Sunday, November 01, 2009

High-tax California Not Worth It?

From an opinion piece in the LA Times, hardly a conservative mouthpiece:

In America's federal system, some states, such as California, offer residents a "package deal" that bundles numerous and ambitious public benefits with the high taxes needed to pay for them. Other states, such as Texas, offer packages combining modest benefits and low taxes. These alternatives, of course, define the basic argument between liberals and conservatives over what it means to get the size and scope of government right.

It's not surprising, then, that there's an intense debate over which model is more admirable and sustainable. What is surprising is the growing evidence that the low-benefit/low-tax package not only succeeds on its own terms but also according to the criteria used to defend its opposite. In other words, the superior public goods that supposedly justify the high taxes just aren't being delivered.

Before you dismiss the piece as conservative propaganda, I might suggest that you read the whole thing and then consider the closing paragraph:

You wouldn't know it from putting up with California's transportation and educational systems, but there actually is a principled, plausible argument to be made for the high-benefit/high-tax model. For the sake of both California and their own political ideals, its advocates ought to be leading the charge against every excess and inefficiency that deprives taxpayers of good value for their dollars. That won't happen until they stand up to their coalition partners by breaking their Faustian political bargain with California's self-serving governmental-industrial complex.
Some might ask: why do you stay in California? Why not just leave? While the question may be a good one, many who would ask such a question aren't truly interested in hearing the answer; rather, they try to use my staying as a foil against me personally. For starters, I don't think I should have to leave; rather, we here in California should clean up this mess. Second, I have personal/family reasons for staying.

But let's talk about the third reason. I benefit from this mess. About 1/4 of all union members in this state are teachers, and the CTA and its local unions have extorted some very nice retirement benefits for me--guaranteed by California taxpayers. (California teachers pay into a state teachers retirement system, not social security.) A few years ago Governor Schwarzenegger tried to reform public employee pay in a special election initiative and that initiative was soundly defeated by those very same taxpayers. Any economist will tell you that rational people will act in their own self-interest, and that is exactly what I am doing.

So while I might fantasize about moving back to Colorado, I'm staying right here. California will continue taking too much of my money today; I just hope I make it back with a cushy retirement.


MikeAT said...

Ever think about going to Colorado after you get your retirement...I've thought about it after I get my 20 with the city...

Darren said...

Yes, I do.