State demographers this week unloaded a bombshell statistic: Within the next half century, California is projected to grow to 60 million people.
Sixty million people! Where will they all live? How will they get around? And how will we possibly maintain the things we love about California with an extra 23 million people? Answers to those questions need to be on the lips of every elected leader.
Two big factors are driving our population. One, people are living longer. That’s a blessing in a way, but it is causing all kinds of challenges for our health care and our pensions. At the same time, California is growing dependent on low-wage service industries – the people who mow our lawns, tend our kids, and work in restaurants. The demand for these kinds of workers drives immigration, legal and illegal.
Until we face up to these realities, we will never come to grips with our many challenges. Of course, we could just let things go to hell in a hand basket. That’s what Russia did. Over the next half century, its population is projected to drop by 31 million people.
Stuart Leavenworth writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.