William Voegeli writes in City Journal:
Before 1990, [California and Texas] grew much faster than the rest of the country. Since then, only Texas has continued to do so. While its share of the nation’s population has steadily increased, from 6.8 percent in 1990 to 7.9 percent in 2007, California’s has barely budged, from 12 percent to 12.1 percent.
Unpacking the numbers is even more revealing—and, for California, disturbing. The biggest contrast between the two states shows up in “net internal migration,” the demographer’s term for the difference between the number of Americans who move into a state from another and the number who move out of it to another. Between April 1, 2000, and June 30, 2007, an average of 3,247 more Americans moved out of California than into it every week, according to the Census Bureau. Over the same period, Texas saw a net gain, in an average week, of 1,544 people.
So why are Americans, predominantly middle class Americans, fleeing California?
The biggest factor accounting for California’s loss of population to the other 49 states, bond ratings that would embarrass Chrysler or GM, and state politics contentious and feckless enough to shame a banana republic, has to be its public sector’s diminishing willingness and capacity to fulfill its promises to taxpayers.
According to a report issued earlier this year by McKinsey & Company, Texas students “are, on average, one to two years of learning ahead of California students of the same age,” though expenditures per public school student are 12 percent higher in California.
And why is the public sector so inefficient in California? Voegeli again, this time in the Claremont Review of Books:
Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee says California’s “public employee unions wield immense—even hegemonic—influence” over the Democratic majorities in the state legislature. … No other political entity comes close to the unions’ ability to produce effective, sophisticated get-out-the-vote campaigns with hundreds of experienced workers. According to the Los Angeles Times, the California Teachers Association, the state affiliate of the National Education Association, “has deep pockets, a militia of more than 300,000 members to call on and a track record of making or breaking political careers.”
And once compliant politicians are in office, what do public sector unions lobby for?
It’s neither a coincidence nor a surprise, then, that California’s government employees receive higher compensation than those in any other state. The Census Bureau’s latest figures cover the year 2006, and show that California’s local government employees were paid at an average annual rate of $60,780, 33% above the national average. … California’s public workers receive more, often significantly more, than government employees in other states with high living costs. Californians who work for local governments were paid 7.7%, 9.1%, 11.5%, and 21.4% more than their counterparts in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts respectively.
Overall government spending also skyrockets when public sector unions are in control:
Adjusted for inflation, California’s per-capita outlays increased by 21.7% between 1992 and 2006; the increase for the other 49 states and the District of Columbia was 18.2%. What’s striking is that California is an exception to the pattern we were told to expect in Statistics 101, the regression to the mean. The states where inflation-adjusted, per-capita government outlays grew the fastest between 1992 and 2006 were, generally speaking, ones where those outlays were among the lowest to begin with. Conversely, of the ten states that had the highest per-capita public expenditures in 1991-92, California and Wyoming are the only two that saw those expenditures, adjusted for inflation, grow faster than the national average over the next 14 years.
Back to Voegeli’s City Journal piece:
James Madison would have to revise—or possibly burn—Federalist No. 10 if he were forced to account for the new phenomenon of the government itself becoming the faction decisively shaping its own policy and conduct. This faction dominates because it’s playing a much longer game than the politicians who come and go, not to mention the citizens who rarely read the enormous owner’s manual for the Rube Goldberg machine they feed with their dollars. They rarely stay outraged long enough to make a difference.
The public sector union takeover of government is not confined to California. As Heritage fellow James Sherk reported earlier this year, for the first time in history most union members work for the government, not the private sector. The days when “union member” meant an American working in a steel plant, or coal mine, or auto factory are gone. Today, unions are dependent on government, not the private sector, for their livelihood. Therefore, unions have little interest in private sector job growth. Private sector jobs don’t help fund political campaigns. But government jobs do. The change in incentives has been devastating to American taxpayers. Manhattan Institute senior fellow Steven Malanga explains why:
In the private sector … employers who are too generous with pay and benefits will be punished. In the public sector, however, more union members means more voters. And more voters means more dollars for political campaigns to elect sympathetic politicians who will enact higher taxes to foot the bill for the upward arc of government spending on workers.
This is why you see big labor supporting Obamacare and cap and trade taxes. Private sector job growth does nothing to increase union dues … only the further expansion of government does. The result in California has been high taxes, poor services, and a disappearing middle class. But at least Californians can still move to Texas. After the Obama administration is done with our country, we’ll have no place left to move to.