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A Bit from Britain

October 5, 2009

British Sunday paper The Observer ran a piece wondering whether California will become ‘America’s first failed state.’ It made a few errors but ended relatively well. Some notes:

  • The article opens with an anecdote contrasting the lines of people waiting for health care outside of the Forum in LA and the recent cuts to the Healthy Families program. This wouldn’t be a problem if Congress passed health care reform. Obviously, the cuts in health care are embarrassing, but it would be nice for the writer to recognize that this is a problem of national significance, not one that is unique to California.
  • The author says, this claiming that California is facing a type of immigration crisis: “Between 2004 and 2008, half a mission residents upped sticks and headed elsewhere.” To the first claim, how many people have upped sticks and headed for California? While the numbers that I’ve seen do say that the net interstate migration is negative, I think a total number, including migration, would be much less drastic. The Economist has a more nuanced take on this issue.
  • He also writes: “By 2010, California could lose a congressman because its population will have fallen so much – an astonishing prospect for a state that is currently the biggest single political entity in America.” In this bit, the author shows that he doesn’t understand the allocation of Congressional seats. They are not awarded by absolute population but by relative population. Even if California’s population is rising, our total number of Representatives could drop if others states’ populations were rising more rapidly. The loss of a seat in the House for California wouldn’t be much of a blow as we would still have the largest delegation.

Ultimately, though, the piece ends on the perfect note: “If America emerges from its crisis a greener, more economically and politically responsible nation, it is likely that renewal will have begun here.” Cleantech and green business will play a large part in any economic recovery and California leads the nation in that sector.

Update: Robert Cruickshank has an in-depth response to the Observer article at California Progress Report.

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