After visiting the Soviet Union in 1919, the progressive journalist, Lincoln Steffens (1866-1936) said, “I have seen the future, and it works.”
Steffens turned a blind eye to Lenin’s crimes of terror, repression and murder.
It was okay to tolerate a “temporary condition of evil, which is made tolerable by a hope and a plan,” he said.
In 2021, as Senator Bernie Sanders attempts to impose his progressive vision of a “future” America, that includes an expansive welfare state, repeal of immigration laws, open borders, and ideological prescriptions that tolerate crimes, drug dealing and homelessness, he is turning a blind eye to California where his “future” is a disastrous reality.
To get a sense of how progressives have wrecked California, I recommend two newly published books to your reading: Victor David Hanson’s The Dying Citizen: How Progressive Elites, Tribalism, and Globalization Are Destroying the Idea of America, and Michael Shellenberger’s San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities.
Dr. Hanson, a life-long resident of California, has written an important work that explains how progressives are undermining citizenship, sovereign borders and destroying the middle class.
To make his case, Hansen focuses on California which he notes “has become the progressives dream for the nation’s future and the middle-class nightmare of the present.”
Middle-class folks are fleeing the Gold State due to “exorbitant taxes, poor schools and infrastructure, high crime, costly fuel and food, and astronomical housing costs.”
More than 5 million bolted the state between 2004 and 2013. In 2018, people leaving hit 700,000.
As for those remaining, public opinion polls indicate that more than 40% of them would like to depart.
California also has the distinction of being “home to the nation’s largest population of illegal immigrants and homeless people.”
Half of the nation’s homeless are in California. Over 20% of the state’s 40 million residents are below the poverty line, and 33% are on Medi-Cal, “the state’s health care program for low-income residents.”
These demographics explain the ever-growing economic inequality in California. With the top marginal state income tax rate at 13.3%, out of 14 million households, 150 thousand pay half of those taxes. Over 40 percent pay zero taxes.
Progressive policies, Hanson concludes, have “certainly transformed California into not so much two different states as two different worlds: a highly sophisticated, highly regulated, and uniform coastal gentry juxtaposed with an impoverished interior of largely immigrant and first-generation Californians with little ability or desire to adhere to California’s labyrinth of rules and regulations.”
On the local level, claims that progressive formulas can solve homelessness, inequality, and crime have proven illusionary, particularly in the super-wealthy San Francisco Bay Area.
In San Fransickco, Michael Shellenberger—himself a man of the left—argues persuasively that the Bay Area’s underlying program “is an ideology that decimates some people by identity or experience, as victims entitled to destructive behaviors.”
As a result, while homelessness has been in decline in most major cities in the past five years, it grew by 32% in San Francisco. Seventy-three percent of the homeless live on the streets. A majority are drug addicts or mentally ill.
And the thousands living in street or park encampments has taken its toll on the city.
Calls to the 311-line complaining about hypodermic needles on the streets and in parks rose between 2010 and 2020 from 224 annually to 6,275.
In 2020, the city received 29,162 calls demanding sanitation services remove human waste from the streets.
San Francisco spent $100 million cleaning streets in 2019, 4 times more than Chicago which has 3.5 times more people and an area 4.5 times larger.
Property crimes have skyrocketed 50% from 3,000 per 100,000 in 2011 to 4,500 in 2019. There were over 25,000 car break-ins in 2018.
Shoplifting is out of control due to legalized stealing of up to $900 per incident. Since 2016, Walgreens has closed 22 stores due to pilfering, and has announced its intention to close 5 more.
And as the city declines and the middle class flees, the wealthy, who live in gated communities and send their kids to private schools, continue to vote for progressive governing, because, as one observer quipped, “they don’t have to walk their kids through [homeless neighborhoods] and play hopscotch over the feces and needles.”
California progressives are, in Shellenberger’s judgment, ruining their state and local cities because:
They defend the right of people they characterize as Victims to camp on sidewalks, in parks, and along highways, as well as to break other laws, including against public drug use and defecation. They intimidate experts, policy makers, and journalists by attacking them as being motivated by a hatred of the poor, people of color, and the sick, and as causing violence against them. They reduce penalties for shoplifting, drug dealing, and public drug use. They prefer homelessness and incarceration to involuntary hospitalization for the mentally ill and addicted. And their ideology blinds them to the harms of harm reduction, Housing First, and camp-anywhere policies….
Not a pretty picture.
And if Bernie Sanders and his comrades have their way, the future for the other 49 states will be just as dismal.
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact," and "Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy." Read George J. Marlin's Reports — More Here.
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