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“I have been living in the United States for seven years and I had never felt unsafe… until I moved to California,” said Ana Corina, a 26-year-old Venezuelan who left Florida because of a lucrative job offer her husband received in California. The couple moved to the Golden State in the middle of the pandemic about six months ago. Now, they are thinking of moving back to Miami.
The state of California, famous for its beaches, great natural parks, and for being the center of the pompous and very glamorous American film industry, hides another face, a face hidden by audiovisual productions and the mainstream media: misery, regulations, shortages, and crime. They are, in the end, the consequence of the systematic application of socialism in California, more akin to Third World countries in Latin American than to the world’s greatest power.
“People don’t realize it and most simply ignore what is happening and don’t think it’s important,” Ana Corina tells El American about those small details she notices on a daily basis that ultimately terrify her and immediately remind her of what she fled from.
“I left Venezuela in 2014 running from socialism. Now, every day I see little things that remind me of Venezuela in the mid-2000s. And here, like there, people don’t pay attention to it either. They think it is circumstantial”.
Ana Corina feels the similarities more intensely because she left Florida for California. It is palpable, one state is the antithesis of the other. Florida has been governed by a Republican for 20 uninterrupted years. California, on the other hand, and with the exception of Arnold Schwarzenegger, has been governed by Democrats since the end of the last century. The first and most representative consequence of the governments is plain to see: thousands of Californians are leaving the state. Thousands of Americans are fleeing their states to Florida and Texas. Ana Corina made the journey against that trend. Today she regrets it.
People are running away from socialism in California
For decades, California was one of the fastest-growing U.S. states. The American dream, after the mid-century decline of New York, rose up in Los Angeles. It was the city where everyone from everywhere wanted to go. The state’s real estate values, unlike the high prices of the Big Apple, allowed major film and television studios to set up shop on the West Coast. Hollywood, then, became the mecca of cinema worldwide. No more Paris and the Nouvelle Vague. Now it was Hollywood and its westerns. No more Godard or Rivette; now George Lucas and Polanski.
But that’s not the case anymore. The population stopped growing and people stopped visiting, primarily because of the consequences of socialism in California. The 21st century has fatally battered the Golden State’s economy and it is experiencing an unprecedented exodus today. Not only Americans from other states stopped migrating to Los Angeles and San Francisco. Now, thousands of Californians pack up their lives and fly or drive to Arizona, Texas, Nevada, or Florida.
The population growth went from 50% in 1950 to 6.1% in 2019. California’s population grew from 23 million to 29 million between 1980 and 1990. By contrast, the population declined from 37 million to 39 million between 2010 and 2019. The most dramatic number, however, was in the midst of the pandemic. In approximately 12 months, the state’s population only grew by 21 thousand people, a 0.5% growth. A considerable reduction of the previous rhythm.
In 2019 alone, more than 650,000 people fled California. Most of them relocated to Texas (82,000); Arizona (59,000); Nevada (47,000); Washington (46,000); and Florida (28,000). In contrast, only 37,000 people moved from Texas to California; 28,000 from Arizona; 26,000 from Nevada; 31,000 from Washington; and 22,000 from Florida.
In 2015, the total number of legal immigrants moving to California was 15,000. In 2018, that number decreased to 11,000. But it was not the lowest point. In 2013, only 7,000 legal immigrants settled in California.
In a column in The Arizona Republic, contributor Jon Gabriel wrote: “Driving across Arizona, it’s hard not to notice a surge in California license plates. The reason for this is becoming more apparent every day. California is a failed state.”
The data is objective and portrays a disturbing reality. People are fleeing what for decades was one of our leading economies, both nationally and abroad. This is alarming primarily because it could be the prelude to something much worse. And this mood has become increasingly popular.
From being a movie mecca, California has become the heart of the global technology world. Silicon Valley, the capital of innovation, was able to be the home of the largest technology companies in the world. Google, Samsung, Intel, Oracle, Apple, and Netflix have all built their operations centers in Silicon Valley–but this is changing. And the first step was taken by Elon Musk, the second-richest man in the world, when he announced that he is moving to Texas. And he also hinted that he would also move Tesla, whose headquarters are now located in Palo Alto, California.
Hewlett-Packard, which started in Palo Alto in 1939, joined the trend and will soon move from the city of San Jose in California to Houston, Texas. Dropbox. Inc. and Oracle Corporation followed suit as well.
Journalist Nicole Lopez-Alvar said in an article she wrote that “Nearly 1,000 people, including major tech companies from Silicon Valley, are moving to Florida per day.” In her article, Lopez-Alvar highlights that San Francisco is the U.S. city that has lost the most residents during the pandemic.
The process is also happening with celebrities. The Miami Herald reported that Kim Kardashian is likely to leave Calabasas and relocate to Florida.
National Review columnist David Bahnsen called the new phenomenon: “California’s Great Exodus.” In his column Bahnsen is blunt, saying that “there is one basic, objective reality that is impossible to spin away — people are leaving in droves.”
“To leave a spot often branded as paradise for its warm, sunny, and consistent weather, there has to be a catalyst. Dreamers long flooded into California because of an entrepreneurial culture that was real and palpable. From Hollywood to Silicon Valley, from the Central Valley to San Diego, from downtown Los Angeles to the Inland Empire, whether in entertainment, technology, agriculture, sciences, big business, or small business, there was a dream associated with being in California.”— David Bahnsen
“But, alas,” continues Bahnsen, “it has been no accident, either, that all of this has wrenchingly reversed.”
Will Witt is a well-known internet personality, conservative activist, and voice of PragerU. He lives in Hollywood, California, but is also considering moving to Florida. In an interview with El American, Witt said he will soon be living in the Sunshine State.
“These places, like Texas or Florida, are freedom. They’re where you have a chance to do something with your life,” he said.
The weight of the state
Nicole, a 28-year-old American, agrees with Ana Corina about the insecurities facing the state of California. It is tangible and harassing. “I also had to move recently for work. I used to live in Tampa and came to California. Fortunately, I won’t be around for long. I have to stick it out for two years,” she tells El American.
“The most unbearable thing is that you really feel the danger. I don’t live in a bad area, but I’m afraid to walk alone. Walking fast, with my purse clutched tightly, you know? I’ve never done that before.”
According to a 2018 Marshall Institute study, California, despite multiple attempts at judicial reform, leads the national trend with respect to rising crime. According to the institute, between 2014 and 2017, violent crime increased 12% in California. In contrast, nationally violent crime increased by 3%.
Ana Corina tells El American that she was deeply impacted by a visit she made one day to Inglewood, a city in Los Angeles County. “It was incredible. Again I had a memory of the Venezuela I left. I arrived in Inglewood, which was about two months ago, and the streets were empty. Homeless people in the streets; but what surprised me the most was that all the commercial premises had a watchman, bars, and cardboard in the windows to prevent people from looking in.”
“I don’t live in a bad area, not at all. I am literally next to Palos Verdes,” Ana Corina says, “but two weeks ago we were woken up by two helicopters that were looking for a suspect on the run. There were patrols everywhere.
Ana Corina says that her neighbors’ house has already been broken into on a couple of occasions by homeless individuals. The police never arrested them. “They can’t,” she tells El American. “And since they didn’t properly enter their house but the garden, then it wasn’t seen as trespassing.”
Homelessness is California’s other major problem. It is serious and has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Shelters are closed and now thousands of homeless people roam the streets of Los Angeles and San Francisco. No one seems to be doing anything.
According to Will Witt, homelessness is California’s biggest problem. And the responsibility falls, of course, on the erratic socialist and welfarist policies with which the rulers have approached the crisis.
“They’re giving them subsidies. They are practically incentivizing people to be destitute. They let them stay in abandoned or empty houses. While homelessness is decreasing across the country, in California it is increasing. In fact, half of the nation’s homeless now live in California,” Witt told El American.
Homelessness is an inescapable fact. A walk through Los Angeles, San Francisco, or San Diego tells the story of the crisis. Hundreds of people, along the streets, dragging their feet on the asphalt, homeless. Parks are no longer for the homeless, but shelters for dozens of families. A Los Angeles Times article says that “California accounts for the largest share of the nation’s homeless population. In 2018, there were 129,972 people on the streets any given night of the week across the state.” By 2020 that number has risen.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than half of the homeless in America are located in California.
In a National Review article, Michael Tanner, director of the Cato Institute’s Project on Poverty and Inequality in California, explains that “The state’s homeless population has risen steadily for more than a decade, even as homelessness has declined nationally. California’s homeless population increased by just over 20 percent from 2009 to 2019, while the number of people experiencing homelessness nationwide dropped by about 10 percent over the same time.”
Tanner explains that “far too many Californians experiencing homelessness have simply “fallen to the street” because they lack access to housing that they can afford.”
This is a welfare government and one would think that so many social policies, aimed at supporting the citizen, should solve the problem. But this is not the case. Tanner says that, although “California has a generous social safety net, this does not seem to translate into benefits for the homeless.”
“Waiting lists for subsidized housing are extremely long, and shelter beds do not cover even a fraction of the need.”
The problem of homelessness transcends the aesthetic impact to a state as attractive to tourism as California. Deteriorating public health and crime are the main consequences of the seemingly indomitable crisis.
“Any long-term solution to California’s homelessness crisis will require more affordable housing, and that will mean reducing the regulations that make it nearly impossible to build new housing in the state,” writes Tanner.
Ana Corina has only been living in Torrance, forty minutes from Los Angeles, for five months. During her first week in the Golden State, she had a brush with the reality of socialism in California.
“It reminded me a lot of Venezuela. I had just moved. I went to a Whole Foods and the first thing that greets me in the deli area is a sign that says, ‘Sorry, but due to shortages we are limiting rib eye purchases to only 5 pounds per family.”
“But there was no such thing in Florida! Back there I could buy 100 pounds of rib eye if I felt like it.”
Shortages have also hit the state. The local government forced the closure of butcher shops because of the pandemic. The meat shortage is severe.
Although production chains have been affected throughout the country, the San Francisco Bay Area has been the hardest hit. The shortages have more to do with distribution problems than lack of supply.
But even though most states have managed to find solutions, even today, a year after the pandemic began and the first episodes of meat shortages were seen on the West Coast, supermarkets are still suffering from shortages of some products.
Canned vegetables or wax paper are some of the products regulated in several of the most important supermarkets in California. One of the heaviest burdens on the shoulders of California citizens is, without a doubt, high taxes. Perhaps the most lethal, taxes are directly used against Californians.
For political commentator Anthony Cabassa, people leave the state “because taxes are so high.” “Every election year there are always measures to raise taxes, and the promise is for better infrastructure and better schools for our children,” says Cabassa.
Cabassa insists, above all, on property taxes: “They always increase.”
In contrast, for example, “Florida has no income tax. Texas state taxes are low. In addition, gasoline and housing prices are cheaper in both states.”
According to information from the Tax Foundation, California has the highest state income taxes in the United States: 7.25%. And, if you combine state and local, California ranks ninth. The main reason Elon Musk left California was, in fact, the income tax. There are no income taxes in Texas.
“Californians can’t afford to pay high taxes, rising gas prices, and high rent/mortgage.” Cabassa told El American.
Finally, the government-mandated shutdown of businesses, in addition to the pandemic crisis, is making matters worst. California was the first state to impose a total lockdown in response to the COVID pandemic. It has also been one of the strictest states.
“People are sick and tired of seeing people in other states, free, while we remain locked down,” Will Witt tells El American. “People see the tyranny our governments are imposing on us and decide to go to free places,” he says.
Anthony Cabassa also believes the lockdowns has driven Californians away. “People can’t resist harsh lockdowns,” he stresses.
These lockdowns, in addition to having a lethal impact on the state’s economy, are also affecting the youngest members of the household. “My 3 children were forced to do zoom classes for almost a year, and the school unions here used them as political pawns for personal gain,” Cabassa said.
“I had to stop working my part time job and find a ‘work from home’ job so I can help my children at home with any assignments, and watch them as they stayed home throughout their year in ‘online’ school,” Cabassa relates.
A new beginning
If there are people responsible to be singled out, it is the local and regional rulers. “Gavin Newsom is a good place to start,” says Will Witt. But he also points to Rep. Maxine Waters, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, all three Democrats.
Anthony Cabassa, for his part, blames the media: “I put a lot of the blame on the media, especially the mainstream Spanish media that has not done a good job on informing voters on the pros and cons of policies, and pushing a leftist bias.”
“It seems scandals are hushed, and never covered, and so people aren’t informed on the political party doing the most damage to California, which let’s face it, it is a one-party state,” he says.
However, the scales are tipping the other way. Today a campaign to remove Gavin Newsom from power has more than 80% of the 1.5 million signatures needed to hold the recall referendum later this year.
In addition, the exodus is a sign of a profound alteration in Californians’ perception of American politics and a repudiation of socialism in California. Hundreds of thousands are fleeing the Golden State for more prosperous states now governed by Republicans. In some ways, for a citizen to pack their bags and drive hundreds of miles to move to Houston or Pensacola represents a rejection of the socialist policies the Democratic Party has imposed on California.
“No question. In the short time I’ve lived here I’ve met many Californians who are organizing to move. It’s just too many people. And they’re all unhappy with their local governments,” Nicole tells El American.
“For me, I have two years left to endure. But I’m excited to know that I’ll be back in my hometown of Tampa. I hope Florida keeps going the way it’s going… There really is freedom there,” Nicole insists.
In February of this year, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, a Republican, launched an ad campaign to invite tech companies and Californians, in general, to move to South Florida.
“Thinking about moving to Miami? DM me,” read a giant billboard in San Francisco.
And he’s achieving it. The media already talks about Miami as the new Silicon Valley.
“You can see how the quality of life of people in Florida is better than Californians in every way,” Witt tells El American. “My goal is for every conservative in America to move to Florida and let’s make the state our little country.”
Cabassa is also thinking about moving. But it’s not easy, he acknowledges. “We have already looked at multiple states to possibly relocate, but it would mean starting over new, leaving family behind to include my mother who lives with us, and selling our home,” he recounts.
The hope lies, in the end, in things getting better. California’s potential is immense. It has everything to return to being the economic powerhouse it once was.
“It reminds me a lot of Venezuela,” says Ana Corina. “The beauty of this state is incomparable to any other I’ve known in the United States. In the mornings I jog along the beach and in the afternoons I climb the mountain.”
“It reminds me of Venezuela because it looks like a state that although it had it all, it is doomed to fail… It would be very sad if that were to happen here,” Ana Corina laments.
Orlando Avendaño is the co-editor-in-chief of El American. He is a Venezuelan journalist and has studies in the History of Venezuela. He is the author of the book Days of submission // Orlando Avendaño es el co-editor en Jefe de El American. Es periodista venezolano y cuenta con estudios en Historia de Venezuela. Es autor del libro Días de sumisión.