Data shows California is not the disaster that right-wingers claim: analysis

Data shows California is not the disaster that right-wingers claim: analysis
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaking at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California, Gage Skidmore

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for decades, you’ve probably noticed that conservatives hate California. It’s an obsession.

Donald Trump’s disdain for the state is well known. But conservative anti-California hatred goes far beyond the ex-occupant of the Oval Office.

The enduring sources of these fusillades are conservative thought leaders. And as they portray it, California is a failing Banana Republic.

In their jaundiced view, the Golden State is a violent, poverty-stricken homeless dystopia that is overrun by thieves.

The facts show that California attracts more capital, creates more wealth, generates jobs with better pay, suffers lower rates of work-related fatalities and has safer streets and longer lives.

Short on facts, they’ve even stooped to posting a doctored video in an attempt to show that Black gang members were so fed up with crime that they stopped looters in Long Beach, a city of a half-million people. And they assert that California is run by street gangs and misled by incompetent criminal-coddling politicians whose radical, immigrant-loving, left-wing agenda is horrible for businesses, which supposedly are leaving the state in droves.

Yet some states beloved by the right are far more dangerous, data on reported crimes show.

For the haters, California is the quintessence of liberalism’s—or socialism’s—failure. All of the state’s problems, in the view of these self-proclaimed conservatives, are always the direct fault of its “far-left” policies. Always.

In a broadcast called “The slow, painful death of California,” Fox News host Tucker Carlson asserted: “The policies that destroyed America’s largest and most economically important state are heading your way.” Significantly, Carlson got out of a lawsuit after Carlson’s lawyers argued that you can’t believe what he says.

Never one to resist attacking California, The Wall Street Journal editorial board ran an editorial titled “California’s Covid Woes.” It obsessed over overcrowded hospitals and long wait times, which it blamed on MediCal, the state’s medical care program for the poor. It is another favorite target of Journal editorial disdain.

Curiously, the WSJ’s attack, which compared California’s Covid record unfavorably with Texas’, never mentioned a crucial fact: California’s Covid mortality rate was 30% below that of Texas and 36% below the nation as a whole.

Of course, there’s little wonder why the Journal editorial board omitted that statistic: including it would vitiate their argument. After all, it’s pretty hard to portray California’s response to the pandemic as a horror when its death rate from this pernicious virus is well below the rest of America.

That omission illustrates what’s missing from conservative jeremiads. It’s their tell.

Here’s what you won’t read in their screeds, starting with what arguably is the biggest lie about California:

Business and Investment

While California is home to 12% of the U.S. population, it attracted 47% of the most sought-after investment dollars deployed nationwide last year, according to National Venture Capital Association data.

The $156 billion of venture capital invested in California firms in 2021 was a 79% increase over its 2020 haul. And the 2020 sum was a 29% increase over 2019.

Far from a state in economic decline, California attracted more capital last year than at any point in the NVCA’s data set going back to 2005.

California is the most populous state so those total figures could suggest the state fell short in these investments when examined per person. But no. California got nearly four times its share per capital of all such investments in America.

Productivity

California is the fifth most productive population in the country, federal Bureau of Economic Analysis data posted at Statista.com show.

In 2019, California’s economic output per person was $79,000, almost 22% above the national average of $65,000, (Editor’s note: adjusted the data to 2019 dollars.)

Income, Wealth and Poverty

The typical California household took home more than 45 other states; 22% more than American households overall. The nearly $15,000 in extra income has not, however, deflated the state’s poverty rate. It is persistently high at 11.8%, yet still below such darlings of conservatives as Mississippi (19.5%), Louisiana (18.8%), Arkansas (16%), Alabama (15.6%) and Oklahoma (15.1%), federal data show.

A state study in 2019 found that while California is 12% of the American population, its residents own 17% of American wealth despite its high taxes and environmental protections. Of course it’s hard to get rich in states that don’t provide the commonwealth benefits that foster wealth creation and high-paying jobs with benefits such as quality research universities that Californians have long supported.

Crime

You were more likely to get killed in 27 other states than in California, the federal Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported for 2020. Interestingly, you were far more likely to get killed in Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky than the Golden State. The highest rates were in Louisiana and Mississippi, more than triple the California rate, while the rates in Arkansas and Missouri were more than double the California rate.

Workplace Deaths

In 2019, California employees were less likely to die on the job than in 43 other states, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The California rate was 2.5 deaths per 100,000 workers compared with double that or slightly more in Louisiana, Montana and West Virginia; more than three times more in Alaska and four times more in Wyoming.

Longevity

CDC data show that Californians live longer than the residents of all but one state – Hawaii, another state conservatives love to bash. Life expectancy in California is 80.8 years, more than six years longer than in bottom-ranked Mississippi and West Virginia, both beloved of conservatives. Hawaii bests California by about two months of extra life.

These are among many inconvenient facts for conservatives about how California, with its high taxes and environmental protections, outperforms America overall and the Southern, Midwest and Rocky Mountain states where conservatives have the most sway.

There’s a reason the right omits the facts in their commentaries, columns, editorials and cable television rants attacking California, its voters and their elected leaders.

California’s successes defy conservative cosmology, which holds that taxes, unions, workplace safety rules, environmental protections and immigrants repel capital, kill economies, hurt families and denigrate life itself.

The facts show that California attracts more capital, creates more wealth, generates jobs with better pay, suffers lower rates of work-related fatalities and has safer streets and longer lives.

Those successes flatly contradict what GOP orthodoxy predicts. But rather than confronting reality, conservatives are trying to re-write it by leaving out salient facts and as a result producing political fiction.

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