Opinion: Can California Be Fixed?
Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, May 16, 2012Recently, I was driving down pot-holed, two-lane, non-freeway 101 near Monterey (unchanged since the 1960s) when the radio blared that on a recent science test administered to public schools, California scored 47th in the nation. As I looked at the congested traffic on the decrepit highway and digested the idea that our public schools are competitive only with Mississippi and Alabama, I wondered — is that what we get for a more than 10 percent income tax, 10 percent state and local sales taxes, and the highest gas taxes in the nation?
To sum up why California has yet another deficit — this time a $16 billion whopper — is pretty easy: The number of demonized one-percenters who pay over 10 percent in their salary to the state has been shrinking, as thousands flee with their ideas, energy, business, and capital to nearby no-tax states, and others make less money due to more and more costs and regulations — while the number of those receiving all sorts of state housing, food, medical, education, and legal support is soaring. (In crude parlance, California increasingly is seen by some as a very bad deal, in terms of the sort of schools, safety, transportation, and housing per taxes paid in comparison to Reno, Tahoe, or Austin, but by far more people as a very good deal in comparison to the costs versus benefits in, for example, Oaxaca or El Salvador.)
In the last two decades, the number added to the prison rolls (ca. 115,000) was not that much smaller than the number of new tax-filers (150,000). And of the last 10 million added to the state’s population, 7 million are on Medicaid.
But California being California, such reductionist thinking is taboo, and we are not allowed to make any suggestion that there is a connection between fleeing entrepreneurs, massive and illegal influxes of undocumented foreign nationals in recent years, and record public salaries and unfunded pensions.
So that said, are there any out-of-the-box things California might do to save or make a few billion dollars, other than the obvious measures of slashing spending and dismantling burdensome regulations?