I LOVE California. I grew up along the Ventura coast and the Channel Islands as an 11-year-old boy. I was then stationed in beautiful San Diego as a young Navy SEAL, and then I left the state because of all the reasons I’m going to write about below.
I LOVE California but it’s going to Hell with Harvey Weinstein.
To my Californian friends (and mom who lives in Ventura), it’s not too late to get out while you can, and apologies in advance for what I’m about to say.
There will be no take-backs… it’s truly liberating to actually express a strong opinion these days and I’m grateful that SOFREP is one of the few places I (we) have left for this.
Decades of failed environmental and fiscal leadership, along with a population that’s not held this leadership accountable, has got California here.
I would attribute this partly to an American political duopoly that gerrymanders and force-serves us all a two-course tasting menu by a bad chef.
Our choice. Democrat or Republican. Chicken or steak.
But I’m Pescatarian!? “You can only have the chicken or the steak!” the politicians yell back. So funny how Congress can call tech companies to the carpet to yell at them about market share strangleholds and not realize they have been abusing their market for years. How about they turn that mirror on themselves for a minute.
Wouldn’t it be great to have elections where we could just tally the popular vote and not the electoral votes? I think we’d see better candidates on the ballots and on the ballots and elected.
Back to the bad leadership that got us here.
The irony of Governor Newsom telling everyone to get “woke” to climate change, as his state burns in a thick layer of LA gridlock traffic smog, is like Trump telling Biden to stop tweeting whatever comes to mind from his basement. I think in chess they would call that last sentence above a “fork” but I’d have to ask my friend James Altucher, a great chess player, for sure.
If you really take the time to step back and look at California, it’s been in terrible shape for decades now. Its record on the environment is Bejing-like horrible. And the state’s great reputation ushered in by the rise of the chic blond surfers, incredible music scene, and Hollywood elite cool factor has been long gone to the unplugged.
Surfers along the coast get sick when it rains. Creepy industry moguls that used blowjobs as a promotion tool have fallen. Tech has fled abroad with an autonomous workforce. And an entertainment industry once orbiting around the Los Angeles elite has lost its gravitational pull with the rise of the tech streamers and “higher” morality.
It’s so strange that when you think of California, all these good images come to mind. In my head, all I want to think about is clean beaches, clean air, and healthy people — but the Californian reality is not that.
The romantic pull of California is so strong it makes you want to believe it’s different than it really is!
Dear Californian friends, and hold outs,
Please unplug yourself from the CA love matrix, step back and focus on the facts, and see the state for what it really is.
California has been burning for years. It has some of the worst vehicle traffic in the nation. In California, every 16-year-old kid has a dinosaur fuel-powered car! That’s four per family! And I’ve seen better public transportation in Afghanistan! California is routinely ranked number one for the worst air pollution in the country! Breathe that in for a moment in your downward dog!
I fondly remember free diving in the underwater kelp forests off of Catalina Island. I was so shocked to notice how quickly local fish populations dwindled in front of my 16-year-old eyes. I saw this growing up working as a young surfer and deckhand on a SCUBA charter boat. Now some species can only be seen in aquariums. So sad.
Maybe one day Artificial Intelligence (AI) will put us in zoos for AI children to look at us and screech, “Look mommy, those are the humans that almost destroyed the planet!”
And don’t get me started on the tax climate which is as bad, or worse, (maybe it can’t get worse) than the global warming that has ushered in the age of the Californian super fire.
So what happened to that California?! How did it all go down the drain? What can we do to fix it?
Tom Barker, a wise SEAL platoon mentor once told me, “Webb, you’ve earned the right to speak up but remember, never point out a problem in the platoon unless you have a solution to address it.” Those words have stuck with me through the years.
Let’s talk about solutions and incentives.
One of my favorite topics at Harvard Business school had been economics.
If I could do it all over again I’d have been a fighter pilot, and then studied to be a professional economist. Now I just have to settle as Navy SEAL, business owner, and being my own personal family economist.
What do economists do? To put it simply, they study economies, resources, inputs, outputs, GDP, and the incentives that drive economic engines. They make policy recommendations to political and business leaders worldwide. Remember that guy Ben Bernanke advising Obama during the last financial crisis? He’s an American economist.
I‘m pretty sure that Bernanke could take a room of Californian fifth graders and come up with better policy incentives than the current political leadership in California. Policies that would put the state back on track as a leader in renewable energy, climate change, public transportation, and rebuild the entertainment and tech fortresses.
Some quick solutions that come to mind:
Entertainment & Tech industries: Thirty years of tax breaks and (both State and Federal) incentives to entertainment and tech companies, including capital gains from sale, and start-up venture money for young entrepreneurs. You shouldn’t tax them out of state as they did to Buck Knives and Tesla.
Make California business-friendly again. Promote a new tax-friendly environment focused on keeping the same industries, which built the great reputation of the state, from fleeing. I’ve seen the power of this type of tax environment in Puerto Rico since they passed favorable tax laws in 2012. Why is Texas growing in jobs? Because it’s very business and individual income tax-friendly. People are fleeing California for the great state of Texas for that reason.
Smog & Traffic: A massive state-wide investment in high-speed renewable powered public transportation. I’m talking high- and low-speed trains that will make it so easy to commute to the airport or coast that it just won’t make sense to own multiple cars anymore. Implement a family car tax if more than one car is owned per household. Move up a state-wide commitment to go completely renewable by 2050 and watch things speed up. It is called the sunshine state for a reason…
Clean water: Same as above but applied to the boating industry. No commercial fishing in the coastal regions, no offshore drilling. Redirect all storm drains to a water recycling plant instead of pushing chemical cleaning products into the ocean. Focus on the big industries that do the damage, not the recreational industries and participants which often get punished and have little relative effect on the outcome.
Wildfires: We’re living with global warming, period. However, there’s some data that suggests that more controlled burns, i.e. letting smaller fires burn themselves out (similar to the rest of Baja south of San Diego) would reduce massive dry tinder buildup. Better fund the California fire department to study this and come up with a plan.
These are just off the cuff but a start.
Like the rest of you reading this, I also long for the California of decades past. A California with clean coastlines, clean air, and no traffic. With suntanned youth skating in the afternoon on the sunny Venice boardwalk, and a young Linda Ronstandt singing in some cool bar in the early evening warmth of a glowing Los Angeles skyline.
I truly hope California gets its act together because the state has so much potential, and the world is a better place with a beautiful California.
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