Column: The California haters are back. And once again, they get us all wrong

It will take more than roaring flames and rumbling earth to destroy what's great about California.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

If you live in California, here’s a news bulletin:

We are done. We are history. Pack up and leave now, while you still can.

For the record:

9:15 p.m. Oct. 31, 2019A previous version of this article said that a Wall Street Journal editorial was referring to Los Angeles’ ban on plastic straws. The editorial was referring to San Francisco’s ban.

I’m not just talking about the fact that half the state is on fire, which is tragic and frightening enough all on its own.

I’m parroting what a pack of gleeful doomsayers are saying about us in publications across the country. We are off the rails and off our rockers and it’s no wonder our great western experiment in modern living is going up in smoke.

The political right, of course, has long specialized in the sport of California mockery. But we’re now getting it from the left, as well. People are running for their lives and losing their homes, and the haters can’t wait to do a grave dance.


“It’s the End of California As We Know It,” warned a New York Times headline on an op-ed piece declaring that “at the heart of our state’s rot” is “a failure to live sustainably.”

Yeah, we‘ve got problems and a long way to go, but is there a state in the union that has done more in the interest of sustainability?

“California Is Becoming Unlivable,” screamed the Atlantic.

Speaking of which, do we sit around in California wondering if the Southeast — where many states are governed by Republicans, not wifty liberals — is unlivable because decades of construction on fragile coastal land has put millions of people in the direct path of killer hurricanes?

“Climate change,” the Atlantic said of our state, “is turning it into a tinderbox; the soaring cost of living is forcing even wealthy families into financial precarity. And, in some ways, the two crises are one: The housing crunch in urban centers has pushed construction to cheaper, more peripheral areas, where wildfire risk is greater.”

Some fair points can be found in this article. But even when you have to clear your throat to draw attention to yourself, there is no good reason to use the word “precarity.” Second of all, are some wealthy families, God forbid, selling their Range Rovers and laying off half the domestic staff? Are those among the horrors of financial precarity?


Even before fire season, California was under attack.

“California’s Hobo Paradise” was the title of a September editorial in the Wall Street Journal. The piece parroted President Trump’s bashing of California, particularly San Francisco and Los Angeles, for its tent cities and public health problems.

By the way, please advise Trump he doesn’t need to fuel up Air Force One and fly to California if homelessness is a genuine concern, because there’s a sizable population within walking distance of the White House.

“The city council has banned plastic straws,” the Journal editorial said, referring to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, “but the good liberals don’t seem bothered by streets strewn with human feces and needles that fall into storm sewers.”

First of all, we may be morons, but we have discovered that it’s possible to drink beverages without plastic straws. Second, I don’t know of anyone, liberal or conservative, who is not bothered by homelessness and the condition of our streets. And the rest of the country should be, too, since a lot of the people sleeping on our streets tell me they’ve come here from somewhere else, like the Midwest, the East and the South.

“California is a failed state,” said Breitbart News, which, as I recall, was founded by a man who lived rather comfortably here in one of the many affluent areas of our failed state.

“As climate change ravages the Golden State, earthquakes could become the least of residents’ concerns,” said the New Republic, which also questioned whether California is still livable.


Among her mother’s frequent warnings, the writer said, were these:

Don’t walk alone at night. Don’t eat processed food. And don’t ever move to California, because, among its myriad other problems, “California’s going to fall off the face of the country and sink into the ocean.”

I doubt that, even as sea levels rise, but I don’t doubt that Trump will keep calling climate change a hoax even after he has to snorkel through the front door of Mar-a-Lago.

It’s not that I disagree with all of the criticisms we’re hearing about California, and even a lot of Californians have issues with the state, because more people are now leaving than moving in. It wasn’t long ago that I fretted in a column about our inability to keep the lights on and the twin demons of flat wages and high housing costs and the growing epidemic of homelessness.

But as a native, I’ve got a license to swing that club. And as I pointed out, our fair state is also home to the world’s fifth-largest economy and is a world capital of innovation and creativity. California has a hell of a lot more going for it than you’ll ever hear from our jealous critics and gasbag pundits. We have our share of problems for sure. But on issues such as climate change, immigration, criminal justice reform and investments in children, we are actively trying to make things better.

“Why would anyone live in California?” the Washington Times asked in September in an op-ed that said “eggs cost 50% more” in Los Angeles than in D.C. because of our cage-free hen law.

Why would anyone live here?

Gee, I don’t know. The 40 million or so people who call California home might have an answer or two, but let me offer a few of my own.


The beaches, the mountains, the deserts, the sunsets, the rural, the urban, the red, the blue, the people, the wildlife, the languages, the history, the diversity, the endless curiosities, the energy, the universities, the music, the art, the food, the culture, the climate, the risks that worked, the experiments that failed, the long tradition of break-away politics and the collective agreement that you can say or think of us what you will — we don’t really care one way or another — just shelter in place (unless you’re a firefighter) and please don’t move here.

It is unmanageable and unlivable, I’m telling you.

Designed and guaranteed to fail.