ESSAY: Sacramento is a secret bastion of national power

By Dave Kempa

Whenever I say I live in Sacramento, folks from out of state furrow their brows and ask, “Is that on the coast?” Meanwhile, fellow Californians smile condescendingly and comment on how nice it must be to live between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe. For my part, I usually respond with demure agreement.

But I think it’s time to share, at least with my fellow residents, what I really think about this town: Sacramento is one of the most influential political epicenters on Earth—a secret known to virtually no one outside of our city limits.

Think about it: We live in the capital of the most populous state of the richest, most powerful nation in the world. At $2 trillion, California’s gross state product ties with India as the 10th-largest economy in the world. As I write this, my girlfriend is sending me a text message to say that Neel Kashkari, the “$700 billion man” famous for bailing out the banks after the 2008 economic crash, is hamming it up to her kindergarten class in preparation for a gubernatorial run. Sacramento is important.

Beyond that, this town actually functions.

When asked if she would ever consider moving to Washington, D.C., a policy-making friend of mine recently responded with an emphatic “No.” The reasoning? While D.C. is replete with smart people working to fix the nation’s problems, nothing ever seems to happen out there. (Take, for example, the most inefficient Congress in the history of our nation.)

Meanwhile, legislation passed through Sacramento last session raised the state’s minimum wage, cracked down on assault-rifle ownership and reintroduced dental care to the state’s Medicaid program. We also recorded our first budget surplus in ages.

And if that weren’t enough, Sacramento regularly acts as the nation’s legislative bellwether. After the state’s passage of the TRUST Act last year, the Obama administration and Congress now must consider immigration reform in earnest. As goes California, so follow these United States.

I hope our city continues to be overlooked by our coastal neighbors and out-of-state policy workers. Which is why, any time someone asks why I like Sacramento so much, I always point outward—to the mountains and wine country and metropolitan neighbors.

I like to keep a good secret.

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