‘Everyone is moving out of California’
By John Seiler
An old friend I’ve known 46 years called and said, “I was just hearing from a lot of people that everyone is moving out of California. Are you OK?” She lives on the East Coast.
I assured her that things weren’t quite that bad in California. And her statement reminded me of what Yogi Berra once said about a restaurant, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
What’s important about my friend’s question is the perception California now has across America: as a place people are leaving. The state does have more out-migration to other states than in-migration; population still is increasing here, slightly, only because of immigration from other countries.
But the real problem is that the perception of California as a failed state will mean fewer young, ambitious people will come here.
As the state with Tinseltown should know, perceptions can be more important than reality. So although California isn’t as bad off as others perceive it, what’s broadcast is an image of failure: of high unemployment, high housing costs, record high state taxes, out-of-control public-employee union power, environmentalist extremism and decades of misgovernance.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry gained national headlines earlier this month trolling in California for jobs and businesses to bring back to Texas. Probably not many businesses were convinced to leave the Golden State for the Lone Star State.
But young business entrepreneurs everywhere might have been influenced. A computer hotshot in Pennsylvania might choose Austin instead of Silicon Valley because in Austin it’s easier to buy a decent-sized home — or any home — and taxes are a lot lower. His salary — say, $150,000 a year — goes a lot farther in Texas.
No one knows about the young hotshot’s choice because he never moved to California in the first place; so he never “left.” But California still has lost a productive worker and taxpayer.
This probably has happened tens of thousands of times, and will happen tens of thousands of times more.
California’s real problem may not be people leaving, but talented people not coming here who in better days would have streamed in.
June 19, 2013