We're Prisoners of Love!

The Los Angeles Times has a fascinating critique of California’s high-tax environment, including this surprising demographic alarm bell:

“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.”

The California dream appears to be over. The article contrasts California’s “high-tax, high-benefit” government structure against that of Texas, where local government taxes less and offers less by way of services. The details are fascinating, so please do follow the link. In short—the roads in Texas are no worse than those in California, the schools actually much better. The problem is that California succeeds at levying high taxes, but then fails to deliver the promised benefits. In fact, the only proven winners in the California system are California state government workers, thanks to years of collusion between powerful public worker unions and state lawmakers.

Sound familiar?

Kamaaina have long accepted a “paradise tax,” the idea that things in Hawaii will be more expensive just because we’re in Hawaii; products have to be shipped here, land is scarce and highly desirable, so everything costs more. I’m beginning to think we pay another quality of life tax, too, which is that our political leadership benefits greatly from the fact that Hawaii is incredibly beautiful, inspires tremendous loyalty—and is relatively expensive to leave, financially and emotionally. Californians are voting with their feet, leaving for other states with more opportunity—and it’s getting noticed.  People hear the alarm bell. Imagine how loudly that out-migration alarm would be ringing if California couldn’t even keep its public schools open as promised, statewide, from Crescent City to San Diego, a la our Furlough Fridays.

It’s an alarm I don’t think Hawaii state leaders are likely to hear, even as they run a Californiaesque, high-tax, low-performance government. Hawaii does have a negative migration rate. We lost about 55 people more than we gained every week over the same period measured above for California and Texas, barely enough to notice, certainly not enough to cause state government to second guess the quality of its service. How many more people would be fleeing Hawaii if it were as easy as loading up a truck and driving off? Or if leaving didn’t mean you would be 2,000 miles away from friends and family?