Should California Declare Independence?
(Note: If you work in any major tech/science hub of the USA, you should be concerned about what i write below because you are in the same grotesque situation. All regions around a major tech/science hub have voted against the man who was then elected president, against his policies and against his character. The tech/science that YOU are developing makes him the most powerful man in the world, and gives him the power to behave on the world stage the way he behaves. Without YOUR tech/science, he would be just a regional troublemaker like so many fascist and communist dictators of the developing world).
(Note: When people read this page, they assume that i am a "liberal".
I don't know what exactly that label is supposed to mean, but one big
impediments to California's independence is the increasingly centralized
government of the USA, which is something that has been mainly wanted by
the Democratic Party: send all taxes to Washington and then let Washington
decide how to spend them. If the USA were a decentralized union, with most
of the taxes and the decisions at the state level, it would be much easier
for a state to declare independence, so the main "obstacle" to Calexit is actually the Democratic Party).
- California is a colony, not a state: it is taxed, but not represented. Let me explain what i mean by "not represented".
1. California has a population of 40 million people but only gets two senators in the senate, just like tiny Rhode Island and Connecticut. No offense to those states, but their citizens are hundreds of times more represented than me in the senate. The 20 smallest states have a combined population totaling less than 40 million. The constitution grants two senators per state, which means that the 40 million people of the 20 smallest states elect 40 senators whereas the 40 million people of California are allowed to elect only 2.
The will of the 40 million Californians literally does not matter: the will of
the 20 smallest states counts 20 times more than the will of the 40 million people of California.
It could well be that the people of Rhode Island and Iowa are smarter than all 40 million Californians, but an additional side effect is that the farmer states
exert a disproportionate influence on the senate.
They represent the old economy and account for a small percentage of the GDP.
California represents the high-tech industry of the future and a much bigger
share of GDP. When you have 40 senators who represent the old, declining
economy and a shrinking share of GDP, it is difficult for the senate to pass
legislation that protects the industry of the future and thinks forward.
According to by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia that extrapolated from current demographic trends, by 2040 half the population of the USA will live in just 8 states. But those states will only have 16 senators, and the other states will have 84.
The Senate has confirmed more than 100 of Donald Trump's judicial nominees:
virtually none of these would have been confirmed in California.
This issue will only get worse over time for all the most populous states: by 2040 it is estimated that 70% of voters will live in the 15 largest states, which means that 70% of US voters will be represented by 30 senators, and 30% of voters will elect 70 senators.
2. California's vote in presidential elections doesn't count. In recent times, the winner of the presidential election has been announced before California's votes were even counted. California is the biggest state but the one whose votes don't count. The president of the USA is not elected by the popular vote (that would count all votes) but by the "electoral college" formula. Most states award all their "electors" to the candidate who wins the most votes. The number of electors is not proportional to population: Wyoming, for example, has three "electors", or one per 192,000 population, whereas California has 55 presidential electors, or one per 719,000 population. One Wyoming vote counts as much as 4 California votes. This has also completely twisted election campaigns. Candidates are more motivated to campaign in small states where the forecast is close than in big states where the outcome is already known (whether left-leaning California or right-leaning Texas). Therefore California doesn't even get to know the candidates as well as, say, Iowa or New Hampshire do. The focus of a presidential campaign is on the fringe groups, such as the farmers, the factory workers, the coal miners and the evangelicals (radical Christian terrorists). Each of these groups represents a nostalgic, declining component of the world but ends up being more influential than California's futuristic high-tech economy.
- California's citizens are the subjects of an incompetent, corrupt and undemocratic political system on which they have very little influence despite having 12% of the population and 13% of the GDP.
- California's citizens are helpless victims of the whims of a Supreme Court that represents the exact opposite of the values that California holds dear (a Supreme Court that did not hesitate to declare that corporations are people): a few judges, appointed for life by presidents who often were not elected by California, are able to ignore the popular will.
- Here is the real aberration: the president of the USA is the most powerful person in the world because the progressive states of California, Washington, New York, Massachussetts, Illinois, etc are the states that earn the USA its status as the world's superpower. Almost all the science and technology that gives the USA the key advantage over other countries come from San Francisco, Seattle, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, New York, New Jersey, Boston and Chicago (Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, IBM, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, the biopharmaceutical industry... you name it). The scientific and engineering achievements of these states are making the president in Washington the most powerful person in the world, but a ridiculous electoral law makes it possible that the president be chosen by the other states (that sometimes don't even seem to believe in science). We (California and the other "progressive" states) literally empower others to use our technology and science for purposes that are exactly the opposite of ours and we empower them to enforce their purposes on the rest of the world thanks to the fact that our technology and science makes the USA the world's superpower. This is de facto a way to hijack our technology and science. To be more explicit about the situation in 2019: the Bay Area and Boston, that overwhelmingly rejected Trump, end up empowering Trump and his shady, incompetent, dishonest cohorts (and before him George W Bush's administration) who have the exact opposite political views of the Bay Area and Boston. This is becoming more than an aberration. Given the damage that can be caused to the world by the sociopath whom other states install in the White House, this is becoming a threat to the survival of the human race. It is certainly already a threat to the standing of the USA in world affairs.
- The latest elections could be the proverbial "last straw". California voted overwhelmingly against Trump, whom California citizens widely consider a crook, a liar, a racist, a sexist, a borderline sociopath and possibly even a traitor. He has insulted war heroes, the press, Latinos, Chinese, Muslims and the whole world (except Russia), and ultimately all of us. The president of the USA does NOT represent the values of California. Trump lost the election by 3 million votes, largely because of California's votes, but now California is asked to obey his executive orders and all of his monumentally stupid ideas. The citizens of California are terrified like they haven't been since the USA was attacked by Al Qaeda in 2001, or since the USA was threatened by the Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal during the Cold War; except that this time the terrorist is in the White House, installed there against the will of California. Alas, this is not an accident: this is not the first time that California is ashamed by a president that California did not choose, whom, in fact, Californians greatly despise, and who lost the election. In 2001 Californians had to watch the exact same movie when George W Bush became president against the will of California and having lost the popular vote. The 2000 and 2016 presidential elections were not aberrations. It could be the new norm: California's votes will matter less and less if the strategies to win the electoral college become more scientific. California is a progressive state, but may be doomed to live under conservative governments that "win" elections despite losing them.
- Let me summarize this fact in different words: a small population of poor, rural, evangelical and "noncollege" white people, which accounts for a third or so of the US population and for 20% of GDP, effectively govern the majority of the US population which account for almost 80% of its GDP and almost all of its science and tech.
- Since 1990 GDP growth in the "blue" states has consistently exceeded GDP growth in the "red" states, a fact compensated by a fiscal flow from the blue states to the red states. In other words, the blue states have been subsidizing the failed economies of the red states. Living standards (income, education, life expectancy, etc) have been consistently higher in blue states. And, still, the poor failed states effectively govern the rich successful states.
- In 2019 the highest median household incomes are in: DC with $92 thousand, followed by Maryland with $87 thousand, Massachusetts with $86 thousand, New Jersey with $86, Hawaii with $83 and California with $80. These are all "blue" states. The lowest median incomes are in: Mississippi with $46 thousand, West Virginia with $49, Arkansas with $49, Louisiana with $51, Alabama with $52, Kentucky with $52, Oklahoma with $54, Tennessee with $56, South Carolina with $56, North Carolina with $57, Missouri with $57. These are all "red" states. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2019 American Community Survey, 1-Year Estimates; Table ID: S1903) De facto, the blue states subsidize the red states. If you live in a blue state, you pay taxes to support the red states, who then decide who your president will be.
- The demographic movement makes the situation even worse: progressives from all "red" states are moving to California, but that only increases the odds that conservatives will win elections in those states. California is becoming a refuge for progressives from all conservative states, but, indirectly, this helps conservatives win more states and win more of the senators and of the electoral college (and of the Supreme Court judges) that really matter. It is just math: the more leftists move to California, the more the Left is under-represented in the Senate. Californian's lack of voting power in the Senate means that, as more Leftists leave their state and move to California, the USA as a whole is pulled inexorably to the right.
- The radical right-wing movement has used gerrymandering to alter the results of elections throughout the country, increasing the influence of conservative states over progressive states. No matter how many votes the progressives get, the conservatives will always "win" more seats in Congress. This is de facto a coup. Now the Trump administration want to stage a further coup: the next census, that will determine representation in Congress and federal funding, will include a question (the "citizenship question") aimed at under-counting the population of immigrant-rich areas, namely California.
- This system, that elects presidents that California never wanted and that therefore won't work for California, is threatening the role of California as a center of future culture, technology and science. For example, Trump killed the TPP with total disregard for the effect of such an action on the economy of California: the TPP would have united the economies of the Pacific accounting for about 40% of the world's GDP and give California's high-tech firms an advantage against, for example, Chinese competitors. The exact opposite is happening after the USA pulled out of that trade deal. California is being forced to trade with Alabama and Tennessee instead of Japan and Singapore. By rescinding the TPP, the USA may have sealed California's fate, linking California to all the failed states of the USA instead of linking California to the booming centers of innovation and trade in East Asia.
- It is just a matter of time before a Washington demagogue (and it doesn't have to be a right-wing populist, it could well be a left-wing populist) realizes that it is neither China nor Mexico that "steals" the jobs of their xenophobic voters: those jobs are being made obsolete by technology. Then the demagogue will crack down on the centers of technology, such as California. Then it will be too late for Californians, and Californians will go back to working in the factories, farms and coal mines of the past, left behind by a world that is moving rapidly towards the future. Look at the median income, and you'll see that California and Boston have been getting richer and richer while the traditional rural and blue-collar regions (regions that treasure the Bible more science) have been getting poorer. The world envies the spectacular innovation coming from Silicon Valley and Boston that gives the USA the technological leadership in the world, but the uneducated rural and blue-collar workers of the USA instead envy the polluted cities of China where factories prosper and manufacturing jobs abound.
- The US government has become one of the most corrupt governments in the world. Elections are easily bought by the lobbies, which are both domestic and international. Russia's interference into the 2016 elections is just the latest case. Russia is neither the only country nor the first one to interfere. Israel has done much more and much more openly (see The USA is a banana republic). The US government is elected and mainly works for forces that are outside the control of California and in many cases are direct rivals of California's business. And viceversa: the US government interferes in the elections of foreign countries and sometimes overthrows foreign governments, almost always to defend the interests of those domestic and foreign lobbies, and California pays the consequences of a corrupt foreign policy.
- Californians are embarrassed by the company they have to keep. Californians cannot forget (nor forgive) that, ultimately, George W Bush and Donald Trump were voted by tens of millions of fellow US citizens. Bush and Trump are US phenomena as much as serial killers and mass shootings. US citizens from other states elected these presidents who represent values contrary to California's most deeply felt values. Returning home from hearing a wonderful lecture by a top Stanford scientist, we watched in disbelief a hysterical radical right-wing commentator on Fox News shouting the merits of guns to a poor politician who dared point out that a modern gun can kill dozens of people. We have nothing to do with that culture promoted and propagated by radical right-wing outlets like Fox News and by assorted psychos and sociopaths. Californians live in a different culture, a culture of science lectures, history books, art galleries and tech meetups (and mountain hikes and bird watching and star gazing). It is absolutely fine with Californians that other states prefer to watch radical right-wing commentators, but don't force it on California, and don't use California's technology and taxes to force it on us. Most Californians don't want to be in the company of these people. It is not California's fault if the top night cable and radio shows in the USA are viciously racist, fascist and ultra-biased shows such as Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.
- Californias are physically threatened. California has one of the lowest murder rates in the Americas (7 per 100,000 people) while other states of the USA (typically, the so-called "red states") have one of the highest murder rates in the world (Louisiana 19, Mississippi 18, Alaska 17, Arkansas 17, etc). This is directly proportional to the number of guns: the murder rate is directly proportional to support for the NRA, i.e. for how much the NRA can influence politicians. Basically, California borders on a nation (the other states of the USA) that is engulfed in a civil war and California is forced to let their people enter California with their guns. An untold number of crimes are committed in California by these legal immigrants from other states of the USA, most of them white and Christian (the ethnicity most likely to become mass shooter and serial killer). Californians are sitting ducks for killers armed by the laws and guns of other states. California is being unfairly dragged down by this senseless gun culture. One can read full-page articles in Europe, China and India discussing the frequent massacres carried out by armed individuals in the USA. The world sees the entire USA as a country devastated by a civil war. These reports, which are not "fake news" but unfortunately "real life", are increasingly discouraging the brightest and most honest of people from emigrating to the USA or even coming to visit as university scholars. The racist and xenophobic policies of Washington are keeping smart foreigners from immigrating to California, causing massive damage to California's economy and California's future. Basically, Washington is plotting to make sure that California becomes a failed state like so many other states in this union. If California needs a wall, it's a wall separating it from the states that advocate the right to bear arms.
Californians have to think long and hard if they want to continue producing the technology and science that makes the person in the White House (not elected by California and not controlled by a senate elected by California) the most powerful man in the world. Without California, this man would not be the most powerful man in the world because the USA would merely be a regional power, just like Japan and Germany.
California watches speechless as the president of China becomes the world leader of globalization and environmentalism while California's (?) president is rapidly becoming the pariah of world leaders.
The USA's problems are not just the unelected president du jour: they are structural; and and they will not go away. There will be many more presidents who lost the election; there will be many more Senates ruled by small states that represent the will of the minority of the population; there will be more Supreme Court judges with a dubious past and dubious qualifications.
As an independent country and the seventh economy in the world, home to the strongest technology and science in the world, California could become a force for good in the world, promoting responsible energy policies, economic equality, and peaceful development without being hampered at every step by Washington's idiotic bureaucracy.
As it is now, California's vote does not count. The president is chosen regardless of how Californians vote, and California's senators are powerless in a senate dominated by smaller (and sometimes backwards) states.
California's GDP is $2.5 trillion, and just passed Britain and France to become the fifth largest economy in the world (after China, the USA, Japan and Germany). California is Google, Apple, Facebook, Intel, Oracle, Cisco, Tesla, Airbnb, Uber, Netflix, Nvidia, ... all companies that are #1 worldwide in their respective fields. California is CalTech, UCLA, Stanford, UC Berkeley, etc: it has more prestigious universities (in the world's top 20) than all of the southern and midwestern states combined. UC Berkeley has won 61 Nobel Prizes, Stanford 27 and Caltech 31: that's several times more than all the southern and midwestern states combined.
Once independent, California could consider a union with Canada, Europe, Mexico, East Asian countries and many other advanced and well-intentioned countries that would augment California's material and cultural well-being in ways that many of California's current "united states" do not.
And hopefully California could set the example for the other progressive states (Washington, New York, Massachussetts, Illinois, etc) that have helped to make the USA the world's superpower and the leader of the free world.
An independent California could become a magnet for all the nations of the world who want to live in peace and want to invest in prosperity for all.
There will be an economic price to pay in the short term, and some of California's greedy and ungrateful corporations will simply move out of California.
So be it. California started as the poorest state of the Union and became the
richest in just 150 years. That spirit won't go away. The original founders of
the USA were willing to pay a price for the right to a vote that is actually counted. The people who started the USA were under
no illusion that freedom would not come without a price. They believed that
freedom was more important than short-term income.
Some still think so.
TM, ®, Copyright © 2019 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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