Time's Joe Klein: Prop 13, Conservatism Caused 'California Bust'

While he conceded that liberal labor unions, particularly "reactionary" teachers unions have had a role in California's fiscal mess, Time columnist and blogger Joe Klein placed the lion's share of the Golden State's woes on conservatives who have pushed for lower taxes.

Upset that conservative writer George Will had chalked up "all that is wrong in California at liberalism's doorstep," Klein used a January 10 Swampland blog post to slam the columnist for failing to assign any blame on the 1978 property tax-limiting Proposition 13 and the resulting "public pathology that we've inherited from the Reagan Era" whereby "the public wants a modified welfare state, excellent schools, a clean environment, low college tuitions...but it's not willing to pay for them."

But the problem with Klein's argument is that reliably blue-state Californians -- or rather the ones who haven't moved out in disgust -- are all too willing to shoulder a high tax burden, as data from the Tax Foundation shows:

  • California's state/local tax burden is above the national average
  • California's 2010 business tax climate ranks 48th
  • California's top individual income tax rate is the fourth highest in the country
  • California's corporate income tax rate is the highest in the West
  • California's sales tax rate is the highest in the nation

But what about Klein's point on state and local property tax? The Tax Foundation notes that "[d]espite Proposition 13, California ranks in the middle of the pack when the states are ranked on combined state/local property tax collections" with the Golden State ranking "28th highest nationally" in terms of per capita state/local property taxes ($1,030.60).

Far from being a "Reagan Era" pipe dream of low taxes and regulation, California is a textbook example of how tax-and-spend liberal policies are doomed to fail. 

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is a writer living in New Carrollton, Md.