By: Rep. Darrell Issa (49th Congressional District of California), Chairman of the House
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
No matter where you live, what you do, how much you earn, everyone has a picture in their mind of what the “Golden State” means to them.
To some, it’s the home of companies at the forefront of innovation like Apple or Google. To others, it’s where storied franchises such as the Los Angeles Lakers or the San Francisco 49ers play every week. For visitors, it’s Disneyland, Hollywood, the Golden Gate, beaches, deserts, mountains, and wine.
California is a place where so many have come from somewhere else hoping to find a better quality of life. The Golden State – rich with opportunity.
My wife and I were no different.
We had a business that started at a kitchen table in Cleveland, Ohio that we wanted to grow and make into something bigger and long lasting.
California was a state that had everything: farmers and factories, teachers and scientists, entrepreneurs and immigrants. Potential was limitless. Success was celebrated. Hard work was expected. Government had limitations.
In 1967, speaking in Long Beach, then-Governor Ronald Reagan outlined the guiding principles that would take California down the “right road.” He talked about it as the “road ahead to a better, more responsible, more meaningful life for all our citizens, a life in which they are allowed to develop and pursue their aims and ambitions to the fullest, without the constant interference and domination of big spending, big brother government.”
That is the kind of vision that brought businesses, large and small, to California because it embraced possibility and understood that the lynchpin of progress was to foster prosperity.
Today’s California is virtually unrecognizable.
A state that welcomed job creators now penalizes them.
A state that attracted businesses is now losing them.
A state that enabled millions of working families to prosper is now the one that just takes more and more away from them.
The inescapable reality is that California has lost some of its luster. It still has a world-class economy, but that is a legacy of the past century. Many of today’s best and brightest are looking elsewhere – discouraged by a high cost of living and a tax and regulatory climate that is hostile to entrepreneurship and the free market.
California has twice as many jobless workers as it had five years ago. The state’s income tax rate is the highest in the nation. The corporate income tax rate is America’s fifth highest. Californians pay an additional 53.5 cents per gallon in gas taxes. All-the-while, state government spending grew 35% per capita in just the past ten years.
So what changed? The State’s capital, Sacramento, is now a one Party town. Progressive
Democrats have dominated both houses of the state legislature for more than a decade.
Unchecked, they have legislated, taxed, and regulated with zeal. For this bunch, government is a means to an end. It exists to limit the excesses of the free market, to redistribute wealth, to advance a far-left social agenda.
When you look at the overall fiscal picture of our nation, Jim Lacy’s “Taxifornia” strikes numerous chords. Nationally, we are in the midst of a struggle surrounding the proper province of government in our lives.
“Taxifornia” illustrates what can happen when a government is guided by a “take more”
philosophy. Jobs are poached. Tomorrow’s innovators innovate somewhere else. Small
businesses shutdown. Big businesses look to other places to expand and build.
With what is happening in Washington today, “Taxifornia” foreshadows what the consequences for our nation will be if we continue down this broken path of more taxes, more regulations and more government.
Other nations will steal our jobs. Our competitors in the global market will take our best and brightest. Innovation in America will suffocate as other world powers build new economies with the talented innovators that we have chased away.
For policymakers, “Taxifornia” is a blueprint offered by someone who witnessed California’s evolution from over-taxation to taxpayer revolt – and its slide back.
Jim Lacy was there at the beginning of one of the most important movements in California’s history – the successful passage of Proposition 13. That movement evolved into the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer’s Association, which to this day, is the state’s most influential voice for limited government.
Lacy’s “Taxifornia” is a cautionary tale of what can and will happen to America if Washington follows the lead of what Sacramento has done in the past decade.
By the end of last year, California had lost 73,000 businesses.
Other states like Texas and New York are running campaigns in California hitting the message that California is bad for business and companies large and small should leave now before it gets worse.
If Washington continues to grow government instead of growing business, the jobs leaving
California for other states will instead be leaving the United States for Brazil or China.
Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi have a common vision with Sacramento’s ruling class.
Government in Washington has greatly expanded its reach under Obama’s rule, limiting our healthcare choices, raising the cost of energy, taxing more money out of our paychecks.
There is still time. We can restore California to prosperity and trim back national government.
But it is up to us to do it, to demand it.
Jim has spent his entire life devoted to the simple idea that the only change that can come is one that is derived from the will of the people – sometimes it’s in the act of an electoral revolt.
Recent history reminds us that it’s possible.
In 2003, with distrust of government at an all-time high and facing an avalanche of new taxes and fees, Californians took unprecedented and historic action by recalling Governor Gray Davis. With one, unified and deafening voice, Californians sent a message to Sacramento that they wanted change and reform.
Jim’s counsel was essential to the success of the recall campaign. We saw firsthand, the raw emotion that propelled it forward. Up-and-down the state, I heard from Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Independents who all felt the same way, that government had abandoned them and was completely out-of-touch with the needs of working people.
Yet, here we are a decade later and there are fewer jobs, less opportunities, higher taxes and no end in sight. Californians are paying more for gas, more for groceries, more for electricity, more for education but have less in their paychecks.
How did Sacramento politicians respond?
The Democrat-controlled State Legislature introduced 110 new bills that raise taxes. These taxes touch on the everyday things. Ask yourself, can you afford to pay new taxes on tires, cars, sodas, and mattresses?
That’s Sacramento’s answer. It sounds a lot like what Washington is telling the American people today.
And as businesses abandon California, job opportunities continue to decline and the people are left to fend for themselves, big government will tell you that they are the solution, not the problem.
Truthfully, until the people stand-up and demand better for themselves and for their families, government will continue to get away with it because right now, no one is holding them accountable.
California once embodied the American Dream. It was once a place where small businesses grew into large ones. Where ordinary people achieved extraordinary things. Where the circle of success was in reach for all who worked for it and where people expected the best for themselves and their future.
Unless something changes, that future is in doubt.
Think about the world-renowned institutions in California: Berkeley, Stanford, USC, UCLA, and UCSD to name a few. Imagine sending your kid to one of those institutions believing in the idea that doing so will ensure a better future for your child. Now imagine your son or daughter graduating with a law degree and knowing that half of the people who graduated with your kid won’t be able to find a job.
That’s the reality of today’s California. That could be the reality of tomorrow’s United States – which is why Lacy is so insistent that now is the time to stand-up and fight back.
You see they’ve stopped listening to you in Sacramento because you aren’t talking loud enough. They’ve stopped caring about the consequences of their actions, so you have to be the ones to hold them accountable.
What would you do to ensure your child’s future? What would you say to someone who after a long day’s work, decided that half of what you earned now belonged to them? What Governor Reagan said is just as applicable today as it was in 1967, “We intend to put an end to that kind of thinking – an end to the philosophy that government has a right to match taxes to whatever it wants to spend instead of spending only what needs to be spent.”
Each and every person can be the instrument that begins to change California, and the country, for the better. Californians can be the substance of their own prosperity but first, they must be the instruments of change that hold Sacramento politicians accountable.
Lacy’s “Taxifornia” is our call to action.