That Bruce Ross! He just can’t help raining on the secessionists’ parade with some inconvenient truths! Editorial page editor at the Redding Record Searchlight, Ross just put up another interesting blog post questioning whether any of the Northern California secessionists who are trying to resuscitate the stillborn State of Jefferson have done their math.
Ross posted some maps and charts which show which counties in California pay average and above in taxes into the state. It turns out—surprise, surprise!—that none of them would be members of the proposed fifty-first state, the impetus for which is dissatisfaction with state governments in Sacramento and Salem. Secessionists complain that their views don’t get a hearing in the capitals of primarily-urban states, which is fair.
Equally fair, I think, is the observation that at least on the California side, they send crackpots from well beyond the margins of political respectability to Sacramento. Their “representatives” oppose investments by the state and espouse a virulent and nasty strand of economic fundamentalism that consigns them to the metaphorical floors outside the rooms where responsible grown-ups make decisions. I’m not by any means suggesting that the North State would have to elect a Democrat to get a hearing in a system wherein Democrats dominate the system (though they’re hardly alone...imagine how Democrats in Republican-dominated states feel). But they could do worse than elect someone from one or another of the large parties, or a third-party candidate, who’s not going to go signing a bunch of stupid pledges and swearing oaths to Grover Norquist to the disadvantage of constituents.
What Ross’ figures demonstrate is not only the unviable nature of the State of Jefferson, but something about the nature of our social contract. The refrain of the Republican Party politicians who dominate the North State (and ensure its political irrelevance by preying on the fears of their constituents rather than working to care for the welfare of their constituents) is that those who depend in part on the taxes paid by others for their well-being are scroungers who need to be cut loose from society.
But California’s society—like many societies possessed of a conscience—is designed such that the well-being and opportunities of those who make less money through no fault of their own, and who might struggle to find or keep work, or to make ends meet, are supported by mandatory contributions from those who were either born to privilege, live in regions where it is easier to find work, or where more affluent industries are located.
We have a long ways to go before we are anything resembling an equal society, and the quality of services and opportunities differ too much between regions. But I would argue that people in the North State, and indeed across California, are far better off than if we followed the proscriptions of North State Republican representatives and created a society in which people only get what they, personally, can pay for, in spite of the fact that their economic status is largely determined by regional, national, or even global events outside their control. Instead, children of the comparatively poorer North State are able to attend schools that are held to the same standards as those in other parts of California. Their parents, if they struggle, can receive the same kind of social support even though they don’t pay to the same degree into the collective pot. University tuition remains subsidised for them (although students in general pay far too much these days). We could certainly do better, but we could also do a lot worse—and would under the small-minded libertarianism of the secessionists.
Put another way, people from the northern counties remain full citizens of California, and have access to all of the benefits of the social system supported by residents of the Bay Area and Southern California. By the logic of their own representatives, they would be considered “scroungers” and denied these benefits, an absurdity which demonstrates the vicious and unfounded nature of their representatives’ ideology.
Instead of arguing for secession, North State residents should argue for a higher quality of representation, and a reform of our electoral system that would give their views a better hearing in Sacramento. Instead of reflexively attacking the principles underpinning California’s welfare system, they should look at the ways in which—rightly—they are beneficiaries of those principles, and what a secessionist impulse motivated by a socially-destructive and –irresponsible outlook would mean for their lives in the State of Denial they propose to create.