Why and how are we Okies different, and what does that mean for the future?
It might help to look at California, which is where four more years of Obama-style tax increases, hyper-regulation and deficits will take us. California just doubled down on liberal policies, electing veto-proof Democratic majorities in its legislature and approving draconian tax increases on its residents.
Or should we say soon-to-be-ex-residents. The great California out-migration began around 1990 as state taxes and regulations began to rise, and as state budgets slid deeper into the red.
In fact, the states with the highest out-migration between 2000 and 2010 are all blue — including Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and the population-loss champ New York, which saw a net loss of 1.5 million. You’d need a cholera epidemic to clear that many people out of Oklahoma.
Where did they go? Most fled to lower-tax red states like Texas, Georgia and Arizona. Those left behind are increasingly dependent on government largesse; a third of all welfare recipients in the U.S. now live in California. The results, to no one’s surprise, are budget deficits that have already passed $10 billion a year.
America is on a similar downward slide. In four years under President Obama, we added $5 trillion to a national debt that had taken 222 years to pass $10 trillion. A third of our population receives some kind of entitlement payments, and that will increase dramatically as Obamacare expands Medicaid rolls. Mitt Romney was roundly criticized for suggesting that 47 percent of Americans don’t pay their way; the actual share with no federal income tax liability is 46 percent.
So we have roughly half of the people, to one extent or another, supporting the other half, with continuing trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see.
The Obama answer is to “ask the richest to pay just a little bit more.” Well, the much-maligned top 1 percent already pay 37 percent of all federal income taxes. The top 10 percent pay 70 percent. The bottom half pay just 2.25 percent.
That top 10 percent represents most of the job creators. Tax them more, regulate them more, impose more mandates on them and you get fewer jobs.
That’s where California and other blue states have already landed, and it is where we are headed as a nation in the next four years. What does that mean for Oklahoma?
Like Texas and a few other high-growth states with sensible tax and spending policies, we will increasingly become a refuge for those flayed and bullied by liberal taxes and regulatory policies. Red — for residents, employers and the jobs they bring — will be even more attractive in the next four years, a place to hunker down and ride out the Obama storm.
California will ultimately tip over into a Greece-like meltdown. Oklahoma will last longer, thanks to our red outlook. But if Obama manages to succeed in his stated goal of “transforming America,” where will we run?
Brake was chief writer for former Gov. Frank Keating and former U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin.
Opinions expressed on the commentary page, in letters to the editor and elsewhere in this newspaper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ownership or management.