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out with the old
Red Herring, Blue Herring

Two stories out this week show just how desperately America needs to get beyond the simplistic answers of both the red and blue models. First up, in the LA Times, Chris Kirkham reports that many lower- and middle-income citizens who can no longer afford to live in California are leaving for other states:

A snapshot of more recent U.S. Census migration numbers shows that nearly three-quarters of those who have left California for other states since 2007 earn less than $50,000 a year.

Experts point to the state’s increasingly unaffordable real estate markets as a major driver of the trends. More than half of the nation’s 50 most expensive residential real estate markets are in California, according to Coldwell Banker’s Home Listing Report, including nine of the top 10.

The way that less affluent Californians are increasingly excluded from the housing market and eventually forced to leave the state is an ironic outcome for a state that has been the foremost champion of blue model governance—a model explicitly premised upon helping the middle classes. Yet restrictive housing regulations and zoning rules as well as high property taxes, among other policies, combine to send costs skyrocketing in blue cities, forcing out many middle class residents. Not that the state doesn’t benefit: Tax receipts are up, as high-tech firms and their highly educated workforce settle down in cities tailored increasingly to their needs alone. Blue leaders are not blind to this dynamic. Mayor Bloomberg was once caught saying that “if we could get every billionaire around the world to move here [NYC] it would be a godsend.” This income-based segregation has become one of the most notable features of blue rule, and is as definitive an indictment of blue policies as you can find.

But red states are hardly without problems of their own. If blue rhetoric has always been about helping the poor, red rhetoric has been about creating economic growth and opportunity. According to a piece in the Kansas City Star last week, Sam Brownback’s initiatives, which some Tea Party-types see as the gold standard of red-state reform thinking, are creating serious problems without delivering the hoped-for benefits:

  • A state judicial panel has ruled that the state’s school system is being underfunded by at least $500 million a year, even as the state finds itself $1.1 billion in the hole due to income tax cuts;
  • There is new data showing that the state’s tax receipts are $15 million dollars lower than expected in December (on top of previous shortfalls);
  • And a federal report on jobs is out, showing much more robust growth in neighboring Missouri than Kansas, despite Brownback’s insistence that a more favorable tax regime would cause the balance to shift decidedly in Kansas’ favor.

Pro-Brownback pundits have disputed much of this, but it doesn’t look good overall. Instead of tax cuts creating huge gains in jobs or prosperity, you get underfunding and cutbacks of services people actually like.

One of America’s great strengths is that its states can serve as these kinds of laboratories for policy initiatives—and that’s all fine and good. But as we all know from high school chemistry, sometimes experiments don’t work out. The step after that is the most crucial: abandoning your dearest expectations and finding new ideas to test. Neither the blue team nor the red team have the solutions for the 21st century, and as we’ve said before, it’s time for both to think creatively about what comes next.

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  • Luke Phillips

    When will TAI start posting some of these new Purple ideas? I am intrigued by the thought.

    • wigwag

      Here’s a purple idea for you; the left and the right both hate the common core and ubiquitous high stakes testing. The common core was foisted on Americans by an out-of-control elite from both political parties. There is absolutely no empirical evidence that the common core is more effective than what it replaced.

      High stakes testing which has become a feature of the American educational landscape that school kids get to experience month after month after month is little more than legalized child abuse.

      The “purple” idea; return education policy to where it belongs, the local level.

    • wigwag

      Here’s a “purple” idea; the cost of higher education for American youngsters is killing the middle class. It doesn’t matter whether you live in Wisconsin and are a supporter of Governor Walker or if you live in Massachusetts and are a supporter of Senator Warren. If you have college-aged kids and have a family income of less than a quarter million dollars per year the cost of college will impoverish you, or, if your child takes out loans, impoverish him or her. It’s nuts!

      What’s the purple idea? How about finding ways to dramatically reduce the cost of higher education. It’s an idea that people on all parts of the political spectrum could learn to love.

      How do you do it?

      Start by enticing colleges and universities to get rid of the untold number of bureaucrats who contribute nothing of value to a student’s education. Insist that colleges merge departments so they operate more efficiently. Eliminate tenure at the professorial level (primary and secondary school teachers need tenure far more than college and university faculty do). Most importantly, make college faculty work harder. Every faculty member should be required to teach at least four course per semester (it’s only 12-16 hours of teaching per week on average) not the one or two courses that they teach now. If college professors taught more courses, colleges would need fewer of them; as salary costs declined so would tuition.

      Use the proprietor of this blog as an example; he teaches at Bard where the tuition is astronomical. I bet Professor Mead doesn’t teach more than two courses each semester (if he even teaches that many). All those Bard undergraduates would pay a lot less in tuition if the Bard faculty worked a little harder.

  • Pete

    The courts have no authority to demand more spending for education. That is the prerogative of the governor and legislature.

    • Corlyss

      You mean judges are somehow barred from directing more spending on education in a way they are not barred from directing more spending on prisons?????

      All they have to do is find underfunding violates the 14th amendment. That puts the onus on the state to comply one way or the other, either robbing from peter to pay paul, or by raising taxes.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Give Brownback a chance, and cut spending, just cutting taxes isn’t enough, you need to get rid of the waste and corruption of the government monopoly as well.

  • Corlyss

    “many lower- and middle-income citizens who can no longer afford to live in California are leaving for other states:”

    Yeah. California’s dotcom billionaires are pushing out its dotcom millionaires and they are invading Utah.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Kansas is on its way to proving that tax cuts kill jobs rather than create them. But, of course, the worst of that effect occurs in the bigger federal cuts than with the smaller taxation done in states. Nonetheless, the Kansas experiment is going to prove something the conservatives still don’t believe and probably will continue denying even as it further takes place under their nose.

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