The Six Californias Delusion

Welcome to West California, everyone. Well… if Tim Draper get his way. Draper’s idea to break up California into six different states has been trending across Facebook recently with students of the Claremont Colleges, and, surprisingly, most of the responses have been generally supportive of the idea.

Draper argues that California’s government is too out of touch with the people, and that, therefore, California should split up into six states to bring government down to a more local level; however, by splitting up California, Draper would create many more problems than he would ever solve.

Draper’s proposal seems vastly out of touch with the current socioeconomic realities of California and very much skewed in the favor of wealthy Californians. This is evident simply in how Draper splits up the state of California. Under his proposal, almost every wealthy area in California would be bundled up into either Silicon Valley (San Francisco, Palo Alto) or Western California (LA, Anaheim). Therefore, under Draper’s proposal, California would immediately see the gap between the wealthy and poor widen to an unimaginable extent. In interviews, Draper claims that, while he is a rich man (which is an understatement for someone with a net worth of over a billion dollars), he just wants to see his children get a better education from his tax dollars. This quote reeks of self-interest, as Silicon Valley, being the wealthiest of the six new states, would clearly be able to provide Draper’s children with a better public education than it currently does since his tax dollars wouldn’t be spent on providing education for children in poor areas of the old state of California.

The outlook in the poorer of Draper’s proposed states, on the other hand, would not be as rosy. Draper’s proposed state of Central California, which would include cities like Fresno and Stockton, would immediately become the poorest state in the USA, with a per capita GDP $150 lower than Mississippi. One can imagine that, if California splits up, states like Central California would not be able to provide any of the services it currently provides to any sort of acceptable extent. Conveniently, Draper does not propose a way to keep Central California functioning at the levels it currently does while being supported by the tax dollars of wealthy Californians like himself.

And it’s not just vital government services that would be unable to function at present levels if California were to breakup; entire state economies would be at risk due to the breakup. It’s no small secret that California’s agricultural sector is dependent on the government to weather bad seasons. For example, these past few months saw the California government inject $687 million into the agricultural sector as part of a drought relief program (the Federal government, by comparison, only injected $165 million for their drought relief program). If California were to split up, one can imagine that the new state governments in established agricultural bases, such as Central California, would go bankrupt trying to keep their agricultural sectors afloat. This is problematic because California has been the largest food and agricultural producer in the U.S. for over 50 years. If the agricultural sector in new states such as Central California were allowed to go under, there would be a drastic increase in the price of food as food supply drops. Food deficits, therefore, would have a negative effect on the livelihoods of individuals and families nationwide, not just those living in what used to be California.

Draper also ignores the monolithic logistical problems that his proposal creates. At the moment, California barely has enough water to keep going. It has gotten to the point where water has to be taken from certain areas in the north of California down to the south, to places like Claremont, which does not get enough water to survive on its own. Currently, the issue of water rights is extremely contentious, so one can imagine that it would be an even more difficult task to make agreements between states to give each other water.

Furthermore, the way Draper drew his proposed states lines seems to show he has no idea how people work outside of Silicon Valley. Take his proposed line between Southern California and Western California, which would make the San Bernardino-Los Angeles county line (which falls between Claremont and Upland) a state line. Suddenly, the almost two million people who live in the Inland Empire but work in Los Angeles would be living in one state, Southern California, but working in Western California. This would lead all of these individuals having to file out-of-state taxes, all of which would go to the coffers of Western California. This would only serve to increase the gap between the poor and the rich states, and, essentially, segregate California’s citizens across socioeconomic lines.

All in all, Draper’s proposal seems like a rich man’s delusional plan to not have to foot the bill for the poor of California. Instead of trying to create vastly unequal states, Draper should use his billions to try to cut some of the bureaucratic red tape that has covered California’s state legislature as of late. Tax and budgeting reform, as a start, would cover many of Draper’s qualms about a state government that is out of touch with the people. This could include moving budgetary control of school funds to a more local level, instead of putting all the power into the hands of bureaucrats in Sacramento who have no idea of the needs of people in remote places in California (or those in Silicon Valley, too). Hopefully, Californians (and, if it comes to it, Congress) will have the common sense to reject Draper’s proposal and find a better way to reform their state as one California.

Read Chris Gaarder’s opposing opinion on the Six Californias Plan

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