California should secede from the Union: a semi-modest proposal

The Republic of NevorewashiforniaYou may have heard that the State of California is facing a monster deficit. Figures bounce around a bit, but most estimates have the shortfall at or near $28 billion, and the mess has Gov. Jerry Brown pondering Armageddon: enough posturing and arguing – he seems prepared to let the citizenry see how it feels about the reality of shutting it all down. Don’t want to pay for schools? Cool – we won’t have any.

One sympathizes with the people of the Golden State. They do contribute more in federal taxes than any other state, and the ideology of our times has us all convinced that paying taxes is the same thing as flushing perfectly good cash down the toilet. We’re encouraged, at every turn, to think of taxes as pure cost instead of as investment. It’s as though we don’t get anything in return for this money. So we understand that many Californians feel a bit put-upon when the taxman cometh.

Still, you can’t help thinking that there has to be a better solution than closing schools, which are the lifeblood of any society’s future. Where might the state find enough cash to cover its deficit without savaging the fabric of its vibrant culture?

I was thinking about this problem when it occurred to me that I had seen some other interesting numbers on California’s tax situation. As it turns out, Cali is what we call a “donor state”: they contribute more to the federal government than they get back in services. Specifically, Washington, DC only returns $0.78 for every dollar that California pays in taxes.

78 cents. Hmmm. So I grabbed my calculator and did some basic math. Using the latest available numbers, California is paying roughly $314 billion in federal taxes. They’re getting back approximately $245 billion. That’s on the order of a $69 billion loss.

Expressed another way, that’s the deficit California presently faces plus a tidy $41 billion surplus. Does anyone besides me see a financial incentive to revisit the state’s relationship with the federal government? More to the point, wouldn’t it be perfectly responsible for Gov. Brown and the state legislature to take up deliberations on the possibility of secession?

Some caveats are in order, I suspect. First, I’m abstracting a complex issue in order to suggest a point. Second, I’m no math and economics genius, so I invite those of you with better number skills to double-check my calculations.

That said, though, a smart citizen of California who feels overtaxed ought to be asking a different set of questions, including things like why am I subsidizing schools in all the red states and closing them in my own state?

Thinking slightly bigger, I might notice that California sits in close proximity to some other donor states: Oregon, Nevada and Washington. I admit that, as Republic names go, Nevorewashifornia lacks a certain gravitas. But with $41B in cash on hand, you can surely hire a branding firm to come up with something that soars…

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17 thoughts on “California should secede from the Union: a semi-modest proposal”

  1. I’m sure there are people in those Red states who would love to see the leftie states that support them financially go. Oh, wait…

  2. Or we could just close some loopholes in Prop. 13 and impose a severance tax on oil extracted from under us, like most states with oil in the ground do. Which Ahhnold refused to even consider. Did he think Chevron would move out to some state that doesn’t have oil?

  3. It’s time for California independence. Let’s start thinking about how to do this for real, instead of just wishing for it. The first step is to do some surveys to see what and how Californians think about it.

  4. How can California defend itself? They disarmed the citizenry! You can leave Nevada out of that mess. Nevada is loyal to the Union. Oregon…well its much like Nevada. Washington is much like California except Washingtonians love their guns.

    As a SF born Californian now living in Nevada for 16yrs, I can say that California cannot forcibly leave the Union. Their laws have guaranteed that. The US military posted there will not side with Sacramento. All Cali has is their National Guard that has pledged allegiance to the U.S.A. So it would be a fallacy for anyone wanting to leave the Union.

    On another note, Certain counties can leave California and form their own state. Just a thought. The southern counties in California can leave and California can be called Northern and Southern California.

  5. with the 41 billion dollars more than needed we could hire a californian military to help secede from the “tyranical” US government

  6. The way to remove CA from the Union is actually quite simple assuming that the majority of Californians want such a thing. And that’s the catch, for generations we’ve been taught that we’re Americans. I’m a native Californian who is now an Oregonian. Beyond my California and Oregon identities I suppose I’m an American but, a rather embarrassed one. So, first, Californians (and this applies to Washingtonians and Oregonians) need to start thinking of themselves not as Americans but as citizens of their state. Once that mindset has taken hold it becomes easier to build support for the idea of secession.

    The actual mechanics of secession are simple, we simply starve the United States of money. Pass a Proposition in California requiring all citizens and legal California residents to file with the IRS the required forms (1040, 1040A, etc) and to submit a copy with the California tax documents (540, 540A, etc). Oregon already does this. When I file form 40 for the State of Oregon I have to include a copy of my federal filing.

    In addition to requiring a copy of the federal filing, include in the Proposition the requirement that all funds be remitted to Sacramento and not the IRS center in Fresno, and that California will no longer receive federal funds or allow federal agencies to assert jurisdiction over her citizens.

    Instant secession by way of economic diversion. Of course, it would help if Oregon and Washington did the same thing at the same time.

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