California, where I live and my home Massachusetts shaped themselves to be the final bastions of both liberalism and the progressive left. Places that house both spaces where people ask you your pronoun before your name and deindustrialized communities. A common complaint in California is that it is overtaxed and underrepresented federally. California houses a high percent of the wealthiest Americans, a gift of three colossal industries in agriculture, entertainment, and tech. I am hard pressed to say the millionaires and their increasingly more common counterpart the billionaire are not well represented in our political system or that they share the same values as the working poor, who even within the deep blue went red. Apple, a favored son is embroiled with EU regulators over using Ireland as an illegal tax haven. Around the country, states are in a race to the bottom over film tax incentives that make the California salaries of stars more palpable to make within state lines. The corporate welfare for projects that earn billions collectively. Much like the roots of the tech industry stem from federally funded origins.
Below the progressive headlines a far more troubled state exists. The cities remain self segregated with the exception of the much maligned gentrifier. The numbers are diverse on paper, but life is far more homogeneous. Hipster bars are as white as any episode of “Girls”. In LA within the (entertainment) Industry, people are more concerned about a five million versus 7 million salary than the pay of the basic laborers and assistants, who often aren’t paid for their sixty plus hour workweeks. Nationally, digital disruption and automation has caused widespread job loss and not much is reinvested in the people of our nation. California is a state where many longtime and native residents keep falling behind as the cost of living skyrockets. A land where a family goes into poverty over the water bill, but the rich keep their evergreen all year Edens.
This summer I went on a road trip from Los Angeles to Big Sur. I spent some time in the Central Valley region. I thought Coolidge was in office from the state of the farm lands. People unable to work their craft and herds thinner than the happy California cows of old. Now the Billionaires have come for the dirt that remains for a more convenient commute. While I support the high speed rail line, I worry that it will not include the small communities in between the hubs.
California has made great social progress, but those concerns seem to fade when economics is discussed. It is hard to support four hundred million in incentives to people in mansions when down the street from the studio is a tent city. There are two Californians, one for each America today. Last Tuesday’s state results were a reaffirmation of the status quo.