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EDITORIAL: Feudalism is alive and well in California

Nevada Democrats won firm control of the Legislature in the November elections. They should take a hard look at our neighbor to the west.

For all their hand-wringing over “inequality,” progressives may not have noticed that their nirvana — California — is starting to resemble a Middle Age feudal empire. That’s the disconcerting conclusion of researchers from the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University.

Authors Joel Kotkin and Marshall Toplansky found several problematic trends in the state’s growing economy.

“California has now taken on an increasingly feudal cast, with a small but growing group of the ultra-rich, a diminishing middle class and a large, rising segment of the population that is in or near poverty,” they write.

It starts with job losses. While an unprecedented technology boom has boosted employment in the San Francisco area, blue-collar jobs are disappearing. Manufacturing jobs decreased by 423,700 between 1991 and 2016.

While some of these developments reflect national trends, many of those jobs have been driven away in part by the coastal elites’ insistence on “green” policies. California has the second-highest energy rates in the country, which are almost double the prices paid in Nevada. California officials are also demanding 100 percent renewable energy by 2045, which will further boost power rates. In 2006, California passed a bill mandating that it reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. It passed a cap-and-trade program in 2012.

The main result of these regulations “has been to chase away historically well-paying jobs in manufacturing, energy and homebuilding, all key fields for working- and middle-class Californians,” Mr. Kotkin and Mr. Toplansky write.

Those jobs used to help many lower-educated individuals obtain a middle-class lifestyle. In 2015-16, however, minimum wage jobs accounted for two-thirds of California’s new employment opportunities. “California’s draconian anti-climate-change regime has exacerbated economic, geographic and racial inequality,” the authors write.

Poverty in California disproportionately affects minorities, who make up more than 60 percent of the state. One-third of California’s Latinos live in poverty. In other states, it’s 21 percent. More than 45 percent of California’s children live at or near the poverty line.

Even those who aren’t living in poverty have less of a chance of building personal wealth. That’s because environmental regulations and bureaucratic mandates have dramatically increased housing prices. The authors find that local regulatory fees increase the cost of a new home by $50,000, which is two-and-a-half times as much as the average in other states. That doesn’t include the cost of California’s recent requirement that new homes come with solar panels starting in 2020. That will add $10,000 to the price of a house. Homeownership in California is now more an upper-class luxury than a middle-class staple.

Progressives love to decry income inequality. If only they were as quick to realize that many of their preferred policies have transformed the Golden State into a modern-day serfdom. Democrats now enjoy veto-proof majorities in the California legislature. Outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown recently warned them about going “further out than I think the majority of people want.” It’s a lesson Nevada Democrats would be wise to heed, too.

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