California Forest Fires, High Taxes, Homelessness -- Same Old Fall Problems

Firefighters watch the Bobcat Fire after an evacuation was ordered for the residents of Arcadia, Calif., September 13, 2020. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

Tech titans and Bay Area Bourbons grow rich, the middle class flees, forests burn.   


all is almost here in California. So we know the annual script.

A few ostracized voices will again warn in vain of the need to remove millions of dead trees withered from the 2013–14 drought and subsequent infestations, clean up tinderbox hillsides, and beef up the fire services. They will all be ignored as right-wing nuts or worse.

Environmentalists will sneer that the new forestry sees fires as medicinal and natural, and global warming as inevitable because of “climate deniers.”

Late-summer fires will then consume our foothills, mountains, and forests. Long-dead trees from the drought will explode and send their pitch bombs to shower the forest with flames.

Lives, livelihoods, homes, and cabins will be lost — the lamentable collateral damage of our green future. Billions of dollars will go up in smoke. The billowing haze and ash will cloud and pollute the state for weeks if not months. Tens of thousands will be evacuated and their lives disrupted — and those are the lucky.

California’s deer-in-the headlight progressive officials will blame “climate change” for the conflagrations. The accompanying power brownouts, tardy responses, and official blame-gaming will follow as a prelude for still more solar-panel farms and still less forest management.

There could be a long answer to explain why California for years abandoned dead drought- and insect-stricken trees — over some 60 million of these withered, towering time bombs in their coastal and Sierra forests — to rot. But the short of it was that the kindling and tinderboxes were seen as perfect green mulch for flora and fauna.

A cynical interpretation of the eco-agenda was that doing nothing to clean up the mess was cheap for a broke state eager to spend billions on high-speed rail and the consequences of open borders. The even more cynical take would be that dead trees served as green napalm during fire season to discourage the unwanted hoi polloi from living in the hill and mountain cabins that in a more perfect world would properly belong, in Sheriff of Nottingham style, to the Sierra Club. And indeed, the unspoken aftermath of this latest round of conflagrations is that insurance rates will soar even higher and make it nearly impossible to live in rural hills and mountains.

Apparently, our ancestral, Neanderthal foresters once upon a time believed in the time-tried lore of removing dead brush, cutting down withered trees for needed lumber, and allowing grazing to clear foothills of dead grasses and low vegetation. But then again, the old-breed thinking has been seen as obsolete by today’s brilliant new progressive consultants, professors, and activists. They were too eager to implement a natural strategy of letting medicinal fires periodically burn forest fuel to remind us that millions of trees are not for living among, or logging or recreating amid, or for anything much human-orientated other than a week or so a year backpacking.

California is shutting down both clean-burning natural-gas plants and nuclear generation, only to find that its heralded wind and solar plants do not produce enough power in times of high heat, smoke, and fire, at night or during the day, just when the heat of the dog days forces millions to ramp up their air-conditioners.

There could be a longer answer for why — when California is faced with existential threats of soaring taxes, the exoduses of its best and brightest citizens, crashing services, and biblical heat, smoke, plague, and fire— its officials obsess over reparations, raising property taxes, implementing a socialist “you didn’t build that” wealth tax, and jacking up top income-tax rates over 16 percent.

The more money the state gets, the more the services degenerate, and the more it needs. And because it has no answer for the existential crisis of millions of impoverished recent illegal immigrants (20 percent of the state lives below the poverty line, a third of the nation’s poor live in California), soaring Medical-subsidized health costs, unsustainable pensions, the largest homeless population in the nation, and hare-brained schemes like its fossilized high-speed-rail project, in expiation it seeks postmodern escapes from premodern threats.

Can’t prevent biblical fires? Then turn to reparations or a wealth tax. Can’t afford fixing decrepit freeways? Then dream on, with half-finished high-speed-rail overpasses.

Solar panels fail the grid? Then why not ban more nuclear plants?

Over the past 40 years, a small coastal cadre became the nexus of trillions of dollars in global income from high tech, computers, finance, tony universities, and Hollywood. As the middle class fled the new Hell of California, the poor of Mexico and Latin America discovered that what others called a wrecked state, broke from soaring social services and state pensions, nevertheless seemed to be heaven on earth compared with Oaxaca or El Salvador.

So the rich got really rich, the poor came in and got a little less poor, and the middle fled either out of state or to the Sierra and coastal foothills that are now aflame. So California’s destruction can be summed up in the hypocrisies and paradoxes of its bankrupt elite, who believe that their money insulates them from their own toxic ideology, and their virtue-signaling squares the circle of feeling guilty that they want nothing to do with the millions of poor they invited in and are relieved that they drove out millions in the middle classes.

Governor Gavin Newsome not long ago ordered shutdowns of non–Napa Valley wine-tasting rooms — the winery he owns conveniently being located in Napa and thus escaping the lockdown orders. A hyper-capitalist made rich by his inherited “white privilege,” he brags that the virus will provide the necessary fear and confusion to allow “opportunity for reimagining a [more] progressive era as it pertains to capitalism”

Newsome certainly in his own case “reimagines” capitalism. For example, recently, the redistributionist governor was delinquent in paying thousands of dollars in back property and gift taxes, largely because even his sizable income and capital have never been sufficient to support his Bay Area lifestyle. So his rich friends and distant family struggle to fund trusts and foundations by which to funnel tax-free money to meet his considerable needs. Newsome seems bewildered about the source of his ample cash flow and so apparently should not pay his own state what he owes it. In other words, it would be impossible for such a sort to feel any real empathy for those who were destroyed by the policies he implements and whose ramifications he avoids.

Once can anticipate Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s next move because, beneath her self-righteousness, she will predictably be silly, often cruel, and entirely hypocritical. She may be the only House speaker in history to publicly tear up the president’s State of the Union address, after he customarily handed it to her on live television. She worries whether we are Christian enough in welcoming illegal aliens and sacrificing during the quarantine, while she shows off her designer ice cream in her designer Sub-Zero refrigerators in her designer wine-country palazzo — surrounded by the sort of “decorative” fences and “modest” gates we are assured are not walls to keep out those who, she lectures us, are California’s blessed future.

Pelosi rails about the need for masks. She banters about the struggle to social distance. She lauds the requirement to shut down the businesses of the nobodies (at least until the November election is over). And then, like a teen prankster, she sneaks into a salon, unmasked, scurries about to get her hair done at a business she wants closed. And yet we wonder whether she worries about the effects of fires, insolvency, crushing taxes, and illegal immigration upon others in her state.

Diane Feinstein occasionally offers embarrassing panegyrics to the Chinese ascendency, often in response to others wishing to curb Beijing’s mercantilism, dumping, currency manipulation, patent and copyright theft, technological appropriation, and its eerie mesmerizing of America’s wealthiest classes with joint ventures. She is a Chinese encomiast because she has never herself lost a job to outsourcing. She seems oblivious that the Chinese Communist Party was allowing direct flights into nearby SFO from Wuhan, ground zero of the virus, whose origins and nature China so long lied about, while banning travel from Wuhan to anywhere inside China.

No matter, Diane Feinstein’s husband is a billionaire financier, in part from substantial Chinese investments, despite the “fire wall” that, she claims, separates every married couple’s finances. In the age of the Russian-collusion hoax and a pesky Russian under every government bed, no one in the CIA or FBI seemed to worry much when Feinstein’s loyal chauffeur of some 20 years proved to be a Chinese Communist spy and informant. Had not every prior chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee from time to time chatted on the phone in front of a spy?

How long can a state suffer the rich Bourbons of the Bay Area?

As long as its brave nobodies still drive ’dozers right into conflagrations to create lifesaving fire breaks, as long as its despised farmers continue to serve as the nation’s food basket, as long as unheralded pilots fly blind into smoke to drop fire retardant, and as long as there is something left for the parasitical elite of the rich inheritance from California’s brilliant and industrious but now long-dead past.

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