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The Nuts Behind the California Drought


Admittedly, the near-death experiences give me an anti-nut bias. But Helaine Olen’s point here is crucial:

Barely mentioned was the fact that the clueless wealthy might just as well go ahead and turn on the taps—let ten thousand golf course bougainvillea bloom. They aren’t the problem, or not much of the problem.

Listen up: California’s agricultural sector uses about 80 percent of the state’s water. As Mother Jones reported, it takes one gallon of water to grow a single almond, and nearly five gallons to make a walnut edible.

But, hey, Governor Brown says those almonds and other produce grown in California aren’t living large. That’s why agriculture was all but excused from his edict. “They’re not watering their lawn or taking long showers,” Brown told ABC’s This Week, of the farmers. “They’re providing much of the fruits and vegetables of America.”

Nuts: Too tasty to fail?

The ritual shaming of the public, in which politicians blame us for their failures, seems like democratic politics in reverse. And the bigger the crisis, the greater the gall. For example, as we all know but few care to remember, the United States recently went through a financial crisis. Banks made massively leveraged bets that didn’t pay off. Complicated, risky financial innovations were presented as safe by people and institutions all of who should have known better. Subprime mortgages were pushed and promoted, often under false pretenses. Credit was offered up to Americans, many of whom took it because they were told it is was a good idea, and cheap, and, anyway, their incomes weren’t keeping up with the cost of housing, healthcare, and education and they needed to get money from somewhere, dammit.

And when it all went bad, who was to blame? Was it the banks who rigged the system? Uh, no. It was all of us. “This is America! How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills?,” screamed Rick Santelli on CNBC. Others blamed the financial illiteracy of the American public. There was actually a 2012 Senate hearing entitled “Financial Literacy: Empowering Americans to Prevent the Next Financial Crisis,” and no, it didn’t explain how teaching people to pay off their credit cards in full every month would have stopped the too-big-to-fail financial services sector from blowing up synthetic credit default swaps.

This is nuts. You and I can no more prevent the next financial crisis any more than some one percenter in Beverly Hills can solve the California water shortage by letting his lawn go desert native.

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