The political class in Sacramento is obsessed with raising taxes, enacting new regulatory schemes and green economy pipedreams. But they should be focused on this stunning trend.

In an interview Saturday with the Wall Street Journal, demographer Joel Kotkin laid out the terrifying news for California: In the last two decades, nearly 4 million more people have left the state than have moved in from other places in the U.S. Most of those leaving, Mr. Kotkin said, are between the ages of 5 and 14 and 34 to 45. "In other words," the interviewer wrote, "young families."

Mr. Kotkin, a professor at Chapman University in Orange, in particular takes a shot at coastal California. "Basically, if you don't own a piece of Facebook or Google and you haven't robbed a bank and don't have rich parents, then your chances of being able to buy a house or raise a family in the Bay Area or in most of coastal California is pretty weak."

The principal cause of the state's unraveling -- once a magnet for millions pursuing the middle-class dream -- is excessive, jobs-killing regulation on development, particularly in the coastal areas, according to Mr. Kotkin.

Sound familiar?

Lucasfilm's Grady Ranch debacle epitomizes the negative impact on the broader economy of the out-sized influence of a small group of opponents and silos of excessive regulation. When Lucas withdrew the model project earlier this month after years of regulatory delays and NIMBY protests, one could almost hear the sound of 10,000 people packing their bags for Texas, Arizona, Nevada or Washington. Well, you say, they could move to less expensive inland areas of the state? True. But the amenities in inland California ara not that much different from Texas or Nevada except that the latter are much cheaper and there is no income tax, Mr. Kotkin points out. Countless companies, including some of Silicon Valley's most prominent names, already have figured this out.

Little by little for three decades and then accelerating with tragic events like Grady Ranch, the foundation of what made California great -- the young family trying to get ahead -- has been cracking.

With the current leadership in Sacramento -- which inevitably trickles down to local jurisdictions -- don't expect much to change. The cap and trade edicts of AB32 are being formulated by green activists and regulatory insiders as you read this. Things like congestion pricing for downtowns in the form of higher parking fees and ever-more Orwellian restrictions on water and energy consumption aren't far away. 

Funny part is, they will make zero difference in global greenhouse gas emissions. But they likely will succeed in driving away still more tax-paying businesses and the people they employ....Brad Bollinger is the Business Journal's editor and associate publisher. He can be reached at 707-521-4251 or bbollinger@busjrnl.com.