In Case You Missed It:
“The Future of America: California vs. Texas”
Sacramento — The following article (excerpted) is featured in this week’s edition of The Economist contrasting the differing governments of California and Texas and their distinctly different results:
“The Future of America: California v. Texas”
AMERICA’S recent history has been a relentless tilt to the West-of people ideas commerce and even political power. California and Texas the nation’s two biggest states are the twin poles of the West but very different ones. For most of the 20th century the home of Silicon Valley and Hollywood has been the brainier sexier trendier of the two: its suburbs and freeways its fads and foibles its marvellous miscegenation have spread around the world. Texas once a part of the Confederacy has trailed behind: its clichÌ© has been a conservative Christian in cowboy boots much like a certain recent president. But twins can change places. Is that happening now?
It is easy to find evidence that California is in a funk. At the start of this month the once golden state started paying creditors including those owed tax refunds business suppliers and students expecting grants in IOUs. California’s governor Arnold Schwarzenegger also said that the gap between projected outgoings and income for the current fiscal year has leapt to a horrible $26 billion. With no sign of a new budget to close this chasm one credit agency has already downgraded California’s debt. As budgets are cut universities will let in fewer students prisoners will be released early and schemes to protect the vulnerable will be rolled back.
They paved paradise and put up the parking taxes
Plenty of American states have budget crises; but California’s illustrate two more structural worries about the state. Back in its golden age in the 1950s and 1960s it offered middle-class people not just techy high-fliers a shot at the American dream-complete with superb schools and universities and an enviable physical infrastructure. These days California’s unemployment rate is running at 11.5% two points ahead of the national average. In such Californian cities as Fresno Merced and El Centro jobless rates are higher than in Detroit. Its roads and schools are crumbling. Every year over 100000 more Americans leave the state than enter it.
The second worry has to do with dysfunctional government. No state has quite so many overlapping systems of accountability or such a gerrymandered legislatureÛ_(One reason budget cuts are inevitable is that voters rejected tax increases in a package of ballot measures in May.) Not that Californian government comes cheap: it has the second-highest top level of state income tax in America (after Hawaii of all places). Indeed high taxes coupled with intrusive regulation of business and greenery taken to silly extremes have gradually strangled what was once America’s most dynamic state economy. Chief Executive magazine to take just one example has ranked California the very worst state to do business in for each of the past four years.
By contrast Texas was the best state in that poll. It has coped well with the recession with an unemployment rate two points below the national average and one of the lowest rates of housing repossession. In part this is because Texan banks hard hit in the last property bust did not overexpand this time. But as our special report this week explains Texas also clearly offers a different model based on small government. It has no state capital-gains or income tax… It is home to more Fortune 500 companies than any other state-64 compared with California’s 51 and New York’s 56.
Û_it has never paid to bet against a state with as many inventive people as California. Even if Hollywood is in the dumps it still boasts an unequalled array of sunrise industries and the most agile venture-capital industry on the planet; there is no prospect of the likes of Google decamping from Mountain View for Austin though many start-ups have. The state also has an awesome ability to reinvent itself-as it did when its defence industry collapsed at the end of the cold war. Perhaps the rejection of tax increases will “starve the beast” and promote structural reform.
To read the full article visit http://www.economist.com/printedition/PrinterFriendly.cfm?story_id=13990…