Here’s an article sent in by a Burbed reader who doesn’t necessarily agree with the author’s conclusions or the site it’s on, but thought the piece interesting and thought-provoking. Given that the Central Valley is a fairly easy drive from the Real Bay Area, what is it that makes it so different from here?
VICTOR DAVIS HANSON, National Review
DECEMBER 15, 2010
Abandoned farms, Third World living conditions, pervasive public assistance — welcome to the once-thriving Central Valley.
The last three weeks I have traveled about, taking the pulse of the more forgotten areas of central California. I wanted to witness, even if superficially, what is happening to a state that has the highest sales and income taxes, the most lavish entitlements, the near-worst public schools (based on federal test scores), and the largest number of illegal aliens in the nation, along with an overregulated private sector, a stagnant and shrinking manufacturing base, and an elite environmental ethos that restricts commerce and productivity without curbing consumption.
During this unscientific experiment, three times a week I rode a bike on a 20-mile trip over various rural roads in southwestern Fresno County. I also drove my car over to the coast to work, on various routes through towns like San Joaquin, Mendota, and Firebaugh. And near my home I have been driving, shopping, and touring by intent the rather segregated and impoverished areas of Caruthers, Fowler, Laton, Orange Cove, Parlier, and Selma. My own farmhouse is now in an area of abject poverty and almost no ethnic diversity; the closest elementary school (my alma mater, two miles away) is 94 percent Hispanic and 1 percent white, and well below federal testing norms in math and English.
Here are some general observations about what I saw (other than that the rural roads of California are fast turning into rubble, poorly maintained and reverting to what I remember seeing long ago in the rural South). First, remember that these areas are the ground zero, so to speak, of 20 years of illegal immigration. There has been a general depression in farming — to such an extent that the 20- to-100-acre tree and vine farmer, the erstwhile backbone of the old rural California, for all practical purposes has ceased to exist.
Who here visits small towns in the Central Valley regularly? Are things as bleak as Hansen describes them, “rural trailer-house compounds…no different from what I have seen in the Third World”? (Photo, at left, shows unemployed men in downtown Mendota.)
Has the Central Valley become a bifurcated version of “white flight,” either to the more affluent coastal areas or out of the state entirely? And how hard was it to guess that a conservative magazine/website would observe high unemployment, loss of small-family farms to corporate agribusiness, and shuttered farm machinery plants that have moved to lower-wage countries… and conclude this is all somehow due to illegal immigrants?
One thesis of Hansen’s to chew on:
It is almost as if the more California regulates, the more it does not regulate. Its public employees prefer to go after misdemeanors in the upscale areas to justify our expensive oversight industry, while ignoring the felonies in the downtrodden areas, which are becoming feral and beyond the ability of any inspector to do anything but feel irrelevant. But in the regulators’ defense, where would one get the money to redo an ad hoc trailer park with a spider web of illegal bare wires?
Think about that the next time you deal with getting a permit for something.