day. The concept of “hope” is now officially dead thanks to Obama and his gang of despots while those other criminals on the other side of the aisle continue with arrogance and overwhelming ignorance of just why they are where they are. This attitude unfortunately has filtered down and now permeates every state in the union, resulting in the huge financial, social, and religious challenges we now face. Greed, avarice and betrayal have become the order of our days and placed our species on the very verge of annihilation. I don’t need to go into specifics because as soon as I do, there will be those who will nibble at the edges of this argument, completely missing the bigger picture which in plain words are simply that we are in the deepest of trouble and WE are the ones, collectively, who are responsible for the condition; we are also the ones who can turn it all around. WE are stronger than we have been lead to believe and it will only be through making the same kinds of sacrifices that our forefathers, freely and with full knowledge of the potential dangers, willingly made. Anything less will have disastrous results and we will all find ourselves in the exact condition we fear so much…a condition we alone have made a reality. We can turn this bus around but it’s going to take dropping our petty jealousies, prejudices and selfish pursuit of things of no importance whatsoever. Survival is what’s important.
We buy stuff we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we can’t stand.
You can thank pervasive advertising practices for that. Look at at any ads for alcohol (wasn’t that banned many years ago?) prescription drugs (where’s the FDA when they’re not taking bribes? Look up Donald Rumsfeld + Aspartame) and every ad “as seen on TV” that’s ever been aired. Billy Mays (may God bless his cocaine-saturated soul) was the epitome of the snake oil salesman. The really sad part of the whole sordid situation is that millions are suckered into spending their hard earned cash for what amounts to garbage. As an aside (and speaking of garbage) I can’t help but feel that if American people were paid a decent living wage, we wouldn’t have the big box stores destroying small business in this country, but that’s another story of the decline of American business.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were furiously buying any home loan even before the ink was dry. If they weren’t buying those loans, many of which were subprime, to repackage into securities, those loans would not have been made as no bank would have made those loans to keep for themselves as assets they could expect to perform.
In a very real sense, the GSE’s were driving the boom and were the cause of the bust.
There is no doubt the GSE’s were at least partially responsible for the “bust” but still, ultimately, it was the naiveté (to be kind) of the borrowers who took the bait and got caught up in their own ignorance, who created the boom which ultimately went bust. There were many factors involved in the decline of our economy but I maintain that ignoring the old warning “caveat emptor” precipitated the onset of this recession/depression we are now experiencing. I would like to add that there isn’t a lawmaker nor a lender in this world who can undo this calamity. Only We the People can reverse our fortunes.
TD, “We the People” didn’t sign the mortgage papers, and it was the Clinton administration that pushed their pilot subprime mortgage program into the big time. They pushed the GSE’s into the action, and it was the GSE demand for more and more paper that drove the no money down advertising that brought in the rubes.
Of course we will toitally ignore the role of Phil Gramm and 300 million worthy of lobbying by the banks themselves:
“The general co-chairman of John McCain’s presidential campaign, former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas), led the charge in 1999 to repeal a Depression-era banking regulation law that Democrat Barack Obama claimed on Thursday contributed significantly to today’s economic turmoil.
“A regulatory structure set up for banks in the 1930s needed to change because the nature of business had changed,” the Illinois senator running for president said in a New York economic speech. “But by the time [it] was repealed in 1999, the $300 million lobbying effort that drove deregulation was more about facilitating mergers than creating an efficient regulatory framework.”
Secondary, Keach. The primary cause of the wretchedly bad mortgage paper was that the GSE’s were demanding more and more to make their own numbers.
Of course, in your zeal to pin it on Gramm, you ignore sweetheart deals to Chris Dodd (D-Countrywide) a ranking Senator on the banking committee, and Barney Frank, (D-Fannie Mae) who was living with a GSE director. They were supposed to be the ones giving oversight to the banks.
They couldn’t have moved an inch without Gramm-Rudman being passed, now could they? You can add Hollings, a Dem into the mix, but the prime pushers with the bucks behind them here were from the right.
But “We the People” are responsible for taking care of ourselves. You cannot place all the blame the snake oil salespersons; the public had and still has the ultimate responsibility to look out for their own best interests. The government sure isn’t going to do anything about it–in fact they’re going to do very little when they in fact are complicit in these criminal acts in many cases. Again, you cannot point the finger of blame at any single entity; ultimately “We the People” must take care of our own. WE are responsible to allowing incidents like this to happen through apathy, ignorance, or fear. Pick one or all.
Nice description, RL. You paint many vivid pictures, but one image in particular interests me (and this is a real nit):
” … until we passed the urban wasteland of bankrupt Stockton. ”
I understand the truth of what you are saying about the urban wasteland that is bankrupt Stockton, but I’ve only ever apprehended the truth of bankrupt Stockton by reading and hearing about it.
We’ve driven I5 through Stockton several times a year for more than the last 20 years and — from the perspective of I5 only — it has always seemed about as it does now … a sort of generic urban wasteland.
Like I say, this is a nit … but your description made me wonder if you are seeing something new in this old I5 route through Stockton that gives you new insight, visually?
Nothing new, other than their insolvency. Like a lot of Californians, I’ve always looked at Stockton as a place you really wouldn’t want to spend your vacation dollars. I suppose that’s why the city fathers felt the need for an expensive facelift.
Come on Bob, “Jack Mehoff”, is that a real person?
If you read Hanson’s piece and the comments below, you’ll find Mr. Mehoff’s contribution. What? You think I make this stuff up? 🙂
Regarding my observations of the crops growing in Monterey County, here’s some stats…