California may face the nation’s largest budget deficit at $16 billion. It may struggle with the nation’s second-highest unemployment rate at 10.6 percent. It will soon vote whether to levy the nation’s highest income and sales taxes, as if to encourage others to join the 2,000-plus high earners who are leaving the state each week. The new taxes will be our way of saying, “Good riddance.” And if California is home to one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients and the largest number of illegal aliens, it is nonetheless apparently happy and thus solidly for Obama, by a +24 percent margin in the latest Field poll. The unemployment rate in my hometown is 16 percent, the per capita income is $16,000 — and I haven’t seen a Romney sticker yet. …
… California has the nation’s highest gas taxes and fuel prices, and the tightest supplies — and reputedly one of the worst-maintained infrastructures, with out-of-date, overcrowded, and poorly maintained freeways. When I head home each week from Palo Alto, I feel like an Odysseus fighting modern-day Lotus Eaters, Cyclopes, and Laestrygonians to reach Ithaka, wondering what obstacle will sidetrack me this trip — huge potholes, entire sections of the freeway reduced to one lane, or various poorly marked detours? If the nation’s highest gas taxes give us all that, what might the lowest bring?
Although the state is facing a $16 billion annual budgetary shortfall, Governor Brown is determined to press ahead with high-speed rail — estimated to cost eventually over $200 billion. Such is his zeal that he intends to override the environmental lawsuits that usually stymie private projects for years. The line is scheduled to pass a few miles from my farm, its first link connecting Fresno and Corcoran, home to the state prison that houses Charles Manson.
Yet a money-losing Amtrak line already connects Fresno and Corcoran. I often ride my bike near the tracks and notice the half-empty cars that zoom by.