Let’s stop paying tribute money to Washington every year and start taking care of California first

Obviously, the California independence campaign has no love for the federal government but one point that often goes overlooked is that it also has no love for the current state government, either. Calexit is not about empowering those currently in power in Sacramento. Calexit is about empowering the people of California with the opportunity to choose a fundamentally different future. 

There are two types of people in California: those who reside here but consider themselves Americans, and those who live here and identify themselves firstly as Californians. Calexit is a campaign for the latter; one that taps into the state of mind that unites all Californians from each diverse part of California. We once shared a state of mind with the American people but things have changed. Unfortunately, we have just begun to realize how far we have been steered off course tethered to a ship whose destiny lies deeper in the sea than the Titanic – after all, the bigger they are the harder they fall.

Like every other state and country, California is not immune to problems but misconceptions about our problems obscure the obvious solution, which is to cut this tether; to, as it was once famously written by America’s founding fathers, “dissolve the political bands”. While the clock may have run out on this unsinkable ship, this once “perpetual” Union, we still have a chance to save California. To do that, we must make it clear that many of the problems California faces today exist because of our relationship with Washington, D.C., not despite of that relationship.  

First, Sacramento is not perfect. Calexit is not an endorsement of the current state government and our campaign envisions a more responsible, more responsive, and more representative government for Californians through one of the various systems of proportional representation that are currently used by most of the world’s democracies. Or, given the ingenuity of the Californian people, it goes without saying that we can devise a unique system of our own that works for our unique nation. That is a decision we can make together after we cut our tether to Washington and set a new course forward.

The one thing that can be said about Sacramento is that some things do get done. Significant legislation gets passed whether your ideological beliefs approve of them or not. California approved aid-in-dying and $15 per hour minimum wage legislation last year, and this year separate legislation establishing universal retirement and healthcare programs have been introduced. We have budgets passed on time, and a growing rainy day fund. The same things cannot be said of our American rulers in Washington.

Per a 2017 report by the California Legislative Analysts’ Office, we rank 42nd in federal spending per person in California and we pay more in federal taxes than we receive in federal funding. A comparison of federal expenditures to federal taxes paid, which is annually published in the IRS Data Book, shows a net loss of $13 billion in tax revenues from 2014 alone, the most recent year for which data is available. An average of the past twenty years, including two economic recessions, shows an average annual loss of about $16 billion – our annual tribute payment to our American rulers in Washington.

As of 2017, California has about $240 billion in long-term costs, debts, and liabilities. Yet this year’s state budget as proposed by the Governor calls for just $1.2 billion to pay down a half of a percent of that. At this rate, it will take nearly two centuries to pay down these debts. Paying tribute to our American rulers in Washington hurts – keeping that tribute money in California would allow us to pay down these debts by the time a child born today is eligible for a driver’s license.

In 2014, California paid ten percent of the federal budget and the defense budget that year was $615 billion. So roughly speaking, we paid $61.5 billion to our American rulers in Washington for them to “defend” us 40 million Californians. That’s more than the United Kingdom spent to defend 65 million Brits that year and about the same Russia spent to defend 144 million Russians in a country 40 times larger than California.

As a global average, each country spends about $17 billion a year on its defense. Canada spends a bit more and Mexico spends significantly less. Both spend about one percent of GDP on their military. Neither face the threat of foreign invasion. California currently spends about 2.5% of its GDP on defense – more than the global average, higher than what is requested of NATO members, and much higher than necessary. At one percent of GDP, California could redirect about $38 billion per year (on top of the previously mentioned $16 billion) to other initiatives and priorities and still have a military budget larger than countries like Spain, Italy, Canada, Australia, Israel, and Turkey, and comparable to Brazil, which has the 11th largest military budget in the world.

What other initiatives and priorities need funding in California? This year’s budget, as proposed by the Governor, projects a $1.6 billion deficit, but cancels funding previously set aside for affordable housing, the renovation of state buildings, and for a new housing and disability program. It scraps higher subsidies for child-care programs, and begins to phase out the Middle-Class Scholarship Program, California’s only scholarship for middle class students.

This year’s proposed budget lacks any new support for programs such as CalWORKS, which is now entering its tenth consecutive year of providing low-income families with grants below the deep poverty line. Additionally, under current budget proposals, elderly or disabled Californians will receive just $9 more per month in 2018 than they did in 2009, and their SSI/SSP grants will remain below the poverty line for the eighth consecutive year now.

Remember the Oroville Dam? Calexit critics mock California for not being able to maintain a dam yet exploring independence. Estimates run about $200 million (million with an M) to repair the dam. How many billions (billions with a B) in tribute money do we send to our American rulers in Washington each year again?

You’ve heard of high-speed rail. This year’s budget includes some $375 million (million with an M) to continue funding its construction. You’ve likely heard all the annual bickering over this funding. How many billions (billions with a B) in tribute money do we send to our American rulers in Washington each year again?

Poverty. Homelessness. Healthcare. Childcare. Education. Infrastructure. Our environment. Our quality of life. Our cost of living. These are all initiatives and priorities that deserve more attention in California. They are all priorities we have the resources to address. Yet they often get the short of the stick, coming in second to paying tribute to a distant and increasingly unrecognizable government in Washington. A foreign to us government.

But hey, let’s just keep paying them billions in tribute money every year so they will protect us from barbarian hordes – that’s why the Chinese built their great wall, right? Or maybe we need protection from the Spanish Armada, Viking marauders, or the pirates of the Caribbean themselves? After all, the Americans in Washington are such great rulers and we should be so grateful for everything they do for us and for all the freedoms they uniquely grant us – you know, the freedoms the Canadians don’t enjoy, the freedoms the Swiss can’t exercise, and the freedoms the Dutch and Norwegians can only dream of while they live their miserable lives in the consistently happiest countries on Earth.

Let’s stop paying tens of billions in tribute money to Washington every year and start taking care of California first. Yes to Calexit.