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With Gov. Gray Davis facing recall, a budget $38 billion in deficit, and a bond rating dropped three notches by Standard & Poor’s to near junk-bond status, the lowest of all 50 states, the Golden State is no more.

Who killed the goose that laid the golden eggs?

Certainly, Davis, who misled voters about the gravity of his budget crisis in 2002, and won re-election by demonizing his GOP rivals, deserves his 20 percent approval rating. But Gray Davis did not kill California.

The United States government did. For what killed California as the golden land was massive and unrestricted immigration from the Third World, an unrepelled invasion from Mexico, and a failure to protect the U.S. manufacturing base and the wages of America’s workers.

During and after World War II, California became a bastion of our defense, aerospace, auto and TV industries. Hundreds of thousands were hired to become the highest-paid manufacturing workers on earth, giving California the world’s highest standard of living. The average California wage once stood at 130 percent of the average U.S. wage.

In the 1970s and 1980s, however, Japan, a free rider on America’s defense, began to engage in predatory trade, attacking and killing, one by one, U.S. industries and capturing U.S. markets with subsidized exports.

California suffered first. Our TV industry was wiped out. Our auto industry was reeling when Ronald Reagan stepped in to impose quotas on Japanese cars. Reagan also intervened to save the semiconductor industry, Big Steel and Harley-Davidson. Unlike today’s free-trade fanatics, Ronald Reagan put America first.

But it was under Bush-Clinton-Bush that California was irrevocably sacrificed to the gods of the Global Economy.

During Bush I’s term, millions of Mexicans began to flee north to seek jobs and take advantage of the health care, welfare and free education American citizens provided for their people. For one-third of the illegals, California became the destination of choice.

What the U.S. government should have done was obvious, and was demanded by Americans: Enforce our immigration laws, halt the invasion, restrict immigration from the Third World. But America’s politicians – out of fear of being branded xenophobic and to curry favor with Big Business, which benefits from an endless supply of low-wage labor – did almost nothing to protect America.

Californians tried to defend their state. As illegals poured in by the hundreds of thousands yearly, they passed Proposition 187, denying social welfare benefits to illegal aliens who had broken the law and broken into the United States.

The open-borders coalition, repudiated and routed, ran to a federal judge, who annulled the voters’ victory. Davis then refused to appeal the overturning of 187 to the Supreme Court. Hispanic voters rewarded him in 2002, and California state and local budgets continued to hemorrhage.

By the 1990s, an exodus of taxpayers had begun. Fed up with being fleeced to subsidize illegal aliens, Californians began leaving for Nevada, Idaho, Arizona and Colorado. Two million native-born Californians left the state in the 1990s, as immigrants, legal and illegal, sent poverty rates soaring in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties.

This, then, is what killed California:

First, open borders. By failing to enforce our immigration laws, America now hosts 31 million legal immigrants and their children and 10 million illegals, most of them net tax consumers. California got the lion’s share.

Second, global free trade and the trade deficits it produced, now running at an annual rate of $562 billion in May. This has killed millions of manufacturing jobs, as thousands of companies closed factories here and shifted plants to Mexico, Asia and China.

The Third Worldization of California is now far advanced. Yet those responsible, Bush Republicans as well as Clinton Democrats, still cannot see what they have done to our country.

But what is happening in California is not confined to California. It is happening across America. Unless we elect a president who will enforce our immigration laws and defend our borders, unless we find a Congress that will jettison the free-trade madness that is denuding America of her manufacturing, what has happened to California will happen here.

President Bush appears oblivious to it all – but then, so did his father before him.

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