Socialism is evil

 Project Syndicate

Witness California’s problem with rampant socialism…and compare that with what happened here under 9 years of Clarkism. Labour locked in Working for Families, Interest Free Student loans and a plethora of structural spending on the blind assumption that surpluses were also structural. It has turned out that the only thing structural was the spending, which has now caused structural debt…and Labour has opposed every spending cut that National has proposed, and thinks they can borrow more.

They have concocted an extremely progressive social experiment: with 12% of the US population, California has more than 30% of its welfare dependents. From the mid-1980’s to 2005, California’s population grew by 10 million, while Medicaid recipients soared by seven million; tax filers paying income taxes rose by just 150,000; and the prison population swelled by 115,000.

The state income tax is not only uncompetitively high, but the revenues are volatile. In the economic and stock-market upswing, revenues roll in far more rapidly than incomes rise, owing to the extremely progressive income tax (in good years, the top 1% pays about half the state’s income taxes).

The legislature spends it as if the elevated revenues will continue forever. Then the inevitable recession and stock-market collapse plunges the state into crisis. The progressive social experiment has gone so severely off-track that the state cannot even dependably provide essential services, from courts to education, for the most needy.

Not surprisingly, California’s economy, which used to outperform the rest of the US, now substantially underperforms. The unemployment rate, at 10.8%, is almost one-third higher than the national average, and higher than every other state except Nevada and Rhode Island.

California still has great strengths in technology, entertainment, and agriculture. But citizens and politicians alike must agree to target services far more carefully; reform the tax system with lower rates on a broader base of economic activity and people (almost half pay no state income tax); and modernize inefficient state programs to spend less and produce far better outcomes. Not coincidentally, that’s a perfect prescription for bloated, debt-ridden central and subnational governments worldwide.

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