Central California is also a magnet for very rich Punjabis. Their three-story gated castles of 6,000 square feet are suddenly commonplace. For every copper-wire thief, there is an immigrant agribusiness man who smiles and says: “No problem. I just got more barbed wire, more video cameras, more lights” — such an impressive confidence so characteristic of the immigrants who have always energized America.
The Sikh community arrives with capital, English, and education — and wishes to become even richer, better spoken, more highly educated, and more successful. In this nexus, land is not just a wise investment, but immediate proof of visible, tangible success, in the manner of the old idea of a landed aristocracy.
So California is both more poorly managed than any time in its past, more divided between rich and poor, more fragmented by opportunistic ethnic identity politics, more impoverished by massive illegal immigration — and never more naturally wealthy. The other day I drove through the verdant Central Valley on Manning Avenue. Each acre I zoomed by is producing thousands of dollars in global profits. At I-5, I looked out at fracking country, before descending into the land of Facebook, Google, and Apple — all on mostly poor roads, with terrible drivers and third-world public rest stops, and now and then passing inferior schools.
California may be in awful financial, social, civic, and political shape — but it is far, far from broke.