In 1800 New Orleans was a door blocking ingress and egress to the Gulf and world markets beyond. It had been recently acquired from Spain by France—then an erstwhile enemy of the U.S. President. Jefferson clearly recognized the chokehold France, a potential enemy, held.

Manifest Destiny

In 1800 New Orleans was a door blocking ingress and egress to the Gulf and world markets beyond. It had been recently acquired from Spain by France—then an erstwhile enemy of the U.S. President. Jefferson clearly recognized the chokehold France, a potential enemy, held.

“There is on the globe one single spot, the possessor of which is our natural and habitual enemy.

It is New Orleans, through which the produce of three-eighths of our territory must pass to market.”

Jefferson sent negotiators Robert Livingstone and James Monroe to France authorized to purchase only the port of New Orleans for $10 million. But, Napoleon, then preparing to invade Great Britain, needed more than that and offered ALL France’s land in the New World [828,000 square miles] for $15 million. They, happily dumbfounded, hastily accepted.

It was an astonishing extension of executive power, but how was he to turn down such a bargain [4 cents an acre]. The sale was consummated 65 days before they were back home to notify Congress. Congress questioned its constitutionality and approved it by a scant two-vote margin 59-57. Jefferson, a strict constructionist, bent his beliefs to the bargain, and the nation got 15 new states.

American Indians never were asked to sign the document selling their land. Folks back East saw all that unclaimed, unfenced, seemingly unoccupied land just resting there free for the taking and went for it. Being law abiding, religious folks, they rationalized their actions in the words of journalist John L. O’Sullivan in his 1839 essay, as their “divine destiny to establish on earth the moral dignity and salvation of man.” Others added the imperative to consolidate the continent within one nation. The Gold rush of 1849 in and transcontinental railroad of 1869 to California took our boundary to the Pacific.

This spirit was captured in John Gast’s 1872 painting “American Progress” which depicts pioneers headed west in various forms of transportation guided by diaphanously-clad America floating overhead as American Indians are pushed ahead—and out of the picture.

Golden Age

In WWII, the developed nations of the world destroyed each other’s industry, navies, and global markets. Only the U.S. benefited commercially from the war thereby leaving us dominance in global markets. Fifteen years of suppressed domestic consumption and production during the Great Depression and WWII [1930-45] created pent-up demand that fueled 35 years of unprecedented economic expansion [1945-80] dubbed America’s “Golden Age.” [1]

The Okies moved West during the Great Depression followed by workers in defense industries during WWII. In the sixties California grew over five million people or 1406 per year followed in the sixties by adding an additional 4.2 million at 1160 per day. It was understandable, therefore, that when Edmund ‘Pat” Brown Sr.[1959-66] was Governor, his priority was accommodating the State’s growth.

Cadillac Culture in the Desert

Geography is important in their water problem. California’s northern border is as far north as southern Michigan and 770 miles south it abuts Mexico. Laid West-to-East, California would stretch from NYC to Chicago. That extreme length North-to-South creates dramatic differences in climate and precipitation between its regions..

Governor Brown came to office in the glow of the post-war boom and created the California Water Project to capture and divert the State’s water. The State now has 1400 named dams and 1300 named reservoirs. Of these, the State owns 13, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation 26, the Army Corps of Engineers 24, and the U.S. Forest Service 2. The rest are owned by cities, counties, and regional water districts. In general, all that water used in agriculture, like 53 gallons per egg and one gallon per almond, is subsidized by taxpayers. [2]

The most visible government water comes from snow melt high in the Rocky Mountains originating near Estes Park where the Colorado River begins. It winds 1450 miles through five American and two Mexican States along the way providing water for up to 40 million people. More than one hundred dams have been constructed on it by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation diverting more than 90% of its flow along the way. Every drop of it is fully allocated and it has not consistently reached the Gulf of California since 1960.

Three-fourths of the State’s water originates north of Sacramento and three fourths of it is needed to irrigate its crop lands which are located primarily south of Sacramento. One-half of their population lives in the area receiving only 1% of its natural rainfall. Residents brought their expectations of an “oasis civilization” of lush grass lawns and golf courses and ubiquitous swimming pools to a semi-arid State receiving only 22 inches of precipitation a year--two-thirds the national average. Though ranking 40th in the supply of water they leveraged government-provided water to rank 1st in agricultural production.

California grows 350 different crops on 29 million acres—some irrigated. Some of these crops are high-value crops like walnuts and almonds, but others like rice, alfalfa, wheat, beef, and dairy products are commodities grown in states not receiving irrigation. California is a heavy exporter of commodities to the Orient. In effect, America is shipping water to China at taxpayer expense.

[1] MIT Economist, Joseph E. Stiglitz agrees that the nation enjoyed a golden age but that it benefited primarily only 1% leaving us with gross inequality.

[2] NYT May 3, 2015.