Friday, April 01, 2011


In the Texas of my youth there was an ongoing verbal jousting match between the Lone Star State and California. One native joke had a West Coast visitor disparaging a puny Texas watermelon—only to be informed that he was eyeing a Texas-size grape. Californians responded with similar estimates of the Golden State.

In February an outsider to this interstate rivalry, journalist Mark Hemingway, composed a series of articles for the Washington Examiner that again compared Texas and California. “The result,” said Hemingway, was that “the only thing that isn’t bigger in Texas is the government.”

He also might have added that Texas’ unemployment isn’t nearly as large as California’s. Despite similarly-sized Hispanic populations (about a third) and borders with Mexico, unemployment in the Lone Star State last month was a seasonally adjusted 8.2 percent. California’s rate, by contrast, was 12.2 percent—a figure exceeded only by Nevada’s 13.6 percent.

The other side of those statistics, of course, is that employment has been growing more in Texas than in any other state. Hemingway observes that in 2008 “70% of all the jobs in the country were created in Texas” and that in the first half of 2010 the state “added 178,000 jobs—twice as many as any other state.” Meanwhile, California “lost more than 113,000 jobs from August 2009 to August 2010.”

The primary reason for this radical economic disparity, according to Hemingway, is Texas’ business-friendly climate, a state whose low-tax, right-to-work, low-regulation environment contrasts sharply with California’s environmental- and union-driven regulatory regime.

California’s Board of Barbering and Cosmetology provided Hemingway with a poster-girl example of regulators-gone-wild by “requiring African hair-braiding businesses to undergo 1600 hours of training and (to) pay $5,000 in licensing fees”—mandates so onerous that a San Diego federal judge in 1999 sided with “locktician” and SDSU Professor, JoAnne Cornwell, and struck down the requirements.

The cosmetology kerfuffle of ’99 is nothing compared to the new state cap-and-trade regulations that were recently put on hold by a state judge—not for economic reasons, mind you, but because they might cause disproportionate pollution in poor neighborhoods.

Hemingway also notes that California’s per capita state and local government spending is over 46% more than in Texas and that much of that money goes to extravagant public pensions (now underfunded by $535 billion) and to government jobs that average $90,000 a year—a third above the national average.

No wonder that California, from 2000 to 2009, “had a domestic outflow of 1.5 million people,” while 850,000 moved to Texas from other states.

And Jerry Brown’s solution to California’s chronic budget deficit? Raise taxes.

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