Monday, October 18, 2010

Will California Learn From Texas?

I was born in Illinois, and have spent most of my life in California. Both states are in serious distress, with California about to drop over the bankruptcy precipice. Unemployment continues to rise and the social democrats in charge of the state refuse to reach a budget and cut billions in frivolous state spending. Both states could learn a lot from Texas.

Back in the 80s, my office manager was a displaced Texan. I used to tease him about the great Houston skyline. It had those very airy skyscrapers that didn't spoil the view because you could see right through them. The windows were unfettered by any humans actually working in the buildings. Texas had depended too much on oil, and had very little else going for it. Meanwhile, California was booming. What a difference a couple of decades can make.

California boomed in more ways than one. State spending doubled, tripled and quadrupled, without attendant increases in productivity. But the Democrats controlled the legislature, and Republican governors after Reagan kept misplacing their veto pens. Government burgeoned, while yuppie punks and politicians like Jerry Moonbeam Brown taxed what production there was at an ever-increasing rate. By the late 90s, the San Francisco skyline was beginning to resemble the one in Houston that I had made so much fun of. Bye-bye, Levi Strauss. Bye-bye Southern Pacific Railroad. Bye-bye Standard Oil. Bye-bye Bank of America. Yes, and even bye-bye Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat. Some companies moved to more rural, lower-taxing cities, but many simply closed their doors or moved out of California completely.

As the decades wore on, California adopted every silly, mega-expensive fad imaginable, while killing off its businesses. Public employees bred like rabbits, and government went berserk in its efforts to control every facet of California's society. The greatest agricultural state in the union has watched its Central Valley go from a farming wonderland to a desert as ecofreaks cut off the water in order to save a fish that nobody ever heard of and which serves no known purpose on God's now-brown earth.

The citizens got fed up with Jerry Brown clone Grey Davis, and elected a movie star who claimed to be a conservative. That lasted about two weeks before Sacramento and Hollywood merged and became the two poles of airy-fairy land. That selfsame governor now thinks that if Californians would just give up their carbon-fueled automobiles and turn to green hydrogen-powered cars that haven't been invented yet, all of California's problems would be solved. And as he prepares to leave office, he still hasn't learned how to pronounce the name of the state he allegedly governs.

While California went from middle of the road Republican government to left wing Democratic control, Texas went from racist-dominated oil monopoly Democratic control to moderate, then conservative Republican government. California led the nation in nearly everything for nearly half a century. Now it's Texas's turn. As California sinks slowly into the west, Texas is a vital, independent, proud and growingly-prosperous state.

Nothing could be more demonstrative of this fact than the employment figures coming out of DC's own Bureau of Labor Statistics. During the height of the Great Recession, from August 2009 through August 2010, 214,000 new jobs were created nationwide (not the b.s. "created or saved" figure) in private business, and Texas alone created 119,000 of them. While California and Illinois bleed jobs and productive workers, and each has an unemployment rate officially at about 11% (which means that counting those who have simply given up trying to get a job the number is close to 18%), Texas is building, growing and hiring.

I don't want to paint too rosy a picture. Texas is part of the United States, and can't avoid being somewhat affected by the spendthrift, tax and spend, profligate central government's attempts to destroy all private businesses. It has suffered along with the rest of the states. But it's feisty defiance of Washington and its bad habits have led to a firm belief that we can yet get out of the woods if we just follow the Texas example.

Texas unemployment jumped after the big crash, just as it did everywhere. But while California experienced an 8.7 percent decrease in peak employment in the past year, and the nation experienced a 5.7 percent decrease, Texas held it to 2.3 percent. Government expenditures in California comprise 25.5 percent of the state's GDP, nationwide it's 22.8 percent, but in Texas it's 17.3 percent. Texas has no income tax, while California has one of the highest in the nation, with the most repressive tax rates of all at the higher levels. California the dog is wagged by the union tail, while Texas is a right-to-work state that doesn't force unions on unwilling employees.

While Texas encouraged private employment and business development, California taxed, regulated and interfered with both. So while Texas was creating 119,000 net new jobs, California was losing 112,000. I may be mistaken, but I think I see a pattern developing here.

California led the nation in just about everything since the 50's. Unfortunately, it continued to lead the nation in destroying jobs and businesses by the turn of the century. The nation now has two choices. Follow the old leader off the cliff, as the central government in DC has been doing for decades, or follow a new leader, Texas, to a brighter and stronger future. As a Californian, I say "lead on, Texas."

32 comments:

Joel Farnham said...

I fear for my old home state.

California has already passed it's version Cap and Trade based on Man Made Global Warming. There is a proposition designed to mitigate it somewhat, but .....

People are already writing California off.

I don't know what will change that state.

LL said...

I live in California and I don't think they'll learn from Texas. There is this Obama like belief that the pot will never run dry in the Golden State. Sadly, as with a drunk with a serious consumption problem, the state will need to bottom out before it can rebound.''

There's been a Jerry Brown commercial on TV talking about increasing pay for teachers, reducing class size, etc. (paid for by the Teacher's Union) All you have to do for this miracle to become reality is to vote for Jerry the Fairy.

"Progressives" labor under the misapprehension that you can continue to spend even when the state is bankrupt. If you cut welfare benefits by 50%, you'd have money for schools in CA. Nobody wants to do THAT - just spend more.

BevfromNYC said...

LawHawk: I was having this very discussion with my HuffPo peeps yesterday. I lived through the Texas Depression of the late '80s which is why I moved to NYC. When the oil market fell out, it was really bad especially for those of us in the Arts who depended on all of those rich oil tycoons for donations. Houston, the fastest growing city in the country, not only stopped growing, but slid back down faster too.

The Texas leaders (city, county, and state) finally got that they needed to diversify and they set about methodically and aggressively wooing any kind of industry that would make it's home in Texas. It wasn't that hard - already low taxes plenty of open spaces ripe for development, good roads and schools, and affordable real estate. Now the state is thriving and unfortunately as my brother laments "Now all you see more and more foreign license plates" ("foreign" meaning Californian)

One guy (Thomas Bullard) on HuffPo was trying to discourage anyone from moving to Texas this way -
"Texas is a nasty place. Lots of baptists, bad beer, crummy western music, intolerant mean people, big snakes, big spiders and scorpions, lots of desert, sand, dust, fleas, grasshoppers, flies lots of flies, Mosquitos, republicans under every rock, cannibals, rabid pigs, heat and humidity, horrible blizzards, tornados and did I say snakes. Please stay away for your own sake. Did I mention human sacrifice?"

I told him that he left out hurricanes and the lack of green vegetable and he responded that he didn't want to be too obvious. I was almost sure that human sacrifice was illegal in most counties now, but he assured me that as long as your hunting license was up to date that it was always open season on U-hauls with California license plates! He was just jokin', I think...

Writer X said...

I can only imagine how worse California will become if Moonbeam is elected governor.

Tehachapi Tom said...

California also leads in dollars per student spending that is reaping the poorest level of education. That old rat hole scenario is being demonstrated right here in California. The concept of this is missed by the semi literate products of our high priced schooling. Can it be fixed? I don't think the pendulum can swing back far enough, that is unless we rewind the clock. Some one needs to find the key before that can happen.

Patti said...

i was in west texas this weekend, and there are changes afoot. there seems to be a housing renovation boom going on. i already knew that many californians were selling their homes in cali, then hightailing it out of state to texas, where land is relatively inexpensive, but it's getting worse. i am praying the conservative texas i love will not also fall to the influx.

sure, you can come, just don't bring your libbie lunacy with you.

Ponderosa said...

Wow [city, state, country X] is disaster.
Glad I got out of there. Just happy to be here!

Well...

...ya know, I do have a few minor suggestions.

To umm..."help".

AndrewPrice said...

I guess they left their hearts in San Francisco, but their brains in Dallas.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: Hope springs eternal in the human breast. I've watched California lead, through good times and bad. If California will follow Texas's lead, and add that element of California creativity, it could lead again. What would once again put California in the forefront would be that it has been the most prodigal of prodigal sons, but a return to its conservative ways and a resurgence of its economic engine, and it would be the miracle of the 21st Century.

LawHawkRFD said...

LL: I feel your pain (oops, sorry). A year ago, I would have agreed with you completely. But I've now lived outside of the big cities and the chi-chi suburbs long enough to recognize that there is a California that doesn't get the headlines. One of the culture-shocks I experienced after leaving San Francisco was discovering that other California. The Central Valley is up in arms. The cow counties have had it. And the stranglehold of the liberals in the urban centers is not enough to energize the welfare and something-for-nothing crowd. The fact that Whitman and Fiorina are even close to winning in the polls is a major shift. It's not the beginning of the end, but it could be the end of the beginning (thank you, Winston Churchill).

LawHawkRFD said...

Bev: Your experience in the 80's is a direct reflection of why my office manager moved to California, and at about the same time you moved to New York. He went back in the mid-90's because he missed home and family, and is doing well in the Houston area (he's originally from Tyler). He has a particular dislike of the Democrats and the subsidized Barney Frank mortgagors and mortgagees, because he went into property management, perhaps the hardest-hit employment area in Texas. But at least in Texas, there's light at the end of that tunnel. California? Maybe yes, maybe no.

LawHawkRFD said...

WriterX: As I'm sure you've noticed, most analysts of nationwide politics say that uncertainty is the thing that's killing the recovery. Even a consistent liberal in California would be better as governor than Jerry Brown. He's a leftist, a lifelong politician, and an opportunist of the lowest order. But his biggest negative is that nobody, including himself, knows what he actually stands for. He has no genuine long-term plans for recovery and re-establishment of California as the Golden State. His idea of how to govern depends on whether or not he had a good bowel movement on any given morning. He's a disaster.

LawHawkRFD said...

Tehachapi Tom: Even some liberals are starting to figure out that not only is California broke, but it's schools are turning out semi-literates incapable of surviving in the real world. Minorities outside of the worst of the gang territories are realizing that their kids are never going to get a decent education under the current system. Reform is in the wind. And unlike the successful charter-school program in D.C. that got squelched by the welfare-class, California has sufficient conservatives outside the urban centers to keep reforms in schools going. In the immortal words of those great philosophers, The Eagles, "so often times it happens that we live our lives in chains, and never even know we have the key." We're waking people up to the fact that they have the keys to their own chains.

LawHawkRFD said...

Patti: I debated the move to Texas or Arizona, but in the long-run I decided to stay and fight. I hope the Californians who have fled to Texas are more like the colonists who fled England than those who flee Mexico for the promise of a free ride. Andrew can certainly tell you tales of California yuppies moving to Colorado because of its pristine beauty, then promptly proceeded to tell the natives they were doing everything wrong.

LawHawkRFD said...

Ponderosa: Although I can sympathize with the reasoning of some of the California emigrants, I decided to stick it out. There was no way I could have made any difference in San Francisco--it's just plain hopeless.

But I did decide that after spending more than half a century in this, my adopted state, I was not going to let the liberals run me out. So, there's at least one more Californian who says "I'd rather fight than quit." I hope the California expatriates learn from their new states and the citizens rather than try to import California failure into their new adopted states.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: I left my money in San Francisco--my heart is in Caliente.

Libertarian Advocate said...

I think LL is spot on with his assessment that California needs to hit a really hard bottom before it has a prayer of recovering from the various wild binges its state legislators have engaged in. A sad statement, because many innocent people will be badly damaged in the state's impending collapse.

LawHawkRFD said...

Libertarian Advocate: I agree with you and LL, it's just that I think we have already hit that bottom. I don't see how it could get much worse. California's abundant natural resources and strong non-urban middle class can keep it going in its miserable condition for decades, but I think it has sunk as low as it possibly can. Even the liberals are not suicidal enough to let it sink entirely, so I think the floor has collapsed and we're at the bottom of the sub-basement.

A massive cut in state freebies would be a disincentive to illegal immigration, and tax cuts would bring business back. California has yet to take the draconian steps to cut general assistance (welfare by a different name) necessary to drive the bums off the streets, into the bathtubs, and onto the employment rolls. California has the ability to help those who can't help themselves, but it can no longer afford to reward indolence and criminality.

BevfromNYC said...

New York is perilously close to the shape that CA is in with the extra added bonus of a completely disfunctional legislature.

The legislature in Texas passed a balanced budget bill years ago, so they just don't and won't spend money they don't have. AND I might suggest that you adopt the "meets every two years" legislature once CA gets its financial ducks in a row, if it can.

They have come close to adopting an income tax, but then Texans have the right to carry registered fire arms. The legislature decided the income tax thing could maybe wait...

Joel Farnham said...

LawHawk,

You do have hope. Whitman. She might do what Arnold had promised. She might not blink.

LawHawkRFD said...

Bev: It's funny about California's legislature. Both houses were Democratic for years, but Republicans had a very strong presence, and occasionally a majority in one house or the other. It's only been in the last decade that the Democrats, largely leftist welfare-state types, have had complete control. I hate using a Nixonian phrase, but I feel that there's a formerly silent majority out there that's mad as hell, and just isn't going to take it anymore. If Whitman and/or Fiorina win, we'll know the ball has started rolling. As I mentioned above, there's the Bay Area/Los Angeles/ Sacramento California, and there's another whole California that has been suppressed and is now ready to fight.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: Schwarzenegger got his money by playing muscle-heads in movies. Whitman got hers by being a hard-nosed businesswoman. If elected, she won't cave the first time the Democrats pull off a victory. She's more socially-liberal than I would prefer, but right now, gay marriage has zero effect on the miserable state of California's economy.

Schwarzenegger thought being governor was just another movie script, Whitman knows that the government has to be run by the same rules as businesses and households. Best of all, Whitman isn't going to bed every night with a Kennedy liberal.

Tennessee Jed said...

George W. Bush; thumbs up . . Nolan Ryan; thumbs up . . . Sam Houston; thumbs up.

Arnold and Maria; thumbs down. 99% of Hollywood; thumbs down; 98% of San Francisco (most everyone excluding Lawhawk and Dirty Harry); thumbs down.

By jove, I think I've got it!

StanH said...

Texas is indeed thriving. I have a brother-in- law, 55, been in the remodeling business in the Atlanta area for thirty plus years. He’s lost everything in the past two and a half years. He followed another brother-in-law to the Midland TX area who had been there for some time five, six years. He’s thriving again, while GA is stuck at 10% unemployment 22% construction unemployment. I know this is anecdotal, but illustrates your essay.

LawHawkRFD said...

Stan: Anecdotal evidence is highly underrated. You can't draw general conclusions from it, but it means you have at least one personal example of the truth of the issue, and it's likely many others do as well. Most important of all, you don't have to take someone else's word for it.

LawHawkRFD said...

Tennessee: Thanks for giving Dirty Harry and me a waiver. LOL And I thoroughly agree with the thumbs-down as well.

rlaWTX said...

yeeehaaaawwww!

Once upon a time it was said that a Texas Democrat was stil more conservative than a Yankee (N East) Republican... It's not quite true anymore - and I blame those dang CA folks flooding in... but even before they came Austin was our Hollyweird and still is.
But we have been lucky with our pretty consevative legislature (who meets every other year and gets paid a pittance) and gov's (W!).
Bill White is giving Perry a run it seems (haven't seen polls lately) but I am still hopeful. But White's TX does not match the one that's been in the news lately - all they jobs are low wage nothing jobs! and other equally silly horrors. Midland still has unemployment below 5%.

[Texas is the best state in the Union!]

You want a funny story look up the happenings a few years ago when the democrats in the TX legislature didn't want to be called to special session by the gov, so they all ran to New Mexico - seriously! It was like watching a bad teen sitcom!

BevfromNYC said...

ralWTX: I remember that episode. Perry was going to send the Texas Rangers (not the baseball team) to get them, but they can't cross the state line. Sometimes they flee to Oklahoma.

Oh BTW - YEY! Texas Rangers (the baseball team!) I want so much for them to beat the Yankees, it makes my head hurt...

LawHawkRFD said...

rlaWTX: Well, I wondered when you were going to come aboard. And indeed I remember the great Texas roundup of Democrat desperadoes who had fled into the badlands of New Mexico. Our possible governor Whitman would be a lot like your more moderate Republicans. But for California, that would be a 90 degree turn to the right. I'm doing a lot of praying these days.

LawHawkRFD said...

Bev: I've been trying for years to figure out how we can do the reverse of what happened in Texas--drive the Democrats out of California and into New Mexico. They deserve it. They gave us Janet Napoleon (LOL)

Individualist said...

You know Lawhawk

One of the themes of your post has got me thinking. It seems that states do better when liberals move out and Republicans move in.

Perhaps we can convince the democrats to move to one of the seven Obama states. I think this would work absolutely perfectly. We could have realistic fiscal policies and the liberals could live in a fantasy land.....

WIN .. WIN .. I'd say

LawHawkRFD said...

Individualist: Alternatively, we could agree to start the process for Puerto Rican statehood on the condition that all Democrats must move there.

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