California has drifted far away from the place that John Gunther described in 1946 as “the most spectacular and most diversified American state … so ripe, golden.” Instead of a role model, California has become a cautionary tale of mismanagement of what by all rights should be the country’s most prosperous big state. Its poverty rate is at least two points above the national average; its unemployment rate nearly three points above the national average. On Friday Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was forced yet again to call an emergency session in order to deal with the state’s enormous budget problems.Nothing will get better and the hole will just grow bigger.
This state of crisis is likely to become the norm for the Golden State. In contrast to other hard-hit states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Nevada, which all opted for pro-business, fiscally responsible candidates, California voters decisively handed virtually total power to a motley coalition of Democratic-machine politicians, public employee unions, green activists and rent-seeking special interests.
Texas, on the other hand, has chosen a different path and their choice has paid off big-time for them.
Texas’ trajectory, however, looks quite the opposite. California was recently ranked by Chief Executive magazine as having the worst business climate in the nation, while Texas’ was considered the best. Both Democrats and Republicans in the Lone State State generally embrace the gospel of economic growth and limited public sector expenditure....California is still coasting along on its past glories, but that is going to get harder and harder to do.
A vast difference in economic performance is driving the demographic shifts. Since 1998, California’s economy has not produced a single new net job, notes economist John Husing. Public employment has swelled, but private jobs have declined. Critically, as Texas grew its middle-income jobs by 16%, one of the highest rates in the nation, California, at 2.1% growth, ranked near the bottom. In the year ending September, Texas accounted for roughly half of all the new jobs created in the country.
Even more revealing is California’s diminishing preeminence in high-tech and science-based (or STEM–Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) jobs. Over the past decade California’s supposed bulwark grew a mere 2%–less than half the national rate. In contrast, Texas’ tech-related employment surged 14%. Since 2002 the Lone Star state added 80,000 STEM jobs; California, a mere 17,000.
Of course, California still possesses the nation’s largest concentrations of tech (Silicon Valley), entertainment (Hollywood) and trade (Port of Los Angeles-Long Beach). But these are all now declining. Silicon Valley’s Google era has produced lots of opportunities for investors and software mavens concentrated in affluent areas around Palo Alto, but virtually no new net jobs overall. Empty buildings and abandoned factories dot the Valley’s onetime industrial heartland around San Jose. Many of the Valley’s tech companies are expanding outside the state, largely to more business-friendly and affordable places like Salt Lake City, the Research Triangle region of North Carolina and Austin.All Jerry Brown's wishful thinking about green jobs isn't going to turn things around. And other state leaders should look at this tale of the two states and make their choices about which path they want their state moving along.
Hollywood too is shifting frames, with more and more film production going to Michigan, New Mexico, New York and other states. In 2002, 82% of all film production took place in California–now it’s down to roughly 30%. And plans by Los Angeles County, the epicenter of the film industry, to double permit fees for film, television and commercial productions certainly won’t help.
International trade, the third linchpin of the California economy, is also under assault. Tough environmental regulations and the anticipated widening in 2014 of the Panama Canal are emboldening competitors, particularly across the entire southern tier of the country, most notably in Houston. Mobile, Ala., Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga., also have big plans to lure high-paid blue collar jobs away from California’s ports.