Most of the time, this sort of thing isn’t worth calling out. But in this case, we have a teaching moment, illustrating more than just the level of desperation apparently being experienced — well, somewhere. Among California Democrats, seemingly. Or maybe it’s just the journalists themselves. Whoever decided to say it, it’s awfully silly.
The topic of the article at BloombergBusinessweek is indicated by the headline: “California’s Democrats Are Ready for Political War.”
The war, of course, is against Donald Trump and a Republican-led Congress. California’s Democrats aren’t going to take that lying down. Leading Golden State Democrats quickly made heroic pronouncements in the aftermath of the 8 November election:
Immediately after the election, state Senate President Kevin de León and his Assembly counterpart, Anthony Rendon, both Latinos from Southern California, sent out a scathing statement in English and Spanish assuring all 39 million Californians that they were ready for political war. “Today, we woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land, because yesterday Americans expressed their views on a pluralistic and democratic society that are clearly inconsistent with the values of the people of California,” they wrote. “We will lead the resistance to any effort that would shred our social fabric or our Constitution.”
Actually, California has been shredding the U.S. Constitution for years. But set that aside. What is California going to do about it?
The Bloomberg article offers this implied threat:
State Democrats say there’s plenty they can do short of leaving the U.S. California has long been a net contributor to Washington’s coffers, receiving an estimated 78¢ in federal spending in return for every dollar it sends, according to a study by the Washington-based Tax Foundation, a nonprofit think tank that provides analysis of federal and state tax policies. That gives state leaders potential leverage when it comes to complying with policies it doesn’t like, starting with the deportation of undocumented immigrants.
So…California is going to do what, exactly, to make good on this leverage-based threat? It’s not like California has any control over the money flowing from the state’s taxpayers to Washington (the $1 side of this ledger). That money flows directly from the taxpayers to the federal government. Sacramento can’t tell California residents, corporate or individual, to stop paying their federal taxes. It can’t tell employers in the state to stop withholding taxes and remitting them to the IRS on behalf of employees. At least, if it does try that, the federal government can shut down California’s access to cash and financial instruments in short order. Nothing like unpleasant threats of armed force would even have to come into play.
The state has no power to interdict the flow of federal tax money to Washington.
Maybe California plans to throw a fit and demand that Washington send the state more than 78 cents on the dollar in federal outlays?
Good luck with that. We’ll break out the popcorn. Should be entertaining.
Or perhaps California plans to deal itself a series of damaging blows, putting thousands of people out of work and killing whole sectors of the economy with new state mandates, in order to suppress the tax base in California? Beggar the state, to keep Trump and a Republican Congress from having California-based tax revenues to play with? (All while the inflow of federal payments and subsidies, by implication, continues? Right.)
One can only imagine the groundswell of public support for such a strategy.
No reason to take this further. I think we all get the point. California’s not in the driver’s seat here.
But there is one more point to be made. If it makes you thoughtful that there exists this robust fiscal, legal, and political relationship between a very powerful federal government and the individual citizen or company — a relationship the states can be effectively held hostage by — it should. Maybe, if the states don’t like what’s being accomplished through federal-level politics, they should have more to say about it.
That’s exactly what our Founders envisioned, in fact.
But that’s not what the progressive Democrats have wanted for at least 100 years. Every policy they have pushed — right up to and including their push to get rid of the Electoral College in this presidential cycle — has been designed to strengthen the central government, undercut the states, and leave them exactly where California is today. I.e., hoist on the Democrats’ petard.
Hint to California Democrats: if you ain’t got it, don’t pretend to pull it. And remember, you ain’t got it because of the policies you pushed.