"California Stars"

>> Sunday, October 24, 2010

Not sure if I have anything blogworthy, and it's Sunday so let's go for something a little more upbeat anyway. For instance, Wilco's "California Stars"; words by Woody Guthrie, music by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and (late) Jay Bennett:

Hope folks are having a most excellent Sunday out there.


Seth Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 12:27:00 PM EDT  

Dear Eric,

Since you say you don't have anything blogworthy at the moment, I thought maybe you'd be willing to extend last week's "Ask Me" feature and help me answer a question that's been bugging me this week.

My question, roughly, is: Is it worth it being liberal in a federal system?

Here's the thing: I live in California. Here in CA we pay very high state and local taxes, yet have rather mediocre state and local services. (Apart from the universities, which are excellent.) Meanwhile, we are usually the number one net donor to other states in terms of federal taxes, according this and this and this (pdf).

Now I know that not all of that goes to social services in other states -- some of it goes to military bases, for example. But given that the military-security-intelligence complex is essentially today's jobs program, I feel it comes close to amounting to the same thing -- we Californians pay for jobs in Alabama.

I am also aware that there have to be net donor and net recipient states, and that California is richer than Alabama.

But... sometimes it REALLY feels like a scam. People in "red states" scream and holler about their taxes, while -- with the notable exception of Texas -- paying far less state taxes and drawing far MORE from the federal coffers. In other words, the anti-tax red-staters are actually being heavily subsidized by other people's taxes, and then complaining about it!

This makes me very glum. I'm happy to help people in Alabama, Alaska, Louisiana, Montana, and all the other places that get my money. I recognize that there's inequality and that rich states have to help poor states and so on. But I also think that once a state has established its identity as an anti-tax red state, that state frequently benefits enormously from that identity. And the peculiar construction of our federal system, which even today gives state governments so much leeway and state representatives and senators so much power to draw disproportionate amounts of money to their relatively underpopulated states....


Any words of comfort for a California limousine liberal? This thought has been depressing me since I got into a fight with someone from a state with no income tax who was crying about how his taxes might go up.

Eric Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 2:02:00 PM EDT  

Seth, I hear ya' and I'll give it some thought for a possible post later this week.

For what little it's worth in the meantime, living with the subsidized red-state tax-hating whiners is a headache I'm all too familiar with, so I do feel your pain there. Oi.

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