"It's economic apartheid and it represents California's greatest challenge as it enters a new century."

Dan Walters (see below)

Apartheid - (American Heritage Dictionary)

1. An official policy of racial segregation practiced in the Republic of South Africa, involving political, legal, and economic discrimination against nonwhites.

2. Any policy or practice of separating or segregating groups.

VCT email to Dan Walters:

Re: Economic boom bypasses many.

You say that we have "economic apartheid" in California. I agree. A deliberate government policy has led to a division in California between very poor Mexicans and Americans who are thriving in their own land.

The policy to which I refer is our immigration policy.

Blame for the consequences of a misguided policy cannot, however, be laid at the feet of Americans who did not want immigration in the first place. Glenn Spencer - Voice of Citizens Together

Sacramento Bee: Dan Walters:

Economic boom bypasses many

(Published Sept. 7, 1998)

By every index one can devise, California's economy is booming. More than 15 million Californians have jobs, driving unemployment rates down to levels not seen since the 1980s, even as the population and the number of job-seekers expand.

The surge is led by the high-tech sectors but has spread through service, construction and other segments of the economy. One sign: Contractors are crying for carpenters, roofers and other skilled construction workers and are sending recruiters to other states to induce tradesmen to come West.

Revenues are flowing into the state's coffers from surging personal incomes and retail sales, so much money that Gov. Pete Wilson and state legislators had trouble dreaming up ways to spend it all during the just-concluded legislative session.

Given all of those trends, Labor Day 1998 should be a day of true celebration among working men and women. But our elation at California's prosperity should be tempered by its flip side: The rising economic tide has not lifted all boats equally and, as a result, California approaches the 21st century with increasing socioeconomic fragmentation.

While the pockets of greatest prosperity, such as the San Francisco Bay Area, enjoy minuscule levels of unemployment, a two-hour drive takes one into Central Valley communities in which double-digit joblessness is endemic and families are packed into substandard housing.

Ironically, as a recent University of California, Davis, study shows, the nation's crackdown on illegal immigration from Mexico has actually increased rural poverty in California. Moving across the border has become so difficult, dangerous and expensive, researchers concluded, that migrant workers are now remaining in small, rural communities year-round rather than going home when harvests are concluded.

Two other recent research projects underscore the harsh fact that many Californians are being left behind. Robert Magull, a professor of business statistics at California State University, Sacramento, and a leading expert on California socioeconomic trends, concludes in a new examination of the numbers that the incidence of poverty is increasing.

Twenty years ago, Magull says, fewer than 11 percent of Californians were living in poverty, as measured by the federal government's guidelines on income and need. But today, it's close to 17 percent and expected to near 18 percent by 2000.

The California Budget Project, a liberal think tank based in Sacramento, says in its new report, meanwhile, "Inequality is on the rise and California continues to lag the nation with respect to unemployment, wage growth and the share of the state's population living below the poverty line."

It doesn't take a rocket scientist -- or a university economist -- to see what's happening. California's economic growth is being led by the most technologically sophisticated sectors, including computer software and communications, but its population growth is being driven by immigration and high birth rates among the state's least educated and most impoverished residents. In brief, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer -- and more numerous.

And there is a large ethnic element to that fact. Magull notes that the poverty rate among white Californians is 11 percent, but among African Americans and Latinos, it's well over 20 percent.

The below-average educational test results in poor, inner city and rural schools indicate, meanwhile, that in the technology-driven economy that's evolved in California, some will prosper and many will fall behind. It's economic apartheid and it represents California's greatest challenge as it enters a new century.

DAN WALTERS' column appears daily, except Saturday. E-mail: dwalters@sacbee.com; mail: P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, 95852; phone: (916) 321-1195; fax: (916) 444-7838.