Sunday, June 16, 2024

As California shrinks, Florida and Texas grow in population. Why?

Must read

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s campaign to troll conservative America with pro-abortion billboards is apparently not enough to create new Californians, as the state’s population shrank for the third straight year.

In fact, according to Census Bureau data released last week, the two states Newsom beefs with most, Florida and Texas, led the nation in numeric growth last year, while California was second to last.

Florida and Texas, you’ve been served.

California’s population dropped by more than a half million people since 2020. But the decline slowed to just over 113,000 last year, which, as a Newsom Administration spokesperson told The Sacramento Bee, is a sign that growth is on its way.

Maybe he’s right. Or maybe the state’s population has peaked. Either way, there are troubling signs for state policymakers who could use this as a wakeup call – though to be woken up would mean coming to terms with the ineptitude of their progressive governance.

A declining population is problematic in numerous ways. It erodes the tax base in a state that loves to spend other people’s money, it contributes to a funding crisis at California’s public schools and it has even contributed to the state’s congressional delegation shrinking by one member.

The largest contributor to the population decline is net domestic migration, which shows that over the past two years nearly 711,000 more people have left the state than have moved in, yet people interpret this in different ways.

The idea of a California exodus has become a common trope with conservative critics of California. The hosts of National Review’s Radio Free California podcast, Will Swaim and David Bahnsen, have made the California “exodus” a recurring segment on their show.

Register columnist Jonathan Lansner wrote last year that it was not an exodus problem but an attraction problem. “To be fair, the state does a decent job attracting folks with big paychecks who were previously residents in other expensive cities,” he wrote, “That’s a limited, upscale audience tied, in large part, to the state’s trend-setting tech industries.”

“There is no exodus,” Los Angeles Times columnist Mark Z. Barabak wrote last year,  arguing the net out-migration was minor when compared to the state’s total population.

Demographers and other policy types have pointed out that there are other factors contributing to the population decline: low birth rate, deaths, a rise in telework and lower immigration levels.

Newsom last year blamed the whole thing on “visa policies in the Trump Administration” – because Trump! – even though, as the Washington Examiner correctly pointed out, those same visa policies haven’t slowed down growth in Texas and Florida.

All of these takes are true in their own way, but the case for an exodus is strongest because A) the population is shrinking and B) more people are moving out than moving in.

Here’s another way to look at it: The people who know this state best – residents – are deciding to leave. En masse? No. But it’s irrefutable that the trend is heading in the wrong direction.

And that’s why progressive ineptitude is relevant.

The same Newsom Administration spokesperson who told The Sacramento Bee that growth would be coming soon told Fox 40 in Sacramento that high housing costs were likely the top cause of net out-migration.

That’s certainly a factor, but it’s impossible to sever the cost of housing from the overall cost of living. That includes the cost of housing, energy, gas, all kinds of taxes and many other things. The state is constantly creating barriers to meaningful employment with excessive occupational licensing and a war against the gig economy.

Behind all of this is a progressive ideology that increasingly widens the gap between haves and have-nots (even though it claims to do the opposite) and a Democratic establishment beholden to powerful constituencies that resist meaningful change at all costs.

If state policy makers were serious about addressing housing costs, for example, they would start by reforming the California Environmental Quality Act, which is routinely abused by NIMBYs and environmentalists who block development as much as possible and by unions who block development until they extract preferential treatment for their members.

For those who write this off as an anti-environment, conservative talking point, former Gov. Jerry Brown, who could be described as neither anti-environment nor conservative, once called CEQA reform “the Lord’s work.”

But he backed down and so here we are in the middle of an exodus and housing crisis that can’t be fixed because the party in power is too scared to risk upsetting the powerful special interests to whom it’s beholden.

Now apply that same lesson to the state’s many other problems and the mystery of the shrinking population suddenly seems not too mysterious at all.

Follow Matt Fleming @FlemingWords on Twitter.

More articles

Latest article