Thomas Elias: California carrying the national economy
Upon hearing about his impeachment and the allegations that President Trump has told more than 15,000 documentable lies during his almost 1,100 days in office, his supporters generally have one major rejoinder: The economy is doing great.
That’s been true for most of the Trump presidency. At the same time, Trump and his more ardent backers consistently claim the liberal Democrats who control California politics are destroying the “California Dream” and wrecking this state.
But now figures from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) in the U.S. Department of Commerce debunk all that.
It turns out California is carrying the national economy. Gov. Gavin Newsom in his state of the state speech the other day called California “the envy of the nation.” Maybe that’s one reason so many non-Californians enjoy taking cheap shots at the still-Golden State.
If the country is doing well, that’s mostly because this state is doing far better than most of the rest of America. Never mind that real estate and energy cost more here than anywhere else. Despite its admitted problems, California still produces far more than its fair share of goods and services and is largely responsible for keeping the U.S. economy tops in the world.
You can see this better than anywhere in the BEA’s new list of U.S. counties with more than $100 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) — the combined total of all goods and services produced in any one nation, state or locale. The BEA’s figures were published as 2019 ended, while congressional hearings on Trump’s impeachment were in full swing. Perhaps he didn’t know they were coming, or he might have ordered them held up or altered, as he has other government reports unfavorable to his pet causes.
Two of the five most productive counties in America are in California, plus seven of the 23 counties with more than $100 billion in GDP. Together, Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties alone produce more than one-fifth of the economic activity of the 23 healthiest counties in all of America.
What’s more, of those 23 counties, only seven are in states Trump carried in 2016, including two Texas counties — Harris (Houston) and Travis (Austin) that are Democratic islands in the Texas Republican red sea.
Which makes the contrast between places with the best economic performance and those with the most political power in the national capital a clear-cut example of the tail wagging the dog.
Los Angeles County, for example, produced $711 billion in GDP in 2018, more than the combined total in Dallas County, Texas; Maricopa County, Arizona (Phoenix); Fulton County, Georgia (Atlanta); and Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. Half of those counties (Fulton and Philadelphia) went strongly against Trump.
Equally significant are the BEA’s comparisons of California county GDPs and those of other nations. Los Angeles County’s productivity, for example, is comparable to Switzerland’s. Santa Clara County, home of Silicon Valley, produces more than the entire nation of Pakistan, which has about 100 times as many residents. Orange County, third in California, has comparable output to Portugal and San Diego County as much as Greece. Alameda County produces as much as Ukraine and San Francisco about as much as Kazakhstan.
Clearly, a large population and workforce is only part of the story. Productive workforces like those at leading companies in Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties, like Google and Sony Studios and Snapchat and Hewlett Packard and Hulu, spin off huge amounts of economic activity not directly related to the work of those companies.
This takes the form of restaurants, car dealers, tire shops, gourmet groceries and even farmers’ markets, which purvey abundant fruits and vegetables in both counties.
For Trump to take credit for any of this is plainly absurd, since the very folks who voted against him now provide his principle claim to success.
But that won’t stop the president. Unless the organizations that track his many lies and half-truths are completely wrong, it is not the least bit unusual for him to claim credit for things he didn’t do or that he had little or nothing to do with.
Email Thomas Elias at firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It” is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit http://www.californiafocus.net
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