Failing dreams: California faces its own Great Depression
It is less than 20 miles from the pristine surfing beaches of the California coast to a scene of Third World deprivation.
By Nick Allen
14 Oct 2011
In Skid Row, a grimy pocket of downtown Los Angeles, the prostrate forms of homeless people lie strewn across the pavements.
The lucky ones have tents for shelter but others make do with a sliver of cardboard for a bed and a supermarket trolley to carry their rags.
At the last police count 1,662 people live on these streets, twice as many as a year ago.
And now amid the drug addicts and the drunks there are families who not so long ago had homes and ordinary suburban lives.
“Los Angeles is re-experiencing the Great Depression,” said Rev Andy Bales, who runs the nearby Union Rescue Mission shelter. “This is the worst I have ever seen it and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. This is all these people have as a last resort and I think there’s going to be over 2,000 by Christmas.
“I don’t think people around the world understand just how bad it is here.”
California – the Golden State, the world’s eighth largest economy – is spluttering and stalling and for many the dream life is turning increasingly sour.
Bill Watkins, Director of the California Lutheran University’s Centre for Economic Research and Forecasting, has just compiled a new report detailing a failing state with double digit unemployment, a home foreclosure crisis, bad schools, painfully gridlocked traffic and the flight of young families to states with more hope.
“California is fast becoming a post-industrial hell for almost everyone except the gentry class, their best servants and the public sector,” he said. “The future is pretty grim. If you live in a beautiful area like Ventura County on the coast it’s not hellish in any way, but not everyone is living that dream in California.
“The people at the bottom, young people trying to start their career, the underclass, people in the service and agricultural industries, they have got an insurmountable problem in attaining the California dream. A young person leaving college and wanting to start a family in California today goes to Texas.”