Nowhere is that clearer than in the state's "damn the costs, full speed ahead" environmental policies. For proof, just take a look at recent headlines. Last week, the California Air Resources Board signed off (unanimously) on the first statewide cap and trade program in the nation, which will cover 85 percent of the state's carbon emissions within four years. The California Small Business Association estimates the costs of implementation at $183 billion, "one and a half times the total budget for the state of California." Needless to say, the increase in energy costs will hit the state's poorest citizens the hardest.
In three ZIP codes for [the tony coastal neighborhood of] Malibu, rebates for residential solar installations have amounted to more than $1.5 million. About 13,000 people live there. In three ZIP codes in [poverty-racked] Compton, home to almost 140,000 people, there was one solar subsidy for $2,269.This isn't the only way the poor get shafted by California's growth-inhibiting environmental regulations. The state's aggressive opposition to coastal development, shepherded by the unaccountable and staunchly anti-business California Coastal Commission (which I've profiled before here), functionally closes off the state's stunning coastline to all but California's wealthiest citizens. Yet, in a laudatory farewell to retiring Coastal Commission executive director Peter Douglas, the San Jose Mercury News notes:
To say this strains credulity would be overly generous. By making development on the coast nearly impossible, the commission ensures that property rates in the region are artificially high, with only those who have millions of dollars for protracted legal proceedings able to even think about developing land near the Pacific Ocean. And by blocking commercial development, it prevents the creation of service jobs that would be of far more value to low-income Californians than the occasional solar panel subsidy.
Without Douglas' hard-nosed advocacy, even overreaching at times, his supporters say, the California coastline would largely be a place for the wealthy, with far fewer opportunities for everyone else.
This, alas, is the continuing theme of the Golden State's green fetish: boutique environmental policies enacted by the wealthy at the expense of the poor and the middle class. If the rest of the nation is still looking to California for lessons in governance, it is doubtlessly doing so with a red pen in hand.