William Voegeli of the Los Angeles Times has discovered some surprising evidence!

Well, it's not surprising to most of us, but what he's discovered ... Is that California, and high-tax states in general, just aren't worth it.

The Golden State isn't worth it

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.

California and Texas are not perfect representatives of the alternative deals, but they come close. Overall, the Census Bureau's latest data show that state and local government expenditures for all purposes in 2005-06 were 46.8% higher in California than in Texas: $10,070 per person compared with $6,858 ... California ranked 10th in overall taxes levied by state and local governments, on a per capita basis, while Texas, one of only seven states with no individual income tax, was 38th.

One way to assess how Americans feel about the different tax and benefit packages the states offer is by examining internal U.S. migration patterns. Between April 1, 2000, and June 30, 2007, an average of 3,247 more people moved out of California than into it every week, according to the Census Bureau. Over the same period, Texas had a net weekly population increase of 1,544 as a result of people moving in from other states ...

All things being equal, everyone would rather pay low taxes than high ones.

According to a report issued earlier this year by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., Texas students "are, on average, one to two years of learning ahead of California students of the same age," even though per-pupil expenditures on public school students are 12% higher in California. The details of the Census Bureau data show that Texas not only spends its citizens' dollars more effectively than California but emphasizes priorities that are more broadly beneficial.

In what respects, then, does California "excel"? California's state and local government employees were the best compensated in America ... The "dues" paid by taxpayers in order to belong to Club California purchase benefits that, increasingly, are enjoyed by the staff instead of the members.

California's public sector has pinned its hopes for avoiding fundamental reform on increased federal aid ... In other words, residents in the other 49 states -- the new 49ers? -- would enjoy the privilege of paying California's taxes. Their one consolation will be not having to endure its lousy public services.

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.

California isn't the only example of people fleeing progressive high-tax/Big Government utopias either.

What’s wrong with California is also wrong with much of the US

It’s not just California, or New York City, but throughout much of America today that we’re seeing the hollowing out of the infrastructure and services and opportunities that built America’s uniqueness and success compared to the rest of the world. And, big-government advocates are clamoring for yet higher taxes.

[I]t is really a practical battle between those who aspire and work for a better life and those relatively few who would squander its underpinnings for their own greedy benefits. The real populist revolt is already shaking Washington and state capitals, and much more is to come.

One other thing worth mentioning is that lower taxes also means more freedom.

We can argue until we're blue in the face about progressivism/socialism et. al. (and we will), but the reality is when push comes to shove, people want to be free. People want to enjoy their lives, the fruits of their labor, and to peruse their own dreams.

What people don't want ... Is to be forced to pursue the dreams of their Overlords, who live in some distant land called Washington, D.C. (that for all practical purposes, only exists on TV).

Update:

California – “We Need The Money More Than You” (emphasis added)

Who was it who said “the government powerful enough to give you things is powerful enough to take things away”?

Well that has never been more true than in California where the state has decided to arbitrarily increase withholding by 10% because it couldn’t manage its debt.

You’ll get a “larger” refund if the state has the money to pay refunds. Weren’t they issuing IOUs not long ago? But that’s not the point. The state has just made it clear that it has first claim on what Californians earn. If that doesn’t scare the bejesus out of them, I’m not sure what will.

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