Calling his and my adopted home state the Venezuela of North America, Bruce Kesler laments that the “June issue of Chief Executive magazine confirms that while my residence in California has wonderful climate and well-educated people, otherwise I live in a state ranked by 651 chief executives across the country as the worst state to do business”:
How is it that the nation’s most populous state at 37 million, one that is the world’s eighth-largest economy and the country’s richest and most diverse agricultural producer, a state that had the fastest growth rate in the 1950s and 1960s during the tenures of Democratic Governor Pat Brown and Republican Governors Earl Warren and Ronald Reagan, should become the Venezuela of North America?
Californians pay among the highest income and sales taxes in the nation, the former exceeding 10 percent in the top brackets. Unemployment statewide is over 12.2 percent, higher than the national average. State politics seems consumed with how to divide a shrinking pie rather than how to expand it. Against national trend, union density is climbing from 16.1 percent of workers in 1998 to 17.8 percent in 2002. Organized labor has more political influence in California than in most other states. In addition, unfunded pension and health care liabilities for state workers top $500 billion and the annual pension contribution has climbed from $320 million to $7.3 billion in less than a decade. When state employees reach critical mass, they tend to become a permanent lobby for continual growth in government.
No wonder that of “20 most economically stressed counties with populations of at least 25,000 and their March 2010 Stress scores, according to The Associated Press Economic Stress Index“, 12 are in the (once-)Golden State (including 6 of the the top 7).
(Of the 20 least economically stressed counties, only two are in states carried by Barack Obama in 2008.)