What we need

In an interview with the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Pacific Research Institute last week, Tom McClintock — one-time candidate for governor in California, one-time member of the state’s Assembly and Senate, and now a member of the House of Representatives — offered an opinion about why this state is a mess. “California remains one of the best places in the world to build a successful small business,” he said, “All you have to do is start with a successful large business.”

McClintock, a fiscal conservative who, if he’d ever made it to the governor’s chair in California would have at least made it clear to Californians where he stood and why — as opposed to Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has no idea where he stands or why he stands there — is as knowledgeable as anyone about how to turn the state around.

He would start with deregulation of businesses, which are the core of California’s financial well-being. Without encouragement, of course, small business owners and workers are fleeing the state in droves for more friendly places. Which pretty much means any of the other 49 states.

A generation ago, McClintock reminded his interviewers, California spent about half what it does today after adjusting for both inflation and population growth. Still, we had the finest highway system in the world and the finest public school system in the country. Our unemployment rate consistently ran well below the national rate.

Why has this happened? “One thing — and one thing only — has changed in those years: public policy. The political left gradually gained dominance over California’s government and has imposed a disastrous agenda of radical and retrograde policies that have destroyed the quality of life that Californians once took for granted,” he said.

He says the same thing is going on in Washington, D.C., and that if it continues most of the United States will soon look like the basket case California has become. Hard to argue with that. The other day, for instance, Sacramento once again turned down the idea of drilling for, and producing, oil off California’s coast. Instead, what the lefties want to do is impose a surtax on the oil already being pumped by what wells there are off the coast. That will, soon enough, cause the oil companies to shut the wells down, and give another victory to the very people responsible for the mess thus far.

We all know that in the last two years, according to the Census Bureau, two-thirds of a million more people have moved out of California than have moved in. They’re going to Nevada, Arizona, and especially Texas.

You needn’t look far for someone who agrees with McClintock. Texas’ governor, Rick Perry, told the Wall Street Journal over the weekend that what California needs is a strong leader, one who will go to Sacramento and do exactly what Schwarzenegger promised, but failed to deliver. Deregulation and lower taxes. He says Arnold “squandered” his chance to turn the state around.

Mr. Perry says that “Texas created more jobs in 2008 than the rest of the states — combined.” As of July, the state, which taxes neither capital gains nor income, had an unemployment rate of 7.5 percent, two points below the national average, while California’s hovered at 11.5 percent, two points above.

Is California ever going to get the strong leader Mr. Perry recommends? Not likely anytime soon. Jerry Brown, our present attorney general, is generally conceded by the pollsters as the leading contender for Arnold’s job. If you don’t remember the damage Brown did to the state, you don’t recall that he’s the one who handed to public sector unions — teachers, prison guards, etc. — all the rights and powers of private sector unions but without any of the natural constraints on private sector unions.

And remember, Gov. Schwarzenegger and legislators from both parties (local Assemblyman Anthony Adams of Hesperia helped) earlier this year imposed the biggest state tax increase in American history.

Where does that all leave us? The same old place. If conservative Californians can’t figure out a way to take control from the public employee unions, rescind the recent tax increases and roll back the regulatory obstacles to business, the remaining productive Californians are going to follow their compatriots to greener pastures north and east.

It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s the truth.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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