This week marks the third anniversary of the Woolsey Fire, an event that changed many of our lives. It’s difficult to understand how unless you’ve been through it personally. We had that experience in the 1993 Topanga Fire, when our home in La Costa burned along with most of the neighborhood. For the next two-and-a-half years, our life was sort of in limbo. Your life is on hold until you can move back into your new home and the wait seems endless. Your days are spent picking out flooring and doorknobs, the kind of things that you never give a second thought to unless you’re building a house. No matter how quickly it goes, it’s always too slow. It was too slow after the Topanga Fire and again too slow after the Woolsey Fire. Finally, people are now beginning to move into their new homes. To date, about 55 homes are completed and another 154 are in construction out of the 475 or so burned down in the city of Malibu. We should wish them good luck in their new homes and a chance to get on with their lives.
I’ve read news stories about the supply chain of goods stalling and you certainly can’t miss all the large cargo container ships circling around the Santa Monica Bay waiting to get a berth to offload their cargo, but yesterday it really hit home. I went down to Samy’s Camera store on Fairfax, five stories of photo equipment, to buy myself a graduation/retirement gift, a new digital camera. Normally, the counters are filled with cameras, but yesterday, nothing! They are practically out of inventory and truly have no idea when they’ll get new shipments. I checked online and the retailers are guessing one to two month waits on cameras under $1,000. You can begin to understand why the used anything market has gotten quite hot.
Thursday, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day, what used to be called Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I, the war that was going to end all wars. Needless to say the prediction was somewhat off. I can’t remember a time when we didn’t have some external threat: the Germans and the Japanese in the ‘30s and ‘40s, the Russians in the post-war era and the North Koreans and the Chinese in the Korean War, in kind of a dress rehearsal for what we are facing now. Now, the Chinese are again flexing their muscles and making threatening sounds. It all comes at a time when our country is totally split in half on just about everything, but that in itself is not unusual. Sometimes we forget history or rewrite in our heads. Pre-World War II there was an overwhelming sentiment in the USA that we should stay neutral and not engage in foreign wars. Some saw the dangers but most felt it wasn’t our business and we should stay out of it. We might have stayed out of it except the Japanese attacked us on Dec. 7, 1941, and the next day Americans were lined up to volunteer to fight. Then we might have just declared war on Japan alone but Hitler solved that dilemma and declared war on us a few days later and we were in a world war against powers.
After what seems like endless waiting, President Biden finally got part of his agenda passed: the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill for highways, bridges, rail, airports, water and such. It’s estimated that California will get $45.5 billion out of the bill. That’s about $1,200 per Californian, paid out over five years, which is a lot of money. Still, 40 million or so Californians have a $3 trillion a year economy, which means that this hunk of federal change stretched out over five years, in a state that already has a $200 billion a year state budget, amounts to roughly only 4.5 percent per year of our state budget. Now, I’m not saying that 5 billion federal dollars per year is exactly chump change but it brings to mind something that has always bothered me. If you ask many people about California, they’ll tell you homes are too expensive, taxes are too high, people are leaving the state in droves, we are over regulated, major companies and jobs are moving out and leaving us for places like Texas, and overall we are going downhill fast. We’ve all heard the mantra. Yet what they don’t say, nor do many of them believe, is if California was a separate country, compared to other countries, we’d have the fifth largest economy in the world. Who are the top five? The USA, then China, next Japan, next Germany and than California. Our economy is bigger the India’s, France’s, Italy’s, etc., etc. We must be doing something right because what we’re doing is being done with a lot less population and workers than all of the countries on the list. The only other state even close is Texas and they are 10th on the list. It’s always puzzled me because the perception continues to exist that California is hostile to business and the data would seem to say it just ain’t so. I can only guess that many people just don’t like our politics so the data, for them, becomes irrelevant.