Why Shapiro, Daily Wire Just Said ‘Goodbye’ to CA

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In an announcement this week from his YouTube channel, conservative podcast host and political influencer Ben Shapiro announces he and the entire Daily Wire media company will leave California. Why, you ask? Ben says it’s simple: “This is specifically, and really only, due to the crappy governance of this state.”

People leaving poorly run states is not an isolated trend. ALEC research shows how poor governance pushes people away – and it’s done it for years. But the Daily Wire leaving California is a big deal. States should pay attention to this lesson.

Ben Shapiro and the Daily Wire are not the only recent, big names to announce they’re leaving California. Podcast giant Joe Rogan announced his plan to leave California at the end of July. He wanted “somewhere where you have a little bit more freedom.” Elon Musk recently had his own problems with the tight-fisted Californian government. In early August Musk threatened to move his headquarters depending on how his California business operations were being treated. Musk left the point ambiguous for now, saying “there’s no question that our headquarters will remain in California for the short term. Long term, we’ll have to wait and see.”

What’s the reason? Well, the common denominator is the policy environment in California. It’s quite inhospitable to free enterprise.

Let’s pull from the ALEC publication Rich States, Poor States, which grades the economic outlook of every state. Of the 15 variables tracked, California scores from 40th to 50th on nine of them. It has the worst top marginal income tax rate, it has the second-worst state minimum wage, and it isn’t a right-to-work state.

These variables make California ranked 46th in the ALEC report. But what that means for the real world, is that entrepreneurs, job creators and individuals – like Shapiro, Musk and Rogan – will get pushed away. These are the kinds of people you want to attract into your state if you’re a policy maker – not economically choke them into leaving.

But that’s exactly what the California policy environment does, and it’s rather shocking. Shapiro says he loves California – he’s lived there for the vast majority of his life. But the economic pains are just too much. This isn’t something only Shapiro has felt, either. More than 800,000 California state residents left the state from 2009 until 2018.

Beyond the loss of citizens, California is losing successful businesses, like the Daily Wire with its millions of dollars in revenue. That’s taxable revenue going to Tennessee now, instead of California. Frankly, it’s rather ironic that a “progressive tax policy” meant to fund government from the rich and from businesses, makes both the rich and businesses disappear. But that’s the reality. Not only that, but Shapiro’s Daily Wire will have more opportunity in Tennessee to grow, to create jobs, and generally to succeed more than it ever could in California.

Ultimately, these stories will continue as long as states and state policymakers continue to ignore them. It’s time to pay attention to what happens from state policy – not what we hope happens from state policy.