Supported by a farrago of half truths, innuendo and delusion, Congressman Tom McClintock’s recently published speech “California’s Morality Play in Three Acts” asserts that California’s public policy, once the best, has now gone bad. Facts say otherwise.
McClintock says that a generation ago, the state “spent about half what it does today AFTER adjusting for both inflation and population growth.” California’s official data says otherwise. Per-capita spending in 1986 was $1,459.47 ($2,812.99 in today’s dollars), and in 2009, $3,553.76 — an increase of roughly 1% a year, assuming that the inflation adjustment is accurate for state spending where more rapidly increasing components like health care and education predominate. In the last decade even the inflation-adjusted increase has been roughly 1/8% a year–hardly “double.”
Oddly, McClintock yearns for the golden era when California was a more highly taxed state and could afford “the finest highway system in the world and the finest public school system in the country. California offered … FREE university education.”
McClintock does not mention that conservative demigod, Ronald Reagan, was the public official who began terminating that FREE stuff — starting with the college education, or that Reagan raised taxes more than a billion dollars in his first year in office, an amount that exceeds the inflation-adjusted recent sales tax increase. Odder still: “Of recent governors, Ronald Reagan oversaw the largest increases in spending at a yearly increase of 13 percent” says the San Francisco Chronicle.
While spending has at least been restrained, “total California state and local taxes per $1,000 of personal income declined 26.5% between 1976-77 and 1991-92. The national average declined 9.7% during the same period. In other words, California’s state and local tax burden fell two and a half times more than the national average.” (says the California Budget Project’s 1996 study).
So spending has increased a tiny amount, but taxes have dropped 250% more than the national average.
McClintock continues: “The Census Bureau reports that in the last two years 2/3 of a million more people have moved out of California than have moved it [sic].” But that’s not what the Census Bureau says. Population in California: (2008): 36,756,666, (2007) 36,377,534, (2006) 36,121,296. Net population increased every year.
In bizarro-McClintock-world “one thing only … has changed in those years: public policy [has moved left]” — ignoring Iraq or the mortgage meltdown. Californians “were promised an explosion of ‘green jobs,’ but exactly the opposite has happened… since [the state legislation limiting carbon emissions], California’s unemployment rate began a steady upward divergence from the national jobless figures. Today, California’s unemployment rate is more than two points above the national rate.”
Unfortunately the de-regulated Texas economy McClintock so admires also had nearly the same increases in unemployment. California’s job loss was 0.18% of the population, while in Texas it was 0.17% — a mere hundredth of a percent difference.
McClintock notes that “the Laffer curve [which says tax revenues decline when taxes increase] is alive and well…revenues have plunged 33 percent.” Economists dismiss Laffer as a crank theory, and non-economists could observe the record Reagan federal deficits in the wake of Federal tax reductions disprove it thoroughly. If collections have declined, Laffer wasn’t involved, a more likely source was the economic downturn from deregulated mortgages.
McClintock concludes: “Sadly, California has reached the terminal stage…where government has become so large … that it can no longer perform even basic functions.” One wonders whether McClintock drives 20 miles per hour on the government-built freeways. Given his record of hyperbole, hypocrisy and outright delusion, we couldn’t be surprised if he wore a tinfoil hat, too.