California: South Africa Revisited?

[Previously by Boethius: Obama`s Contempt For Ordinary Whites—And McCain`s Inability To Defend Them]

What, besides perfect weather, does modern California have in common with Apartheid-era South Africa? More than meets the eye.

That California is in deep financial trouble is no secret. Also no secret (at least while Lou Dobbs was on the air) is that a major source of the trouble is the swollen population of low-income Hispanics who pay no income taxes while needing more social services than the working-class Americans they displaced.

However, there is more to California`s fiscal nightmare than a mismatch of falling taxes and rising needs. There is also the staggering cost of salaries, benefits, and pensions for California`s unionized public employees, exposed by California journalist Steve Greenhut in a City Journal essay entitled Plundering California [November 23, 2009]and in Plunder!, the book-length version.

According to Greenhut, there is no amount of taxes that will bring solvency to a State where the average pay and benefits package of a firefighter is $175,000, where it takes years to remove terminated teachers from the State payroll, and where 80% of police chiefs retire on “disability”.

What has this to do with South Africa? Well, there are many myths about South Africa, one being that the white Afrikaner population, descended as they were from the courageous Dutch Voortrekkers, were a hardy lot of sunburned, Rugby-playing, yeomen farmers. In fact, by the end of the Apartheid era, most Afrikaners were employed by the government, dealing with the mounting security and social issues that one expects would arise in so dysfunctional a society.

While intelligent and ambitious South African whites could find their way into the highly-paid professional and managerial classes that ran the Apartheid economy, those who did not own farmland and were not destined for the upper classes had little opportunity to earn a living in the private sector, where native African labor was available at rock-bottom wages. Since it was difficult for the average South African white to emigrate, the government was truly his employer of last resort.

Dynamics similar to those that shaped South Africa in the decades preceding majority rule are today at work in California. The white workers who once filled 90% of California`s private-sector jobs have been largely displaced by lower-paid immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere. African-American workers have probably suffered even more, as evidenced by a Government Accounting Office report on the use of Mexican workers to destroy the black janitorial unions in Los Angeles. (See The Rainbow Coalition Evaporates, by Stephen Malanga.)At the same time, the number of whites finding employment in the civil service, as well as the rewards for such work, have risen dramatically.

Given current trends, the only working-class whites left in California will be retirees and public employees.

This is not to say that the public sector in California has absorbed even a quarter of the private-sector workforce displaced by immigration. Even the politically-inflated payrolls described by Greenhut are not nearly large enough to absorb the displaced multitudes. However, unlike South Africans, white Californians unable to land a government job can readily emigrate—for example, to Nevada—and for the most part have done so. Since 1990 the number of Americans moving out of California has exceeded the number moving in by more than three million.

There are many curiosities here. Curiously, but not surprisingly, the left-wing public service unions, which invariably side against patriotic immigration reform, enjoy their lavish perks precisely because entry into their profession is tightly controlled and mostly closed-off to recent and especially illegal immigrants.

Also curiously, but again not surprising once you think about it: the gold-plated employment opportunities for California`s civil servants have grown hand-in-hand with the growing demand for State services—especially public education, public health, and crime control—attributable to the very group that drove working-class whites from the private sector into the hands of the public service unions: immigrants, legal and illegal, from the Third World.

California`s highly-paid army of teachers, nurses, policemen, firemen, welfare workers, etc. also explains a gaping hole in the “Sailer Strategy.” As Steve Sailer has persuasively argued, the growth of the U.S. minority population, at least in the near term, is not a threat but an opportunity for the GOP. Republicans are generally strongest in the States (e.g. the South) where the minority population is so large that the Republican Party, whether it likes it or not, becomes perceived as the “white Party” by working-class white voters who feel threatened by affirmative action, guestworkers, gang-related crime, and the like.

But in spite of Sailer`s irrefutable logic, the theory has not worked out (yet) in California. Barack Obama got a majority of the white vote in spite of the State`s having the largest and most radicalized Hispanic minority in the country.

Polls show that white Americans, including white Californians, are no more enamored of illegal immigration than they are of racial quotas or gay marriage. Why then has the GOP been unable to capitalize on outrage over liberal immigration policies in the very epicenter of illegal immigration?

Gross stupidity within the California GOP`s leadership is certainly part of the answer. But California`s rent-seeking public service unions provide another. What is left of California`s white working class is largely employed by the State and dependent on the largesse of the legislature`s Democratic majority.

I do not believe that the rank and file share the radically pro-immigration politics of their union leaders. Nor do I believe that they consciously welcome the growth of the immigrant population because they calculate it increases the demand for their services. (Why worry about such things if you can`t ever be fired?)

But it seems clear that their own natural inclinations on “social issues” like immigration, which should make them trend Republican, are outweighed by the pocketbook issue of keeping the gravy train on track.

Indeed, the success of the Democrats in dominating a state where they routinely act against the interest of the white working class may point the way to the “anti-Sailer Strategy”—a “California Strategy” if you will—in which permanent political domination by liberal Democrats is founded upon an “iron triangle” of special interests comprising

(1)  wealthy whites whose lifestyles are subsidized by cheap labor in their businesses and  back yards;

(2) Immigrants who cannot resist the liberal Democratic package of welfare for the working class and affirmative action for the middle class;

(3) Coddled public service unions led by radicals and populated by working class whites who have in effect been bribed into going along with an agenda set by folks who despise them.

The main impediment to widespread imitation of the California strategy is, well, the example of California. Sounds good in theory, but who can afford it?

For Western opponents of Apartheid, the stereotypical South African was wealthy businessman engaged in suppression and exploitation of poor Blacks. But for most South Africans, the daily reality was clinging to one`s position in an overstaffed, overpaid, predominantly white government workforce engaged in managing the social consequences of an economy constructed on the backs of low-wage nonwhite labor.

How much of this saga will be replayed in the Golden State?

Boethius [Email him] works in the business world, where any friend of VDARE.com is advised not to admit it. If you want to know how much trouble you can get into by offending the orthodoxies of the day, read The Consolation Of Philosophy.