December 31, 2009


How California Went From Top of the Class to the Bottom (Bill Watkins 12/31/2009, New Geography)

It seems that California has forgotten the fundamentals of quality of life. Instead, the state has embraced a cynical philosophy of consumption and denial. The state’s affluent citizens celebrate their enjoyment of California’s pleasures while denying access to those less fortunate, denying not only the ticket, but the opportunity to earn the ticket. At best California offers elaborate social services in place of opportunity.

Today, too many Californians don’t rely on the local economy for their income. For them, quality of life has nothing to do with jobs, opportunity, or affordable homes. Many see the creation of new jobs as bad, something to be avoided. They see no virtue in opportunity. They have theirs, after all. It is their attitude that if someone else needs a job, let them go to Texas; if people are leaving California, so much the better.

They see someone else’s opportunity as a threat to them. Perhaps the upstarts will want a house, which might obstruct their view. They see economic growth as a zero sum game. Someone wins. Someone loses.

This type of thinking is unsustainable. Opportunity is not a zero sum game. It may be a cliché, but it is true, that if something is not growing it is dying. Many of the things that make California the place it is are not part of our natural endowment. The Yosemite Valley is part of the state’s natural endowment, but the Ahwahnee Hotel is not. Monterey, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, the wine countries, and California’s many other destinations were made possible and built because of economic growth. Will California add to this impressive list in the 21st century?

Not likely. Today, we are not even maintaining our infrastructure. Infrastructure investment’s share of California’s budget has declined for decades. In Pat Brown’s day California often spent over 20 percent of its budget on capital items. Today, that number is less than seven percent. It shows.

Pat Brown also knew that with California’s natural endowment, all he had to do was build the public infrastructure and welcome business, business will come. Too many today act as if they believe that business will come, even without the infrastructure or a welcoming business climate. Indeed, many Californians – particularly in the leadership in Sacramento – seem to think that business will come no matter how difficult or expensive the state makes doing business in California. This is just not true.

California needs to embrace opportunity and economic growth. It is necessary if California is to achieve its potential. It is necessary if California is to avoid a stagnant future characterized by a bi-modal population of consuming haves and an underclass with little hope or opportunity and few choices, except to leave.

Which States Are Best for Business? 2010 State Business Tax Climate Index (Tax Foundation, September 22, 2009)
South Dakota has the most "business-friendly" tax system, and New Jersey has the least, according to the Tax Foundation's 2010 State Business Tax Climate Index released today. The Index measures the competitiveness of the 50 states' tax systems and ranks them accordingly based on the taxes that matter most to businesses and business investment: corporate income, individual income, sales, property and unemployment insurance taxes.

The states are scored on these taxes, and the scores are weighted based on the relative importance or impact of the tax to a business. Keeping a state competitive in today's global marketplace can be difficult, but there is one factor lawmakers have direct control over: the quality of state tax systems. The Index measures how well a state's tax system encourages investment by maintaining a broad tax base and low rates.

"When policymakers are considering tax changes in their states, they should remember two rules: Taxes matter to business, and states do not enact tax changes - increases or cuts - in a vacuum," said Kail Padgitt, Ph.D., who authored Tax Foundation Background Paper No. 59, "2010 State Business Tax Climate Index." The Index represents the tax climate of each state as of July 1, 2009, the first day of the standard 2010 fiscal year, and is available online at

The top 10 states in the 2010 Index, from 1st to 10th, are South Dakota, Wyoming, Alaska, Nevada, Florida, Montana, New Hampshire, Delaware, Washington and Utah. The bottom 10 states, from 41st to 50th, are Vermont, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Maryland, Iowa, Ohio, California, New York and New Jersey.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 31, 2009 6:52 AM
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