Living in New York state and not traveling outside the region on a periodic basis leaves me disconnected from the rest of the world. A very wise person once told me that to understand what is happening in our lives, we must leave home from time to time. As he put it, “America begins west of the Hudson.”
During the past three weeks, I covered territory as far west as San Francisco and as far east as Morocco. Wherever I went, it was an eye-opener as to what is happening around us that gets little or no notice in our media or in our daily conversations.
California is a good example of how government solves its problems with bold actions. Faced with a multi-billion-dollar deficit and a failing education system, Gov. Jerry Brown took the bold step of proposing a referendum on raising income taxes to prop up the school system from high school through college. He campaigned aggressively for the change, and it passed. The result has been dramatic, as schools at all levels are beginning to see great progress.
Once known mostly for Silicon Valley growth, California is now experiencing new job growth and the birth of extensive manufacturing at a time when the rest of the country is lagging. While other states have turned down money for mass transit, California is building a high-speed bullet train line that will take passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in two and a half hours. In addition, a new water-transfer system is in the works to deal with the periodic drought that the state suffers.
My trip overseas was also very revealing. Here at home there’s a group of very conservative politicians who can’t stop talking about the need to cut every federal program that helps people. In the meantime, countries like France, England and Spain have made cuts in those people programs, and the results have been a disaster.