‘Communist California’ is a conservative talking point, but widely inaccurate | Opinion

If you happen to come across far-right talking points expressed on the radio, podcasts or other forms of media, chances are you’ll hear about how California is a communist state. You may even see a bumper sticker now and again with “Commiefornia” plastered on a window.

Recently I received an anonymous letter from a subscriber with a clipping from The Epoch Times — a conservative news organization that dabbles in far-right conspiracy theories and is “powered by Falun Gong, a religious group persecuted in China, which launched The Epoch Times as a free propaganda newsletter more than two decades ago to oppose the Chinese Communist Party,” according to reporting by NBC News.

The message from the subscriber on that clipping said, “Why don’t you print a viewpoint like this for a change?!?”

The headline of the “viewpoint” that the anonymous person wanted represented was “Joe Rogan Says California Went ‘Full Communist.’” Funny enough, on the back of the same clipping that was sent was the headline “San Francisco Tops Nation With Highest-Earning Software Engineers in 2023.”

So which is it? Are we a communist state or are we actually a haven for capitalism and all the economic inequality that comes along with it?


As has been the case in recent years, fear and concern over the world has led to an increase in irrational thought and a distrust of educational institutions. Words and phrases have been twisted to the point where they lose all meaning.

Communism, in this respect, is a clear example of that twisting of words. For those who decry that we are living in a communist state or that so and so is communist, it seems as if they don’t really understand what communism is and why our economic inequality is so great — which is an absolute antithesis to communism.

Let’s start with the basics.

“Communism is a political ideology and type of government in which the state owns the major resources in a society, including property, means of production, education, agriculture and transportation. Basically, communism proposes a society in which everyone shares the benefits of labor equally, and eliminates the class system through redistribution of income,” according to The University of North Carolina’s Center for European Studies.

“The Father of Communism, Karl Marx, a German philosopher and economist, proposed this new ideology in his Communist Manifesto, which he wrote with Friedrich Engels in 1848. The manifesto emphasized the importance of class struggle in every historical society, and the dangerous instability capitalism created. … Though Marx died well before a government tested his theories, his writings, in conjunction with a rising disgruntled working class across Europe, did immediately influence revolutionary industrial workers throughout Europe who created an international labor movement.”

Does this sound like California’s government and class structure to you? Is wealth evenly distributed among the masses? If you’re paying attention and being honest with yourself, then the answer is unequivocally no.

Let’s take a look at reality.

According to statistics froom the Internal Revenue Service, California residents with incomes of $1 million or more grew by 61,900, or 66%, from 2019 to 2021. California’s share of millionaires in the U.S. rose to 17.9% in 2021 — the three most populous states after California all saw their share fall.

Now let’s take a look at billionaires in the state.

According to Forbes’ “Richest in 2023” list, California dominates other states with the amount of billionaires that live here — collectively worth $12.2 trillion. There were more than 180 California residents on that list, with Larry Page, co-founder of Google, worth the most at $79.2 billion.

So, if we were to go by pure statistics, by pure wealth that is not only generated but accumulated in this state, California is anything but a communist haven. The wealth is not redistributed in the manner outlined by communist ideology, nor does the state own major resources — large corporations such as PG&E are investor owned and driven by the desire for more profit, the complete antithesis of communism and true ownership.

In fact, California has some of the most noticeable and well-documented wealth inequality in the nation.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, the “gap between high- and low-income families in California is among the largest in the nation — exceeding all but three other states in 2021 (the latest data available).”

That data showed that families at the top of the income food chain earned 11 times more than families at the bottom.

“California’s income distribution reflects high rates of poverty. Income is frequently not enough to meet basic needs (on average a family of four requires about $37,000). Families in the bottom quarter of the income distribution are at risk of poverty absent major safety net programs,” the institution noted. “Wealth is more unevenly distributed than income. In California, 20% of all net worth is concentrated in the 30 wealthiest zip codes, home to just 2% of Californians.”

Again, this is the complete antithesis of communism where the even distribution of wealth is the desired byproduct.

It’s entirely possible that people are confusing communism with authoritarian dictatorships. The two are not mutually exclusive.

If that’s the case, though, then again the definition of communism fails in that respect. California has a robust democratic system — allowing voters to voice their opinions and make decisions on nearly every direction the state may want to go.

We vote on propositions, bonds, and of course who represents us at every level of government.

If you’re upset with the direction you think California or the nation is going, then that is perfectly understandable. Wealth inequality has only been rising as governments continue to cut taxes for the rich and allow corporations and the wealthy to dodge what little they pay compared to the rest of us.

Fear mongering is now the key tactic for any politician or grifter looking to distract the populous from reality and the reasons we see increased inequality. They shift the blame, they dangle some keys in our faces to force us to take our eyes away from the real causes of our economic situation. They want to divide us through culture war narratives that most either do not agree with or find utterly nonsensical when there are real issues we deal with on a daily basis.

The sooner we realize what some of our leaders and their associated charlatans are doing, the sooner we can get this country and this great state of California on the path to actual equality and opportunity for all. Continuing to bash each other or use terms like communism in wildly incorrect ways is not helping us or anybody achieve that goal.

Robert Summa is the editor of the Appeal-Democrat in Marysville. Email: rsumma@appealdemocrat.com.