Published January 19, 2023
California’s status as the most important state in the nation will remain secure for quite some time. But its falling population coupled with its $22.5 billion budget deficit suggest it could experience a swift and wrenching decline.
The Golden State has long been said to be where America’s future happened first. It grew in population in each census since its admission as a state in 1850, overtaking New York as the country’s largest state by the early 1960s. Its economy, first based in agriculture and resource extraction and later in entertainment and high technology, often fueled national developments. “California Dreamin’” was more than just a hit song; it was a description of what much of the country and even the world wanted.
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Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, studies and provides commentary on American politics. His work focuses on how America’s political order is being upended by populist challenges, from the left and the right. He also studies populism’s impact in other democracies in the developed world.