Explaining Southern California's economy

Oh look, California is actually $335 billion in debt


The volatile incomes of the wealthy, mostly derived from capital gains, are causing ongoing problems for California to develop successful budgets.

The independent State Budget Crisis Tax Force has released its analysis of California's finances and found that rather than being a whopping $28 billion in debt, as Gov. Jerry Brown alleged with he came to office, the state is actually a nearly unfathomable $335 billion debt. Brown called it a "wall," as the New York Times noted. But it's really more like a dozen walls. All stacked on top of each other to make a mega-wall that blocks out the Sun. 

This is not an exaggeration. Californian's total level of debt, on and off the books, is pushing a fifth of the total annual economic output of the state, which is about $2 trillion.

Some of the usual suspects are responsible for this: overspending and undertaxing during boom times, colossal pension liabilities, taking on too much debt. But the report zeroed in on an important area that I've written about before: a California tax system that relies far too much on the incomes of the wealthy, and in particular on income derived from capital gains, or the sale of stocks, bonds, and other assets (see the chart above, which I grabbed from the report).