Ian Birrell writes for the DailyMail.com about the impact of California’s self-inflicted wounds.

Scott Thatcher and his wife Angela were born in California and love the sun-kissed Golden State. But two months ago they sold their home, packed up their belongings and travelled 1,700 miles with their three sons to start a new life in Texas.

Despite earning good salaries with secure jobs as a driver and a nurse, the family’s combined income of about $140,000 (£99,000) a year was not enough to prosper in their town of Modesto, about 90 minutes east of San Francisco.

‘We were surviving but not thriving,’ said Scott, 35. ‘We were getting by but it felt like we would never really get ahead.’

The pandemic was the final straw after politicians shut down schools in the state. Now the couple have a far bigger home in Fort Worth – and although they earn slightly less, they take home more money thanks to lower taxes in Texas. As Scott says: ‘You pay a high premium for the Californian lifestyle.’

But increasingly, people are deciding this is a premium no longer worth paying and joining the exodus from America’s most populous and economically powerful state.

For the first time in a glorious 171-year history that attracted thousands seeking fortunes during the 19th Century Gold Rush, gave birth to the global movie industry and unleashed the digital revolution, California has seen its population – currently just under 40 million – decline.

It shrank by 182,083 last year – equivalent to all the citizens living in the coastal idylls of Santa Monica and Santa Barbara combined.

Families and firms are being driven away by the high cost of living, crime fears, hefty taxes, inadequate housing, interfering officials, persistent political failures, red tape, raging wildfires and the squalor of streets littered with homeless drug addicts.

‘It is very sad,’ said Scott. ‘I will always love California but it has changed.”