Sorry, haters. California is doing fine

There’s a neurotic need in the right-leaning media to declare that California is going down. The future belongs to Texas and Florida, where “woke” is a discouraging word — and climate change is somebody else’s problem, if it is a problem.

California has lost population in each of the last three years, while Texas and Florida are growing fast. The “story” is that high taxes are driving the rich out of California. And it’s true that some high-profile California magnates have left for Texas and Florida, neither of which tax income.

But that’s only a piece of the truth. The number of millionaires in California is actually surging as global wealth continues to flood into the Golden State, according to Bloomberg News. From 2019 through 2021, California’s population of millionaire taxpayers has grown by 116,000. The number of residents pulling in more than $50 million surged 158% to 3,182!

Nonetheless, every time a company moves from California to Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott crows that his state’s lower taxes and laxer environmental laws are draining California’s economic might. Texas does regulate businesses with a light touch. Different story if you have a woman’s body.

Same goes for Florida, which, like Texas, has virtually banned abortion. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has made a specialty of attacking local businesses for oddball reasons. He pushed through a law forbidding employers to require proof of vaccinations from their workers. And he reserves special punishments for Disney, his state’s largest private employer, for daring to disagree with him on gay rights.

Losing population is not always a bad thing. The raps against California include the high cost of housing and brutal traffic. Fewer people means less competition for real estate and fewer cars on the road. Meanwhile, the cost of housing in Austin and Miami has shot skyward.

With 39 million people, California still has 10 million more residents than does Texas, the second most populous state — not that this should matter on the individual level. What does the population race have to do with the quality of life?

That’s not to say all is nifty in California. The Californians going elsewhere tend to be middle-class or poor. Many end up in next-door Arizona or Nevada. The result has been a growing and concerning disparity in wealth.

California still has nice weather and, for those who care about show business, Hollywood. But its great draw is brain power supported by top universities and the tech magnet of Silicon Valley.

Right-wing politics can turn off rich people more than low taxes turn them on. Dave Nixon of the Patriotic Millionaires, a group of well-to-do business leaders who advocate for “fair” taxation, moved back to California in 2022 after selling his St. Pete Beach home in Florida.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said she knows “several” people who recently returned from Austin for similar reasons. This is clearly anecdotal evidence, but one can believe that a sharp right turn in local politics could get some former Californians down.

There’s no point, though, in playing one cultural preference against another. People may go to Florida or Texas — or stay in California — for different reasons. And even some progressive-minded people dislike some of the silly woke stuff or flashy esthetics coming out of Southern California. They would include liberals in Washington state.

But suffice it to say, California’s economy is doing just fine. A new members-only club demanding initiation fees as high as $100,000 is opening in San Francisco. Core’s backers are assuming that the city’s stressed downtown will be coming back.

“If people were telling us, ‘I’m planning my exit,’ ” a club spokeswoman said. “We wouldn’t come here.”

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com.