Lots of people want to live in California. This is a good thing. Conservatives try to portray this as a bad thing. Let me explain.
George Will repeats the conservative narrative that people and companies leave California because of taxes and regulations. He writes,
It took years for liberalism’s redistributive itch to create an income tax so steeply progressive that it prompts the flight from the state of wealth-creators: “Between 1990 and 2007,” Voegeli writes, “some 3.4 million more Americans moved from California to one of the other 49 states than moved to California from another state.”
Actually, any people and companies that move from California do it because the cost of living is so much higher and that is because it is a desirable place to live. California was the envy of the rest of the country through most of the 20th century. The best state government in the country used our taxes to build the best public structures — the schools, colleges, roads, courts, water systems, etc. that attracted the innovative industries and the economy prospered even more.
What conservative propagandists like Will leave out is that so many people want to live here because of what the taxes and regulations created. These public structures are what attracted so many people and businesses that the cost of living here went up. They are trying to make people think this is a bad thing, and are trying to make people think the government and the public structures it builds are the problem rather than the source of our prosperity. In essence they want to sell off what We, the People built and keep the proceeds for themselves.
The social contract used to be that We, the People built up the infrastructure of “public structures” like the legal system, schools, roads, water system, etc. And this is what enabled businesses to prosper. Then the businesses and people who did well paid back by pitching in with the proceeds to keep that system of public structures up to date.
It worked. California built up the best schools and colleges, etc. so places like Silicon Valley and biotech grew up and thrived, and the state became a great place to live, attracting so many people and industries. But this infrastructure was taken for granted. Because this system was so solid and well-maintained people were able to start deferring maintenance, cutting everything, etc so that the big corporations and wealthy could have their taxes cut. (Yes, the middle class got a bit of that through Prop 13 but even that primarily benefited commercial property.)
In essence the state has been living off of the past savings account of infrastructure that was built up in the 60s and 70s. But now we’re in 2010 with a 70’s system. The schools are near the bottom in the country and the college and university system has been gutted.
We’re STILL just getting by on living off of the last of what we built up in the 60s and 70s, but that is at an end now and the savings account is exhausted. It is time to start to rebuild the infrastructure we used to be so proud of. It is time to ask the wealthy and corporations that are here because of what the taxes and regulations built to pitch in again and start to rebuild that savings account of public structures and infrastructure.