By John Ruberry
While I’m watching snow fall outdoors at Marathon Pundit world headquarters in Morton Grove, Illinois, the rest of my family is vacationing in southern California.
When they drove into California at Needles, just as the Joads did in The Grapes of Wrath, they were also greeted by more desert, as well as this 76 sign, which informs motorists that regular gasoline is selling for $3.79-a-gallon, more than a dollar above the national average.
Taxes are of course the reason and late last year the Tarnished State increased its gas taxes by 12 cents-a-gallon, to pay for road improvements.
California’s problems are vast. When the cost-of-living is figured in California suffers from the nation’s highest poverty rate. Modern day Joads are better off staying in Oklahoma. California’s roads are in bad shape because of onerous financial obligations in other parts of the budget. CalPERs, California’s public worker pension plan, is a sinkhole, so much so that Governor Jerry Brown is suggesting that pension benefits might be lowered–even for state workers currently paying into the program.
Another budget-buster is California’s high-speed rail project. Eight years ago voters approved the $40 billion project because government would pay for construction, which would make it “free.” Cost estimates for it have already climbed to $64 billion. If completed, and right now that might be stretch at best, it will run between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The relatively inexpensive segment where construction has begun, between Madera and Bakersfield, is already beset by delays, so much so that Victor Davis Hanson is musing that what little has been built could end up as nothing more than a modern Stonehenge. While the project is receiving federal funds, an increase of cash from Washington DC is not going to happen during the Trump presidency. So don’t count on a bailout, Californians.
Liberalism is expensive. And liberals love trains because, unlike cars and buses, they only go where there are tracks.
Moving up the Pacific Coast Highway into Oregon we learn that legislators are considering implementing an expensive cap-and-trade scheme that will punish large energy users, who are of course also large employers, in order to fight global warming. California has a cap-and-tax racket going already. But there is some good news out of Oregon. Earlier this year, a new law took effect that allows drivers to fill up their own gas tanks–without an attendant. Of course some Oregonians freaked out, No, this was not an episode of Portlandia. Now only another coastal blue state, New Jersey, bans self-serve gas stations.
Heading north over the Columbia River into Washington, legislators in that blue state are debating a $10-a-ton carbon tax, one that a Democratic legislator who opposes it calls a “pretty sizable gas-tax increase.” Washington’s governor, Democrat Jay Inslee, who prefers a $20-a-ton tax, laughingly calls his plan a jobs creator.
The United States has much cheaper energy costs than Japan and most nations in Europe, which is one of the reasons, along with President Trump’s slashing of regulations–many of them involving energy–why the American economy is booming.
Does the West Coast want to be left behind as the rest of our nation enjoys prosperity? California, as it has been for decades for good and for ill, is already ahead of the curve.
John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.