Should Hillary Clinton be elected president on Nov. 8, how would that affect California?
1) National recession. As Ambrose Evans-Pritchard just reported in the Telegraph, “The risk of a U.S. recession next year is rising fast. The Federal Reserve has no margin for error. Liquidity is suddenly drying up. Early warning indicators from U.S. ‘flow of funds’ data point to an incipient squeeze, the long-feared capitulation after five successive quarters of declining corporate profits.”
There are ways to deal with this. When something similar happened 35 years ago, President Reagan and Fed Chairman Paul Volcker met it with cuts in taxes and regulations and stabilizing the dollar at $350 an ounce of gold – even though Volcker pushed up interest rates to kill off the 1970s inflation. As Reagan later admitted, it was a mistake to delay the bulk of his tax cuts to 1983. But when the tax cuts finally freed the economy, that year it grew at 7 percent, and at least 4 percent annually until President George H.W. Bush’s “Read my lips! New taxes!” tax increase of 1991 sparked a recession.
Donald Trump’s program would be similar. But we’re talking here about Hillary, who wants more taxes and regulations. Assuming Republicans still control the House, she’s unlikely to impose higher taxes; but taxes won’t go lower, either. And President Obama has shown how executive orders can greatly increase the intrusive powers of the regulatory state. She has regretted promising, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” And she supposedly believes those jobs will be replaced by “green jobs.” But that just means more Solyndras.
2) Massive California budget deficits. If the Fed increases interest rates, that finally would end its Zero Interest Rate disaster, now more than eight years long, which has devastated middle-class savings. But raising interest rates would tank the places money has been forced to go: the stock market and real estate.
That would shrink California tax collections, which rely abnormally on income, capital gains and (despite Proposition 13) property taxes. The state’s $7 billion “rainy day fund” would dry up fast. Soon we’d be back to $20 billion-plus deficits.
3) Split-roll tax increase? The deficits would spark calls for yet another tax increase to keep the state spending spree going. If Democrats again grab 2/3 of both houses of the Legislature, they could pass tax increases themselves, with no Republican input. But moderate Democrats likely would torpedo that. And Gov. Jerry Brown probably would say it should be put before voters for the June or November 2018 ballots; probably the latter because of greater (more liberal) turnout.
With the Proposition 55 income tax increase (or “extension”) likely having passed in 2016, it would be tough to push income tax rates yet higher, say to 15 percent from an already staggering 13.3 percent. Moreover, the declining revenues would be due to a drop-off in income and cap gains taxes, so increasing taxes on lower revenues wouldn’t help that much.
So the push would be for a split-roll tax on property, with Prop. 13’s protections remaining for homes. A higher tax would be levied on commercial property, possibly with an exemption for apartments. As we’ve seen whenever this proposal has come up, it would be a battle royale between the public-employee unions and such anti-tax groups as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, who probably would win.
Here are a couple of “positive” things for California:
4) More defense spending and jobs. Hillary heavily pushed for the bombing in 1999 of Serbia over Kosovo and in 2011 of Libya. She also supported the Iraq and Afghan wars; as well as other wars in Ukraine, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, etc. And every chance she gets she attacks Russian President Vladimir Putin and says Donald Trump is his puppet. Wars are the greatest way to boost defense spending because you have to replace the depleted materiel.
Moreover, a President Hillary would have stronger political and economic ties to California than any president since Reagan and, before him, Richard Nixon of Yorba Linda. As did LBJ in the 1960s, the Bushes moved a great deal of defense spending to Texas. So did Vice President Dick Cheney, the former chief of Houston-based Halliburton. Assuming she doesn’t get into a nuclear tiff with Putin and get us all killed, that will mean more defense industry jobs for Californians. Also more jobs in the U.S. Army’s Mortuary Affairs service.
5) A more level playing field with other states. Enthused AB32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, “[A]ction taken by California to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases will have far-reaching effects by encouraging other states, the federal government, and other countries to act.” That hasn’t happened. Instead, AB 32 and similar legislation have pushed businesses and jobs to other states.
But if Hillary is elected, she’ll impose AB32 and similar legislation nationally. Likewise, although she won’t be able to raise the national minimum wage to the $15 an hour California soon will have, she certainly will be able to convince Republicans to boost it from the current $7.25 – say, to $12. Who cares if a higher minimum wage destroys the jobs of poor people? That will mean more jobs for Hillary-supporting social workers.
But the greater relative damage to other states from her policies would mean fewer jobs leaving California for those states. Although jobs still would depart for more sensible countries.
My suggestions to ride out the tough years of a Hillary administration: Get a job in the defense industry or as a social worker. And if she keeps up her belligerence toward Russia, dig a bomb shelter.
Veteran California columnist John Seiler now is a freelance writer. His email:email@example.com