Government is one area where you really don’t get what you pay for, as William Voegeli’s recent comparison of California and Texas makes clear:
These folks pulling up stakes and driving U-Haul trucks across state lines understand a reality the defenders of the high-benefit/high-tax model must confront: All things being equal, everyone would rather pay low taxes than high ones. The high-benefit/high-tax model can work only if things are demonstrably not equal — if the public goods purchased by the high taxes far surpass the quality, quantity and impact of those available to people who live in states with low taxes.
Today’s public benefits fail that test, as urban scholar Joel Kotkin of NewGeography.com and Chapman University told the Los Angeles Times in March: “Twenty years ago, you could go to Texas, where they had very low taxes, and you would see the difference between there and California. Today, you go to Texas, the roads are no worse, the public schools are not great but are better than or equal to ours, and their universities are good. The bargain between California’s government and the middle class is constantly being renegotiated to the disadvantage of the middle class.”
Indeed. (And I say this as somebody who lives in California, but has vacationed more or less annually in Texas for the last five years.) Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, regarding the state I grew up in, I’ve already referenced Steven Malanga’s 2006 article in City Journal on “The Mob That Whacked New Jersey” a few times here. Jim Geraghty brings things up to date with an equally appropriate metaphor:
New Jersey, as it is currently run, is Gotham City without Batman, and we know what happens to hard-charging prosecutors who try to clean up dirty systems. (Check out the illustration for this Star-Ledger story on the state’s festering corruption.)
Could a new governor fix that? Yes, but only with a sufficiently large enough victory — because, to modify the title of one of Hugh Hewitt’s books, it’s New Jersey, and whether or not the election is close, they will cheat.