Joel Kotkin has got a post up, partially entitled, “Coastal Cities are Old News – It’s the Sunbelt that’s Booming.” In it, he declares, “people seem to, once again, be streaming toward the expanse of warm-weather states extending from the southeastern seaboard to Phoenix.”
Now wait a minute. When the term ‘Sunbelt’ was coined, by Kevin Phillips in 1968, it definitively ran as far north and west as Silicon Valley. Now, it seems, the west end of the Sunbelt has been clipped off, and it ends at Phoenix. There is of course the phenomenon of “June Gloom;” which I myself like to call ‘Indian Winter.’ Southern Californians pity the out of state tourists who flock to the state during the period between when school lets out – which seems to be earlier every year – and the fourth of July, who imagine that that time of year is actually summertime! [If you come from England, however, you will feel right at home, and it hardly actually rains during this season except for early morning drizzle.] And, the gloom reappears every night all summer long, but after the Fourth of July it breaks up usually by 11 a m or so.
Did they just now figure this out? Is this why California has been sliced out of the Sunbelt? It is not so much a matter of the weather but of the business climate – the taxation levels, the regulations, and most of all, actually, the comparative cost of housing. There is a lot of talk about the flight of the rich, but it is not the rich so much that are fleeing, but the less affluent. California’s personal income tax is overly progressive and the revenue is overly dependent on the rich; but that is not driving the middle class and the poor out! The smaller businessman is more likely to flee than the bigger one, the industrialist [burdened by environmentalism] than the brain worker. It is logical that the smaller businessman should be more likely to flee, because regulation is like a fly swatter; its effect on the rump of a human being or a large animal is an irritation, but its effect on the rump of a fly is that the fly dies. So the political and housing June Gloom, unlike the climatic one, lasts all year, and extends to the middle of Lake Tahoe and to the edge of Primm, Lake Havasu City, Ehrenberg, and Yuma.
Housing costs are somewhat lower in the Inland Empire and in the Central Valley, not to mention the High Desert. But they still suffer under the June Gloom of regulations; these areas have high unemployment, because the businesses that might in a more sensible world follow their workers there are probably simply jumping over those regions to leave the state altogether. These areas, having a slightly more continental climate, compete with the rest of the country on a more equal playing field in terms of their quality of life. The weather in those regions is not actually that bad on a national scale! Their winters are not particularly rough. Their summers have a reputation for being hot, but they are a lot less steamy than Texas or even [once monsoon season starts] southern Arizona, to say nothing of Atlanta, god forbid, or even sometimes much of the Midwest and East; and except for Imperial County and the Coachella and Blythe and Needles regions, they are cooler than Phoenix as well as dryer; their midsummer weather is about the same as that around the Colorado River on Memorial Day, a time when people still flock to the river. But the advantages of inland California’s meteorological climate, evidently, are not enough to overcome the all year June Gloom of their political climate imposed upon them.