Everyone thinks California is our most progressive state. And why not? It imposes the highest tax on the richest one percent. It is aggressively implementing Obamacare. And it is standing up to President Donald Trump on everything from immigration to the environment.
How can this be? Around the world, progressive economies like those of Sweden, France, and Germany, which redistribute wealth through high taxes and generous social welfare policies, boast far less poverty and inequality than other nations.
What gives? And how does California maintain its reputation as a progressive leader given the reality on the ground?
If racism is more than just saying nasty things — if it is, as scholars like James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Michelle Alexander and countless others have described, embedded into socioeconomic structures — then California isn’t just the least progressive state. It’s also the most racist.
Real World “Elysium”
In the 2013 science fiction film, “Elysium,” the rich have fled to a luxury satellite orbiting Earth while the poor toil in dangerous conditions below. Life in California today differs in degree, not in kind, from that dystopian vision.
Homeless encampments of hundreds of people have cropped up around the state in the last two years. Occasionally, they are ravaged by hepatitis A, which killed 20 people last year. In Silicon Valley, 132 people died on the street in 2016 — up from 85 in 2015. In San Diego, 117 people died, up from 56.
Last year, San Diego city workers nearly killed a homelessperson after accidentally throwing her and the tent she was sleeping in into the back of garbage truck. She escaped just seconds before being crushed by the trash compactor.
Meanwhile, inside comfortable homes perched atop Berkeley and Beverly Hills, affluent progressives condemn the cruelty of the Trump administration toward the poor.
It’s true that workers in California earn 11 percent more than their counterparts nationally. But that amount is not enough to make up for mortgage payments and rents that are 44 percent and 37 percent higher (respectively) than the national average.
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