Walter E. Williams
California was once the land of opportunity, but it is going down the tubes. Several of California's prominent cities have declared bankruptcy, such as Vallejo, Stockton, Mammoth Lakes and San Bernardino. Others are on the precipice, and that includes Los Angeles, California's largest city. California's 2012 budget deficit is expected to top $28 billion, and its state debt is $618 billion. That's more than twice the size of New York's state debt, which itself is the second-highest in the nation.

Democrats control California's Legislature, and its governor, Jerry Brown, is a Democrat. California is home to some of America's richest people and companies. It would then appear that the liberals' solution to deficit and debt would be easy. They need only to raise taxes on California's rich to balance the budget and pay down the debt -- or, as President Barack Obama would say, make the rich pay their fair share.

The downside to such a tax strategy is the fact that people are already leaving California in great numbers. According to a Manhattan Institute study, "The Great California Exodus: A Closer Look," by Thomas Gray and Robert Scardamalia (October 2012), roughly 225,000 residents leave California each year -- and have done so for the past 10 years. They take their money with them. Using census and Internal Revenue Service data, Gray and Scardamalia estimate that California's out-migration results in large shares of income going to other states, mostly to Nevada ($5.67 billion), Arizona ($4.96 billion), Texas ($4.07 billion) and Oregon ($3.85 billion). That's the problem. California politicians can fleece people in 2012, but there's no guarantee that they can do the same in 2013 and later years; people can leave. Also, keep in mind that rich people didn't become rich by being stupid. They have ingenious ways to hide their money.

California has one-eighth of the nation's population but one-third of its welfare recipients. According to Businessweek, "it is one of the few states that continue to provide welfare checks for children once their parents are no longer eligible." There's nothing new about the handout strategy. As far back as 140 B.C., Roman politicians found that the way to win votes is to give out cheap food and entertainment, what came to be known as "bread and circuses."


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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