For a century and a half, America has been California dreaming. The Golden State is a uniquely blessed state in many ways: A stunning geography, temperate weather, oil. and not to mention the original economic engine that powered the ‘49ers, gold, are among its sterling assets.
It’s little wonder, then, that for decades, Americans have flocked to California in droves, making it by far the country’s most populous state. By the middle of the 20th century, with its gleaming highways, world-beating public university system and optimistic ethos, California more or less constituted what it meant to be an American.
But in recent decades, California has grown less utopian and rather more dystopian. The once proudly middle class state looks increasingly Latin American, with a small number of extremely rich people, a huge number of very poor people and a shriveling middle class. The state’s budget is a perennial basket