NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 19, 2006

War-torn Iraq has about 26 million residents and peaceful California has about 35 million. The former is a violent and impoverished landscape, the latter said to be paradise on Earth. But how you envision either place to some degree depends on how the daily media portray each, says Victor Davis Hanson, in American Enterprise magazine.

According to the media, Iraq's judicial and financial systems are a mess, the state cannot patrol its borders, and it costs us nearly $7 billion a year for each 40,000 army personnel we station in Iraq. Yet, California is not any better, says Hanson. For example:

  • Yearly, California has nearly 200,000 violent acts that law enforcement know about, and the state's penal system houses 170,000 criminals -- an inmate population larger than those of Germany, France, the Netherlands and Singapore combined -- and costs the state about $7 billion a year.
  • California has only a single border with a foreign nation, yet over 3 million foreigners have crossed it and now live illegally in the state; worse, there are about 15,000 convicted alien felons incarcerated in the penal system, costing about $500 million a year.
  • Every year, over 4,000 Californians die in car crashes -- nearly twice the number of Americans lost so far in three years of combat operations in Iraq.
  • In 2001, California had 32 days of power outages, despite paying nearly the highest rates for electricity in the United States, and until recently, its finances were also in a mess.

So is California really comparable to Iraq? Hardly. Yet it could easily be portrayed as a bankrupt, crime-ridden den with murderous highways, tens of thousands of inmates, with wide-open borders, by a reporter intent on doing so, says Hanson.

Source: Victor Davis Hanson, "Eye of the Beholder," American Enterprise, May 2006.


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