Why Is California Targeting the Tech Firms That Drive Its Economy?
During a house-shopping visit to a small industrial city in Ohio where I had taken my first newspaper job, I asked a local, “What’s that smell?” His answer: “What smell?” Residents there had become so accustomed to the industrial scents from the city’s massive chemical plant and oil refinery that they didn’t notice them anymore. When out-of-town visitors would ask me the same question, I’d say: “It’s the smell of money and jobs.”
After the refinery announced plans to shut down, local and state officials desperately tried to convince the company to stay put—and finally intervened to help find a buyer. I don’t believe in such government meddling, but viewed the reaction as understandable. Officials rarely want to lose companies—even old, smelly ones—that fund their budgets and employ their residents.
California, however, is a different animal. Democratic leaders have long lived up to one of Ronald Reagan’s best quotations: “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
Lately though, they have taken this further by singling out the innovative tech sector for torment—as if they’re purposely trying to drive these companies to Texas or Arizona. Unlike in Rust Belt states, that industry provides jobs and money without the air-polluting stench. In fact, these are among the most environmentally friendly industries imaginable.
California officials are constantly bleating about our status as the world’s fifth-largest economy. Its $2.7 trillion Gross Domestic Product has surpassed Great Britain—putting California behind the United States as whole, China, Japan, and Germany. The biggest economic driver here is the tech economy.
Officials should not provide tech firms with special favors—nor should they hobble them. The most obvious example of the latter is Assembly Bill 5, which codifies the Cal
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