City Journal Winter 2016

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Joel Kotkin
Lost Angeles « Back to Story

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Having fought the same sort of battle elsewhere and won, I'd assemble the neighborhood groups into a metro-wide coalition. It worked for me. Politics is obvious, it's only about people, and we all are pretty transparent to each other, provided we look elsewhere than in the mirror.
I looked at the wante ads and about 25 percent of manufactoring is actually now clerical work than tradional factory work. It mentions knowing execel, word, ms office and so forth. Your kid is better to study the basic word processind and graphic design in high school. So, if they are laid off than can transfer their skills in general clerical work or even the hotel industry better than the tradional factory only classes of my youth.
Has Detroit gotten the Revolution it so desperately needs? Much of LA is dead, the rest seems to be dying. They politicos and the union bosses will never give up the easy money. They'll move on only after the death rattle.
The inevitable result of a dysfunctional governing and political structure and a parasite political class. California has a very high tolerance for political dysfunction. Turnout in L.A. elections is very low, usually about 5-10 percent. If the turnout was 50 percent - it would be like a revolution at the ballot boxes. All those currently holding city office need to be recalled or defeated in elections.
Well, Texas like California has some of the poorest areas in the US because most folks are hispanic in a rural enviroment. Brownsville Tx is the poorest area in the US since about 98 percent of the population is hispanic. So, I would not praise Texas as much. In fact, the rural areas of Texas and California have high out of wedlock births, high poverty. In fact, Colorado Colder than Texas does just as well and even under the adjustment poverty rate is lower than Texas.
Well, the Republicans are too blame as well. It was Ronald Reagan that legalized millions of people and La had over 500,000 which were legalized under Reagan. And Bush H cut the defense spending in the early 1990's. Also, both Dems and Republicans in Ca didn't regulate real estate as much. Believe it or not Texas was much regulated on income levels in regard to buying a house and this was the Texas Dems back in the 1980's that prevented a bubble there like California.
Well, I disagree with Joel, La and Orange and San Diego had their height when they were mainly white with few immirgrants. Take the poverty levels La use to be only 10 percent now is around 18 percent with the downturn. And Texas another heavily hispanic state created jobs but a lot at low wages since it too uses immirgant labor a lot. The best places are like North Dakota and Iowa which have less poverty. Joel pushes Texas a lot but other states do just as well without having the poverty issues.
LA's deserves a better future than the local so called neo socialist city goverment and his failure Mayor.
I opine that to get the personal loans from banks you should present a great motivation. However, one time I've got a collateral loan, because I wanted to buy a car.
When you talk about private sector unions, you are talking about the Mob. Don't forget the Mob, which controls the unions which control the Democratic Party which controls California. Try to start a new trucking company in San Pedro or Long Beach. Good luck.
Los Angeles? You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Most ex-Los Angelinos know what made them leave, even if Mr. Kotkin does not.

Thank you for the wholesome critic. Me and my brother were preparing to do some study about that. We got a nice book on that matter from our local library and many books were not as informatory as your blog. I am very glad to discover such information that I have been searching for a long time. :)
I do not think that LA will recover. An equilibrium state is one where there is no tendency to change. It can be sub-optimal. I think that LA will take a deep hit over the next 50 years, if NAFTA remains on foot and Mexico overcomes it lawlessness. What has preserved LA to this point is that California has almost a monopoly on the West Coast. That is why Panama Canal expansion is such a threat. Once a city loses the upper level of the business community, it loses the people who adapt to major change. Less significant business people are less invested and vote with their feet. The death knell for California as a social democratic paradise was sounded in FRANCHISE TAX BOARD OF CALIFORNIA v. HYATT 538 U.S. 488 (2003)
LA is now known as Tijuana Norte
Kroyal you might find Phoenix pretty good to live in, depending on where you are. I hear Boise is nice too.
The article’s graphs show LA’s neighbor Riverside with both the highest employment growth rate (8.8%) AND the highest UNemployment rate of the top 20 metro areas (13.9%, higher even than Detroit), during the first decade of the new century. Meanwhile, 2010 California Employment Development Department statistics show negative employment growth for Riverside during the last ten years. Whose numbers are correct?
Beautifully written and spot on. There's just no way I could have written a better editorial. I think of all of the jobs lost to other cities and states due to the "vig" and "red tape" required to operate in LA and it makes one wonder who's best interests do our elected officials have in mind. I moved out of LA for this reason alone. I was born and bred there. So sad, so sad.
Really good piece. How does one get liberals to stop disintegrating the city when theyrule the city and state?
One huge problem which was not mentioned is how the L.A. City Council operates. It agrees 100% over 99.3% of the time. Even Saddam Hussein couldn't get that degree of consensus and he murdered dissenters.

What keeps the councilmembers agreeing 99.3%+ of the time? If one councilmember ever votes against the desire of another councilmember, then he's politically dead. Each councilmember is absolute dictator for his district. A bizarre dissent vote came recent from new councilmember Englander, but then it turns out he cast a lone dissenting vote in favor of someone who had given him $5K.

L.A. is a Pay to Play City and anyone who lacks the cash does not get to play. If you are a world famous bigot like Phillip Anshutz, your money paves over everything. His latest scam -- abolish the judicial system as it applies to AEG's stadium and the politicos are all too eager to pass a law preventing anyone from ever suing the Stadium>

Isn't wealth and corruption wonderful?
As an ex-Angelian, Berkeley graduate, living in Atlanta, I look back on an L.A city politic which has traditionally been tainted with corruption (vis., the not so fictional movie Chinatown). Add to that mix, a series of unnecessary public projects, as well as the collusion of public sector union with elected officials, and you have a time bomb which will only be diffused by cutting the flow of federal and state dollars to the city and by the inevitable industry attrition.

No mention of the massive influx of Illegals that all need handouts, anchor babies and their families draining the taxpayers dry?

Great article about my deteriorating hometown of LA
Writing from England so can't really comment on LA, but the comments about union restrictive practices and compulsory membership are interesting. We had similar problems for decades in the UK, until Margaret Thatcher legislated against them in the 1980s.
What you are missing is the underground ecomomy. Driven by the collapse of the housing market you can hire skilled people to do almost any job with discounts for paying cash.

The sense of impending doom and its casual acceptance is part of the LA culture. It’s hard to explain to people who have never lived there.
I lived in LA for a few years in the early to mid-90's. I miss it still. The diverse population, the soft-climate, the general excitement of being there. But I don't regret leaving.

Pete Wislon and Richard Reardon are long gone. The liberal take-over of every level of government dooms any chance of recovery.
A great city is not to be confounded with a populous one.(Aristotle)
The many condos built in downtown Los Angeles were a crazy idea. They are even hard to rent, because no matter how nice inside your home, you still walk outside to homeless people, drug dealers, and other dangerous situations. Why would you want that?
Los Angeles has become just like Mexico, according to a good friend, from Puebla, Mexico. Her first visit to the U.S. was a big surprise, for her. As the poor and uneducated, from Mexico and Central America populate more and more of Los Angeles, the better educated, more middle class people move out. Many of us are just giving up on the whole state and moving to neighboring states, where we can start over, with less government taxation and regulation.
How is Orange County doing? I'm under the impression that O.C. is very "blue state" like.
The other aspect you fail to mention is the borderline genocide occurring in LA against blacks, at the hands of Latinos. Lift the "people of color" veil and you will find case after case of systematic racial intimidation and murder. Consider that the Feds had to step in in Azusa to stop Latino gangs for targeting blacks. Where was the public outcry? Where were the La Raza demonstrations for their fellow "people of color"? Not even the black politicians made a peep. And this is certainly not limited to Azusa - it is everywhere in Los Angeles. Los Angeles is becoming the new Mississippi, only worse. Now that the Razas have stolen the hard-fought civil rights of the American Black, and pushed to the front of the affirmative action line, they are dropping the guise of unity and are actively looking the other way as blacks are massacred. For this, Los Angeles deserves to fall into the sea.
Interesting discussion here, but I have to respond to Mike C:

The big winner will always be big cities. Why? Talent pool... and a highly competitive pool at that. Also, cities will always provide more amenities than smaller towns. I've been to many smaller cities around the country; these places are very pleasant to visit, but living there is another.
The idea of Los Angeles has always been much nicer than the city itself. Can't stand the place.
Large cities are failures. Those with areas that are livable (like NYC) are also unaffordable to average people. Those that are affordable are crime-ridden hellholes. I can't think of any exceptions.

I say live in the burbs or out in the country and get out from under another layer of oppressive left-wing government.
l..A. And California at large are extremely hostile to businesses. No businesses want to headquarter or stay there. The taxes and entitlements are too much to handle. Why in the world would so many businesses chose Texas over California? Simple, they are courted and treated as the holy grail not punished. Texas economy is healthy and the over all standard of living is much higher. As such businesses flee and people follow the jobs.
You pretty much said what i could not effectively communicate. +1

My blog:
credits personnels Rachat de credit
Not sure I agree. LA with its horrid-to-me decentralization worked fairly well for a heck of a long time, and now its broken. Whether old inputs can be made to work again, or whether new input are needed, isn't clear to me froma thousand miles away. One reason I read this site is in hope of learning about things far away...but not this time.

Maybe City ought to revisit this topic once or twice a year, and maybe will see whether the machine, density, downtown trnd is the curse or the cure. OBVIOUSLY when something big is broken, a fix will require CHANGE....
The people trying to defend what is happening in LA are kidding themselves. I'm sorry but I think you're mistaken.

One says LA is better now than in 2001. How? Not if you consider the increasingly poor roads, increased city hiring (while revenue tanked), the enormous city debt being juggled with sell-offs, new fees and accounting tricks, and the plumetting graduation rate. Its a city staggering from one year to the next trying to avoid a default.

And don't forget --the efforts to "float" downtown with a new stadium and tax free development deals have to be paid for by everyone else. They are lost revenue to the city as well. "Downtown" means commuters who come in by day and leave at night.

Downtown is hot, steamy and people want to leave for the safer west side. The flaky people that get subsidized condos down there can't live anywhere else. It was a silly idea to build them there.

The fellow who thinks the subway to the sea will be "only 6 billion." It would surely be the first public works project to come in at estimate.

Even if it breaks even, the union agreements for the subway workers will be an ongoing and increasing burden for the city and county. Look at NY where the MTA threatens a strike every time it wants a raise.

Its a public works project endorsed by the mayor and the unions who don't care if people want it or not. West siders oppose it because it means the dregs of LA are free to move about the city more freely and less visibly than in cars and buses.

It will suffer from the same problems as other public transportation. Since the courts decided that homleless, drug addicted people have a right to be free and live on the streets, annoying everyone that wants to work, they infest buses and subways. Since begging is a constitutional right, they beg. They threaten. They are drunk and abusive.

West side lawyers, moms and accountants are not going leaving their cars to sit next to a urine soaked addict. And when the weary commuter comes home, he'll doubtless find a station infested with homeless beggars, thieves. City workers will be reading a paper or have gone home.

So, bottom line is, the Mexican Mafia public employee labor unions actually run the City of Los Angeles. Who knew!
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@bleeding heart tree hugger
yeah, yeah, UFC, NASCAR, Tea Party lemmings... all cheap attempted put-downs of those here with legitimate grievances and the nerve to express themselves. I can tell you're no scholar- although you probably fancy yourself one. But you do seem very upset, so to lighten your mood a little let's play a game- O.K.? I'm thinking of a culture and you see if you can guess it in 10 clues or less...
No... greasy?
If you want to buy real estate, you would have to receive the credit loans. Moreover, my father commonly utilizes a commercial loan, which occurs to be the most useful.
“Information” jobs, which include not only entertainment but also software and data processing, are an abiding strength...

One problem with this vision: IT and knowledge-related jobs no longer are geographically tethered to large cities. After a recent layoff (I am a medical writer), I moved from the DC area to Kansas - my family are there - and started my own writing and consulting business. Thanks to broadband, I can provide any service my clients may require without having to be housed in an office on the east or west coast.

The big winners in the future will be small towns, with their low population densities, reasonable costs of living, and low crime rates.
The decline of Los Angeles is simply a reflection of the decline of California. Democratic high taxes, over regulation and safe cities for illegal aliens has driven out the engines of economic success. That would be those hard working free market capitalist which actually produce, employ, and and thereby create wealth.

But California like the nation - run by democratic socialists- has replaced hard working entrepreneurs with a welfare state for feather bedding government and teachers union while illegal aliens over crowd schools and bankrupt hospitals.

In this christian's outlook there is also a moral collapse supported by the government. When our gay brothers decide they want to pervert their God created bodies into that which is known as transgender, the state workers have the necessary procedures paid for by the state. Homosexuality has not only come out of the closet but sex acts on the street in public are not uncommon and acceptance of homosexuality is taught in the schools. All of this is acceptable for atheist and liberal theologians but main stream christians find such behavior to be a very offensive sin to God and want no part of it for themselves and families. Like Lot, christians believe it's time to leave town before th coming judgement.

Kotkin's web site is one of the addresses that I've been meaning to introduce you to for some time. The address in which this article appears isn't the address but we'll talk further. The geographical history of LA is a fascinating one for sure. Hope Cleveland treats you well this week. Karlo
Sorry 'Bleeding Heart Tree Hugger' but without data, you are just another person with an opinion.
And your ad hominem attacks on others undermines your cause.

The average Los Angeles 18 year old is as thick as a brick, possessing the ability to do only 19th century manual labor in a 21st century world. How did I reach this conclusion?

Let's look at the facts.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows that 87% of Los Angeles public school 8th graders in 2009 scored at or below basic in mathematics. Their scores were equally as dismal in reading and science and will change little by high school graduation. Hispanics Angeleno 8th graders likely out number Asian Angeleno 8th graders ten to one.

For facts Google: NAEP mathematics 2009 Grade 8 district comparison

In summary on average, these people cannot contribute materially to a modern technological society, as Mexico, Honduras and many other 3rd world Latin American countries have already discovered.
What is happening to L.A. is what is happening to the country. Certain ethnic groups see the government as the great "equalizer." They blindly support one party that wants to raise taxes and redistribute the wealth. Unfortunately, what they do is drive away the people who create the wealth. Detroit will probably become the first modern Western city to disappear. L.A. won't disappear, unless "the big one" hits and a bankrupt federal government does not have the money or credit to rebuild.
I stopped taking the article seriously when Joel made mention of the '40 billion doller' subway line to the ocean. That is a blatantly incorrect statement, formed only to serve the authors needs as something expensive that he doesn't like. The actual cost is six billion dollars. That's quite a difference. Moreover, there is no chance of the subway not happening at this point. Measure R will pay for it all, federal funding or not. All federal funding will do is speed up the process of construction, making the subway complete by 2022 not 2036. I agree, Los Angeles needs better business policies, but this article seemed more like a way to push anti-urbanization thoughts, not an expose about business in Los Angeles. You make negative mentions of downtown. Why? Would't making downtown a nicer place encourage businesses to move there? Moreover, downtown isn't being drowned in a glut of condos. The condo market in downtown has been surprisingly stable throughout these past years. And downtown is most definitely not the only node in Los Angeles to be bettered over these past years. Hollywood and Mid-Wilshire have become significantly nicer, as has North Hollywood, Long Beach, Silver Lake, and Echo Park. There was so much bias in this article, it overwhelmed the generally right point about business in Los Angeles. Not good.
My father went to work for the Calif. shipyards in 1940 before he was old enough to enlist. It was compulsory to join the union. The guy who hired him asked his name and put it on a list and then told him to make himself invisible - after collecting the union dues. The point was to get as many names on list to collect union dues - not to hire people to work an honest days job. After several days with nothing to do he quit, disgusted that the union was only concerned about its money and power. Years later, my husband in the early 70's got a job as a carpenter, again in La. He accidently cut the cord to his handsaw and began to fix it. Someone came up to him and said - you can't do that because of the union rules. That's done by someone who fixes cords, and got an electrician or someone who was designated the 'cord-fixer'. He also couldn't use a rig-axe because that was unfair to the older carpenters.
ReactionaryPopulist August 08, 2011 at 7:00 PM
A mediocre, half-delusional post by Open Border, Free Trade fanatic.

There was once a great American city, Detroit. Once it became majority black and under black political power it had no way to go but down.
It is a pale, much smaller version of its previous self, now it is being converted to the farmland.

LA is already majority Mexican, mostly illegal. Why would anyone expect LA to be much different from Detroit in 10 years? from Tijuana in 20 years?

With Mexican revanchist as a major?

Joel, you have articulated clearly the negative impact that unions and Democratic political leaders have had on Los Angeles.

But by refusing to discuss the negative impact on Los Angeles of mass immigration from Mexico, both legal and illegal, your article tends to be only half-true, and therefore, dishonest.
What a horrible article. Does this person even live in LA?

No mention of Hollywood Gentrification, Downtown Resurgence, or all the mass transit going in everywhere.

I moved here 10 years ago from SF and I can assure, LA is far better now than it was in 2001.
I have to address this comment:

"Because the lemming voters keep electing liberal Dems in Sac., and in city govts. across the state. Ca. is American in spades."

It's a media thing - you have a media that is controlled by a very left, very pro-government and supremely pro-Democratic Party group of people. And it is EVERYWHERE - and it is charge of not only the agenda, but how we view reality.

It's an incredibly effective device for control, and it is in the hands of supremely incompetent people.

We avoid it like poison.
Wow.... I don't even live there and I want to escape.
100 hundred years later "the South" rose again albeit slowly. Los Angeles,the opposite of New York,will become simpatico with New York by reinventing itself. The article points to the new amalgamation of middle class dwellers... they will lead the city back to greatness.
Bleeding Heart Tree Hugger August 08, 2011 at 5:22 PM
This article is a good source of comic relief indeed. It would come as no surprise to me if the author of this biased article, as well as some of those commenting here, take in trash like UFC, NASCAR, the NRA, and other irrelevant stuff like the Tea Party. Like minded lemmings always speak as if they actually know what they are talking about. Beck, Dobbs, Palin, and those at KFI always pretend to know what they are talking about. They always have a solution for things they cannot understand or explain the causes thereof. Everything to the conservative right wing is either black or white, right or wrong, and they add a perennial tag line at the end of their so called solutions with, "plain and simple." Kotkin loses all credibility because he praises the contributions of the immigrant Asian community for creating jobs in Los Angeles (a distinction the Asian community likely deserves), while in the same breath ignoring the contributions of Latino immigrants to the Los Angeles economy, and instead appears to allude that Latino immigrants have in some way contributed to the imaginary descent of Los Angeles into the firey nether world below. Research requires that a person have an unbiased and clear mind when discussing socio-political conditions; this will help the researcher address issues in society in an attempt to arrive at an inference of the truth in an objective fashion. Kotin's bias is clear for all to see, and it is his bias which confounds and tarnishes his report on Los Angeles.
We moved to California in 1983 after graduating from college. My husband worked at Intel on the 286 microprocessor and I had a management position with Coca-Cola. Five years later, we moved to Texas. We couldn't afford the taxes and real estate there! I was stunned when we received our first state tax bill. We had to borrow to pay it, because we had never anticipated being taxed that high.

I remember going into my grocery store accounts (as a Coke rep) and the shelves were often empty. Since it was my livelihood, I would go to the back, load up a cart and fill the shelves, until the union rep caught me. From that point on, I had to find a union employee and wait for them to fill the shelves. I was only in the stores 2x per week, so the rest of the time they were likely empty. This contributed to untold lost sales and affected my income. My driver couldn't fill them, either. He too had to locate a store employee who moved very slowly to allow Coke to be sold. When I moved to Texas (right to work state) voila! There was product on every shelf. How many jobs were lost due to artificially suppressed sales?

I visited CA again a couple of years ago and was aghast at what I saw. I didn't even recognize neighborhoods that I used to call on. They were so neat, interesting and full of hard working Californians. No more. They are squalid. Also, have you noticed all the multiple placards all over everything with a "Warning" on this or that? That is a legislature with too much time on its hands.

I really liked California. But man, that's a tough way to live your life.
For an Easterner, and engineer, this article was educational. However, two economic forces seem to be intentionally omitted, and I wonder why.
LA is almost certain to be largely destroyed by a major earthquake in the next generation, but no mention is made of this risk.
The northern portion of LA hosts the largest pornography industry on earth, estimated at $ 15 Bn/year.
Both realities reflect a regional political self image and planning. Are they important to new investment, and long term economic growth?
One of the best pieces I've ever read on the subject.
The 18000 $100k+ jobs, with a growing pro union institutional political power base is most telling.
The ignorance of the CA political elite is also obvious. They actually had to send folks to Texas to see why it works and LA/CA are not working?
This is not rocket science, or even difficult macro economics; simply put, "The Peoples Republic of CA" is alive and well in the golden state. " Socialism works...until there's no one left to pay for it."
Another well documented case of sin within the heart of men. There is always the temptation when elected to office to use that power for individual gain. It is LA's heart that needs restored, not political leadership challenged.
My parents moved to Los Angleles in 1962. The LA area always had problems even then, but by the early 1990s I knew that I had to leave. (Family needs took precedence.) Finally in 1996, I moved to the NW. I try hard not to go back to LA (or even California) because it is so depressing. I do not see much cause for optimism for the future of LA or even California. I have to admit that I pray that Californians don't move north in any great numbers. Yes, I know that that is exactly what I did but is is for that reason that I say it.
The city is run by liberals, for liberals. The the Liberal leaders prey on good, tolerant citizens, pulling at their heart-strings and always asking for more and for the most part they got it and all the power that came with frrebies. Now, the producers are gone and all they are left with are those in the wagon. The liberal politicians are still there, taking the city down notch by notch, and increasingly supported by those riding in the wagon. This tale is played all over liberal-land, like Detroit, Chicago. When will Americans see the folly of their liberal ways?
CA unions remind me of the Aesop's Fable "The frog and the scorpion."

"The Scorpion and the Frog

A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, "How do I know you won't sting me?" The scorpion
says, "Because if I do, I will die too."

The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown, but has just enough time to gasp "Why?"

Replies the scorpion: "Its my nature..."

No one seems to have told them that a truly successful parasite lives in harmony with its host.

It is the union nature to destroy their host. Its their nature. The question is why the host is so stupid as to put up with them.
Until someone either questions or silences those in the high profile entertainment industry, California in general and LA specifically will continue down the path to insolvency. It's very easy to be a liberal when you are paid millions for doing very little. It is somewhat harder to condone adding yet another tax, another limitation that hobbles job development. Either people, and by that I mean those folks who were Democrat but which no longer find a spot in the party, wake up and take back control from the various policy groups that are bleeding them dry or California will become a workers' paradise with all the hardship that implies. I have relatives out there. The continue to support measures that are contrary to common sense because to dare to espouse anything other than liberal ideology is social and professional suicide. And by the way, when Cali falls, do not think the rest of the states will come to your aid. We have our own federally imposed problems.
You forgot the environmental wing of the Democrat Party.
Kalifornia could become a net energy exporter in 5 years time, but for the strangling of the energy industry.
@ Suzy: Illegals aren't killing the NM economy, and Baltimore (my former home) improved visually under the corrupt mayor Sheila Dixon.

I don't blame you for leaving LA (or CA generally) but it's not as simple as you make it. The bigger picture is that CA generally and LA specifically do not do what it takes to be a thriving economic environment, and a lot of it has to do with an underlying adversarial attitude among government officials towards private business and the profit motive.
I don't give a care about L.A. Sorry.
LA is fine, you just have to get out of the WESTSIDE to see it...
When I was job-hunting last year (corporate counsel), L.A. didn't show up on my list of opportunities. Lots of San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, DC, Phoenix, Denver, various TX cities, etc., but nothing popped up in L.A. that was worth looking into. (Ended up in Albuquerque.)

Just an anecdote, but it was pretty telling for me personally.
This article left out the horrific damage done by the enormous influx of illegal aliens. This was the main reason I sold my house in the SFV in April. I'll be moving to Arizona the beginning of next year. I never thought I would leave this state. I remember a time when I said on a regular basis "I love L.A." I stopped saying that years ago.
You can always tell that a city hall is corrupt by the way the city looks.
One of the best articles I have seen on the decline of my beloved city. It was the reason I ran for L.A. City Controller in 2009.
The citizens of Los Angeles deserve a quality of life - a quality of life that they are paying for and have paid for already. Outside interests run the city and they do not care about the quality of life here. There is no vision for L.A. - and that is the problem.
Joel, it has been this way for now a decade or more. Why? Because the lemming voters keep electing liberal Dems in Sac., and in city govts. across the state. Ca. is American in spades. We are a look a like of Obama's dream of a social welfare state. The problem is: we have run out of money, my , yours, businesses'. One cannot keep taxing, spending , regulating American free enterprise out of its foundations and one cannot keep paying for the non-producers in this society and keep a healthy state or nation. Yet, the PC baloney will go on in Ca. It is doomed. The only hope for American in general is to defeat every liberal Dem in both Houses of Congress and send this inept socialist in the WH back to community organizing. Any idea to change LA or SF or Long Beach or any other of the Big 5 cities without disposing of liberal Dem pols, will not work. And seniors like myself are getting killed by the Dow. In Ca., just when will the pols remember, it is not their money?
I've lived in Los Angeles since 1975, and have watched as the events described in this impressive essay occured.

Some bad dents were beyond the city's control. The lost GM plant in Van Nuys and the US Steel fabricating plant in Maywood, were caused by union blindness and government pressure on steel producers. California's environmental and wage regulations did not help, but the city/county were hardly responsible.

The loss of these big manufacturers and banks left a leadership void: in place of real leaders with a stake in the area, we got mayors in the thrall of municipal unions and teacher unions. They wanted to feed on the city, not add to it.

Martin Luther King Hospital was supposed to provide first class care to the depressed areas in and near Watts. It became a union protected zone, where eben "nurses" who deliberately ignored or disconnected patient alarms could never be fired. Injured motorists knew enough to say "Take me to UCLA, not MLK"." The Unionized workforce saw its job security, not patient care as the goal of the hospital known as MLK. After numerous threats that lead to no improvement, the feds actually had to shut it down. Think of that: how bad does a hospital have to be in a depressed area to be shut down? The terrible employees were filtered back into the workforce, seniority intact. The records of who had done what were "lost." All that lost to preserve Union rights.

The Schools were paralyzed by the unions. It became impossible to fire teachers no matter how bad they were. Many deemed unable to teach were paid to simply sit n a room all day, like New York city's "rubber room." Big pensions were given to insider hacks. Administrators proliferated. The graduation rate plumeted. Teacher pensions were hiked. But Teachers held signs every year supporting bond measures "For The Kids." They should read "Work Harder For My Pension."

The roads are a disgrace. Potholes and raised repairs that result in bone jarring bumps. Some are done so badly one wonders who gets paid for such stuff. (an occasional one is done so flawlessly well, its like an oasis in the Sahara)

Automatically resetting traffic lights have been held up I believe, by the Transportation workers Union: so after storms, traffic snarls while they are laboriously reset.

Helping business? Our mayor decided to "go green," by cancelling our electricty contracts with big coal-fired generators in Utah. Now rates will skyrocket and we'll have brownouts. But at least we'll feel good. If we're in heated or air conditioned city offices that is.

Sensible administration is a joke. The City continued to hire workers after the downturn. All are entitled to benfits and pensions. One agreement made by our ""photo op" mayor, "Tony V" means that if we lay off "protected" workers, we have to pay the union a big penalty!

Revenue? The Dept of Building and Safety now charges a 60 dollar "fee" to supervise the connection of ...newly installed dishwashers. The LAPD has been dragooned into being ticket writers.

Our local newsapper bays for more taxes, more city hiring and reports almost no news.

Yes this was once a great city. It could be again if we could pry it loose from the parasites that think it exists only for them. But the downward spiral seems irreversible.
A great well researched article.Kudos!
L.A. Is Last Among (LA) the least able to change their economic future. L.A. consumes more taxes than they produce. But like a movie it will not change until they hit rock bottom. My guess is 25% unemployment rate and 20% exodus rate. Everyone knows that everyone is happy if enough money is spread around. When the money runs out everyone becomes unhappy. When will that day come?
Steve from Wisconsin August 08, 2011 at 1:30 PM
The saying "You reap what you sow" very much applies to Los Angeles. This has been coming for a long time now, and given the political forces in play, especially public employee unions, it's hard to see anything changing in the foreseeable future.
LA is doomed. Ethnic and labor special interests have sunk their fangs so thoroughly into the body politic that the poison can't be sucked out. Democrats control all political interests in the state; redistricting has only strengthened their hold. I wish I could get my husband to move away, but he's a native and steeped in the usual CA denial and wishful thinking. Doomed. . . .
I'm one of those natives who left Los Angeles, once in the 70's and then again in the 90's. Los Angeles has no one to blame but itself for its current situation. The illegal immigration situation has turned my once beautiful city into an upscaled suburb of Tijuana. The constant threats of riots, violence, gangs, drugs, high housing costs and a lack of employment opportunities have rendered the city of Angels a hell hole.
Any analysis of L.A.'s downfall that omits mention of the influx of hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens is not serious.
Adam, he's referring to Riverside in Inland Southern California. It's also sometimes described as Riverside-San Bernardino. Thanks for your question!
Mr. Kotkin,
this excellent article taught me more about L.A. than any story about that city I've read in years. Thank you very much.

I have a simple question, though, about the attached graphs: Where is that city of Riverside, of which, sorry, I've never heard before? Google inquiry provides one in MO, another in OH, both relatively small towns, far from any reasonable comparison with others. I am puzzled & would appreciate a few words of explanation.
It may be distressing to see some of these comments, but there is are some truths here that can't be avoided, even if poorly stated.

The blame can be placed squarely on the Democrat Party, which has been transformed into something other than what it was in the mid-80's, and where corruption has been institutionalized through the funneling of taxpayer dollars through public unions into campaign coffers. Combine that with consistent Democrat support from major media, which takes a Democrat Party uber alles approach to reporting - even though in doing so it puts ideology over making money.

What has happened in Detroit shows that there is simply no end to how bad Democrats can make it for a community - the party is like a horde of locusts who feed and feed even as the community is destroyed. Meanwhile major media prevents residents from considering any alternative. African Americans, for example have turned most inner cities into a one party paradise for Democrats, who in turn have systematically plundered and destroyed the community that gives them support, while relying on major media to perpetrate the lie that the alternative is worse. As if anything could possibly be worse than what the Democrats have done to the African American community in the inner cities. However, don't count on major media to support anything other than the status quo.

Likewise in Los Angeles, the optimistic signs pointed to in the article are just small impediments on the road to the withering way of the community and its transformation into something like Detroit. Ten years, 20, it's all the same - but I will bet that things will only further decline.
An example of how big unions and the Democrat stooges they put into power can only consume wealth, not create it.
Excellent analysis of what/who is wrong with L.A.
I moved to the LA basin in 1985 from the midwest. A few days later, I announced to my family that I was a Californian now and was never moving back.

I am sad to say, the state I moved to no longer exists. Taxes are confiscatory. Regulations are crushing. Nannying is offensive. The schools are failing. And the overrun of illegals is disgusting.

About six months ago, I was reviewing my income and came to the conclusion that state taxes are taking far too much, and I needed to keep more in order to meet specific personal goals. That gave me no choice but to move. I could pretend the decline of the quality of government (see above) wasn't so bad, but I could not ignore the math that I was paying far too much in taxes without seeing the benefit.

I sold my house and a month from now will be a resident of no-income-tax Texas. The specific area shows little sign of a recession. The best way to describe it is that it is the way California used to be.

I am taking my mid-six figure income and job creating skills with me. (To those of you in Sacramento, that means you will be losing several tens of thousands of dollars of income tax revenue each year and jobs that could have in in California will be elsewhere.)

The state employees and their legislative puppets have hijacked the republic. The people are now servants of the bureaucrats. LA's business problems, like those in other places, are rooted in Sacramento. The state, and its cities and counties, cannot possibly meet its future obligations. California is in a financial death spiral caused by too many people getting paid not to work, and too much at that. Time to leave.
Excellent perspective. One other point I would add is the rise of minimum wage in the state of California and what it's done to a manufacturing base that was concentrated in Los Angeles. About 15 years ago, minimum wage in CA was $4.10 and there were a huge influx of immigrants and young who worked close to that wage at entry level. Through a series of increases, CA hit $8.00 by 2007. There is a direct correlation of rising unemployment and increases in minimum wage. Now we are seeing it nationally as well.
Joel, you have left half of the story out because you fear the establishment. The Democrat party has tried to destroy this nation. They have succeeded in Detroit, and now Los Angeles. The 'subway to the sea' is a highway for gang members to destroy the Westside. You and I both know it. The Mexican Problem will have to be solved in an unhappy way, as Mexicans themselves lack the discipline to fix their own problems, like orphaned children. Mexicans, Leftists, Democrats and communists have always been in bed together. They have harmed this city in the name of 'social justice', and now the so-called Tea Party has called the bluff. Time to attack the mexican problem where it lives - in Mexico City.
It is fairly incredible that you could write all this without once mentioning the city's impossible traffic and the inability of the city's leaders to do much about it. We need to be building subways like Pat Brown built freeways; all the other "solutions" just redistribute the scare roadways. But nothing can be done because all the money disappears into the bureaucratic blob which needs ever-increasing sums to pay for its overhead.
ILLEGAL ALIENS....once again that has been CENSORED out of any complaint about los angeles.

never ever blame illegal aliens for anything---that's the rule.
Joel-you nailed it, all the reasons we left LA in the 80's, just like my dad left the Bronx in the 40's, and only return for necessary medical treatment. LA (including the SFV) is like a third world country run by the inmates. Good luck to all (any?) remaining sane, productive people, but I don't believe you can right that sinking ship August 08, 2011 at 11:06 AM
One of the best analyses of Los Angeles's decline that I've seen. As a business owner employing 1,300, with 900 in the State of California alone, I find myself constantly looking for ways to get out of California. If things keep going the way they are, I will find a way.

At base, the heart of the problem is the system of entitlements and entrenchment. Politicians reward those who got them elected. Now, and for quite some time, that has meant unions and city workers -- often the same thing. My company has employees in nearly 20 other states. California, by far, is the most business unfriendly. It's not even close. Los Angeles and San Francisco are places to avoid if possible, as any businessman here knows.

Eventually, a bad business climate has consequences. The short-sighted rewards conferred on government workers and unions can't continue. Eventually, a system like that collapses on itself, as businesses pull up and leave rather than paying suffocating taxes and enduring myriad regulations and bureaucracy. We are almost there. There's not much time. But, Kotkin's right: There's very little impetus for change.
Excellent,Excellent article!
Another city driven into the ground,by liberals,unions and their politics.When will they learn, that you need diversity in your politics, as much as they laud diversity in the population?
This article misses one aspect that cannot be ignored. The changing ethnic demographics. It is taboo to talk about, but cannot be ignored. Los Angeles has a Hispanic majority and they are very dependent on government. It is all about buying votes. Government will take from businesses and give to to citizens in forms of welfare or some other enticement to get their vote. Demographics correlated with free enterprise really does matter.
As an ex-Los Angeleno of north European family background, I now live in Europe again. The shining opportunities afforded to both sets of immigrant European grandparents are gone. Not slowly vanishing, but gone.

The last time I toured downtown LA and drove down Wilshire Boulevard to the west, I was astounded at how much like a third-world city it had become. That last time was several years ago, and now I visit friends in surrounding communities up and down the coast, I no longer visit Los Angeles.

Rather sad, since I am an alumnus of Los Angeles High School, Los Angeles City College and UCLA. LA was my "brand." It is no longer.

My friends in surrounding communities will go downtown to see a show or concert, but uniformly they all travel by freeway there and back, avoiding the large swath of unhappy city which wants its downtown to be of an elite and global status.

The city was once a jewel. The setting is now cracked, tarnished and lackluster.

But not to hear a Villaraigosa tell....
ditto for the rest of california...once beautiful and full of promise, now only interested in milking the last of the productive businesses and citizens before the leave for NV, TX, and AZ....the bottom is very far off as the elected leaders have no vision nor stomach to do anything other than give their democrat and union constituents what they want...more and more taken from others...
The biggest problem L.A. and California face is their own mentality or lack thereof.
politicians, and particularly local politicians, are some of the dumbest, most feckless, pandering fools on the planet. consumed with their own egos, they fail to consider the effect of anti-business regulation on the employment of their constituents. Too busy aping for the cameras over their do-gooder falsehoods, consumed with their own aggrandizement, they don't notice the exodus of jobs from their streets and neighborhoods. they are idiots, and i use that word in a clinical, literal sense.
This is an interesting piece, but I wonder how negative LA and SFs growth would be if the dot-com boom-bust cycle were removed--especially in SF that was a major distortion.
Gotta say, as someone born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, but driven out along with my family by Mexicans intent on ethnic cleansing the area as they became a majority- there is no question why L.A. has been totally devestated. Over the last 20 years almost all of the original, mostly white, productive, law-abiding middle class have been driven out by an ugly, racist, thuggish, violent, invasion force from Mexico. So sad, such a loss- but we allowed it and seem to be unable to speak truthfully (in public at least) about what really happened. I do believe these hateful people and their ugly culture have built up quite a karmic "charge" that will come back to bite them good someday. I only hope I'm around to see it.
Mr. Kotkin:

What an incredible in-depth, well researched piece of journalism.
MEXIFORNIA... Mexico's welfare, jobs, jails and "free" hospital state... SURE WORKS OUT FOR THEM!


“So what about California? The economic well-being of many metropolitan areas in the Golden State has been sinking precipitously since 2006. This year, three California regions--Oakland, Sacramento and San Bernardino-Riverside--have sunk down into the bottom 10 on the large cities list. That's a phenomenon we've never seen before--and never expected to see.” FORBES


Calif. Hospitals Spend $1.25 Bil On Illegal Immigrants

While the Obama Administration halts deportations to work on its secret amnesty plan, hospitals across the U.S. are getting stuck with the exorbitant tab of medically treating illegal immigrants and some are finally demanding compensation from the federal government.
The group that represents most of the nation’s hospitals and medical providers recently urged President Obama to work with Congress to reimburse them for the monstrous cost of treating illegal immigrants. Federal law requires facilities to “treat and stabilize individuals” regardless of their immigration status, but federal support for the services remains “virtually nonexistent,” according to a letter submitted by the American Hospital Association to the president.
This week officials in California, the state with the largest concentration of illegal immigrants, joined the call for federal compensation after revealing that hospitals there spend about $1.25 billion annually to care for illegal aliens. The figure skyrocketed from $1.05 billion in 2007, according to California Hospital Association figures quoted in a local news report.
The problem will only get worst, according to officials, who say the $1.25 billion for 2010 could actually be higher. They complain that federal law forces them to treat patients in emergency rooms regardless of immigration status yet they get stuck with the financial burden. This has forced many hospitals to curtail services or close beds and could ultimately compromise healthcare.
Nationwide, U.S. taxpayers spend tens of billions of dollars annually to provide free medical care for illegal immigrants with states that border Mexico taking the biggest hit. Adding to the problem is the fact that Mexico, the country that provides the largest amount of illegal immigrants in the U.S., has long promoted America’s generous public health centers. It even operates a Spanish-language program (Ventanillas de Salud, Health Windows) in about a dozen U.S. cities that refers its nationals—living in the country illegally—to publicly funded health centers where they can get free medical care without being turned over to immigration authorities.
We already know why California is in the skids, without resorting to further studies...unlimited, unchecked 3rd world illegal immigration of people that cannot and will not add to America's past rise in subscribing to the free markets, entrepreneural ventures,a solid manufacturing base(not outsourced)cessation of big crop exports to Communist nations..the list goes on ad finitum.The Socialist mindset uses unchecked aliens in their formula to game the elections in their favor as welfare recipients always vote Socialistic Big Government candidates..a forever dependent,parasitical mass of the population that exponentially grows as the host country becomes totally drained; exhausted from "chaos within." How civilizations crumble.
George S Mc QUade III August 08, 2011 at 3:31 AM
Joel Kotkin, this probably one of the most indepth articles on a Los Angeles County reality check in a long time. Great to see you're continuing your studies. George@ 818-340-5300.
Villaraigossa will be hanged in front of his office.
To UNITED STATES CITIZENS: Stop Paying taxes and arm yourselves, WE ARE AT WAR.
L.A. Is a Latino trash town, everybody is Leaving, and Mexicans are telling us, The American Citizens to " Go Back To Europe". All we need is 10,000 or 100,000,000 armed angry Civil Volunteers to restore our State, and when we will, Villaraigossa and Edmund Brown ( Both will be tried in a MILITARY COURT) will be HANGED FOR TREASON. Mexicans: GO BACK HOME WHILE YOU STILL CAN> WE WILL RUN THE STATE.
What Ryan Jones said. (we're boned)
Los Angeles' problems are manifold -- the enormous housing slump and its ripple effects through the construction and other sectors of the economy and the overly strong public sector unions costing its citizens more in direct and indirect taxes per capita than almost any other area of the country (despite low overall public sector employment numbers as a percent of overall employment) are the most prominent -- but an important part of the present comparative slump is due to the fact that California's economy is poorly positioned to capitalize on the financial bust, as have the financial centers, especially Wall Street. Also, Los Angeles hasn't been helped by the fact that federal per capita spending in California is only 36th among the states, and military spending in California has fallen to an 11 percent share (less than its share of population) when it was once 20 percent (with spending centered in the L.A. region). Despite these problems, Angelenos are optimists. We know the present governance and other problems will be overcome through hard work and good ideas.

The liberals runined the city, making it a sanctuary city for illegals and welcoming the homeless. Many areas of the city now look like a cross between Tijuana and the Bowery, with a few rich folks living on the fringes in protected enclaves. The giant, obscene billboards are another eyesore, adding to the visual pollution and contributing to the junky impression. Lastly, there is the shallow, soul-less influence of Hollywood,where everyone is rated by their appearance.
In the end, it turns out LA cannot support their huge underclass anymore and they want to bill other counties in California for their philanthropy. Good luck with that one.
Incredibly optimistic
"Will Los Angeles get the Sunshine Revolution that it so desperately needs? Only time will tell."

That's both a weasel statement and a cliche. Stop writing on auto-pilot. You know as well as I do that "Once a bear is hooked on garbage, there's no cure." And LA has feasted on garbage for decades.

The wheels will fly off and LA will spiral into a flaming crash followed by troops in the city before the wisp of a ghost of a chance of renewal even begins to have a pulse.
Los Angeles is what happens when the Mexicans occupy!

Nearly 50% of all jobs are held by illegals using stolen ssi numbers.

95% of all murder are by Mexicans.

The city puts out $10 million for Mexican grafitti abatement.

Villaraigosa is a M.E.Ch.A. Separatist party member.

L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina is a LA RAZA SUPREMACIST and has helped L.A. County reach $600 million per year in welfare to ILLEGALS.

Of the top 200 most wanted criminals in L.A., 176 are Mexicans.

The tax-free Mexican underground economy in L.A. County is calculated to be more than $2 billion per year...!