Too many people go to too many locales to work, and, as housing prices have surged, many have moved farther way, which makes trains less practical, given the lack of a dominant job center. But in its desire to emulate places like New York, Los Angeles has spent some $15 billion trying to evolve into what some East Coast enthusiasts call the “next great transit city.”
The rail lines have earned Mayor Eric Garcetti almost endless plaudits from places like the New York Times. Yet, since 1990, transit’s work trip market share has dropped from 5.6 percent to 5.1 percent. MTA system ridership stands at least 15 percent below 1985 levels, when there was only bus service, and the population of Los Angeles County was about 20 percent lower. In some places, like Orange County, the fall has been even more precipitous, down 30 percent since 2008. It is no surprise, then, that, according to a recent USC study, the new lines have done little or nothing to lessen congestion.
Here’s the good news: Los Angeles and Orange counties produced 45,968 college graduates to technology-related degrees between 2010 and 2015. Only two other markets — New York and Washington D.C. — produced more. L.A.-O.C. produced 33,080 new technology jobs between 2011 and 2016, seventh-best growth among big tech hubs behind San Francisco, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle and D.C. Unfortunately, when you combine those two trends you see an ugly gap between the lofty level of local tech graduates and modest growth of L.A.-O.C. tech employment.
These changes will define, and perhaps undermine, our economy by creating a dearth of new workers. Between 2013 and 2025, the number of high school graduates in our state is expected to drop by 5 percent, compared to a 19 percent increase in Texas, 10 percent growth in Florida and a 9 percent rise in North Carolina. Some, of course, may hail these trends. Environmental activists and their allies in the density lobby generally prefer a childless population, both to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to expand their influence. Some tech-oriented futurists may even suggest that robots will replace all but the most skilled of workers, making additional children more a burden than a blessing. Yet, for California employers — at least until the technological nirvana — a labor shortage, particularly in skilled trades, could prove troubling in the near-term, and even medium-term, future. Historically, California could count on migration from both the rest of the nation and abroad. But this seems to have changed dramatically. The state has lost more domestic migrants than it has gained since at least 2000. Net immigration, the other lodestone of our labor force growth, has also slowed.
Historically, California’s great strength was the diversity of its economy, stretching from high-tech and aerospace to finance, entertainment, energy, basic manufacturing and homebuilding. Yet, during the most recent boom, the growth of high-wage job growth largely took place in one region — the Bay Area — while other sectors generally stagnated or shrank. . . . Perhaps most damaging of all, the allure of the tech boom has been used to justify Sacramento’s crushing regulatory and tax regime. The state’s strong performance since 2010 has convinced many in the political class and the media that business climate does not matter. It has made apologists able to ignore some 10,000 businesses that have left or expanded outside of the state, many of them employing middle- and working-class people. High-tech and entertainment are great industries to have, even at slower growth rates, but they cannot long carry such a diverse state with the highest poverty rate in the country and severe affordability challenges. California has been largely lulled to sleep by a now fading boom. We could experience a very rude awakening that will cause havoc to the state budget, produce a potential housing correction and challenge communities across the state.
California Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent trip to China reflects the massive disconnect inherent in the progressive establishment worldview. The notion that the country that is the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, emitting nearly twice as much as the United States, and is generating coal energy at record levels, should lead the climate jihad is so laughable as to make its critics, including Trump, seem reasonable. All this, despite the fact that the U.S., largely due to the shift from coal to natural gas, is clearly leading the world in greenhouse gas reductions. Paris is good for China in that it gets it off the hook for reducing its emissions until 2030, while the gullible West allows its economies to be buried by ever-cascading regulations. The accords could have cost U.S. manufacturers as many as 6.5 million industrial jobs, while China gets a basically free pass. President Xi Jinping also appeals to the increasingly popular notion among progressives that an autocracy like China is better suited to address climate change than our sometimes chaotic democratic system.