In the 1930s, tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Oklahoma, fled the Dust Bowl for California with hopes of a better life. Today it is ironic that California’s Farmers (Farmer Brothers coffee company, that is) has announced that it is fleeing our state for a less expensive destination that includes Oklahoma on the short list. Any humor, however, will no doubt be lost on the 350 employees who are about to lose their jobs paying $40,000 to $80,000.
Farmer Brothers, a fixture in California for over 100 years, is just another of a long list of firms that, fed up with California’s high taxes and anti-business environment, have left for less costly states. Other recent refugees include Chevron, Nestle, Sony, Charles Schwab, Occidental Petroleum, Toyota, Campbell Soup, Nissan and Comcast, all of which have moved all or a significant portion of their work force out of state.
These departures are treated with a great collective yawn from Sacramento. When asked, flacks for the governor and other senior elected officials try to convince the public that these losses are not due to state policies and that the jobs and tax revenue lost are not significant anyway.Some in the media have even been known to listen to these rationalizations from elected officials with a straight face and proceed to parrot back this nonsense in what they report. Those who claim that California is not hemorrhaging companies, and the jobs they provide, should be challenged to provide their list of major companies that are relocating to California or that are making a significant expansion of their California workforce.
Sure, California is benefiting from the national recovery like all other states and some jobs, mostly low-paying, are being created. But California’s job creation for good middle class employment is anemic compared to pro-growth states like Texas.
Californians should not be surprised to see these companies go. The Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation lists California at 48, two from the bottom, in its 2015 Tax Climate Index. (This will, no doubt, annoy those on the far left who claim, that because of Proposition 13, California businesses do not pay their “fair share” in taxes.) Then there is Chief Executive Magazine, whose survey of CEOs has ranked California dead last as a place to do business for ten years in a row.
The Dust Bowl of the 1930s made the land unproductive. Eighty years later, California’s Tax Bowl, where we lead, or nearly lead the nation in almost every tax category is making our state unproductive. Any small economic progress our state has been able to make has been in spite of, not because of, Sacramento’s policies.
Those who jumped the gun to stake out land in the Oklahoma Territory before President Grover Cleveland officially proclaimed it open to settlement in 1889, were nicknamed “Sooners.” (Today, the University of Oklahoma proudly uses this name for its athletic teams.) Perhaps it would be appropriate to call companies now leaving California as “Laters,” as in “See ya later.” Sacramento could raise revenue by selling this motto on a bumper sticker to those departing our state.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.