Is Florida Really Doing Better Than California?

Robert Crohan/PantherNow

Robert Crohan/Staff Writer

Anyone following elections during the Trump years and beyond knows that Republicans really, really dislike the Golden State.

The Idaho GOP’s 2018 fundraising message was one of war against “California-style politics.” I recall a speaker asking Nevada Trump voters if they wanted Nevada to end up like California, and he was met with a resounding “NO!” On our home turf, Republicans warned that Andrew Gillum would create a high-tax “Cali-Florida” in Rick Scott’s place.

As Floridians largely embrace their long Republican streak in state leadership, the question must be asked: is Florida actually doing better than California?

Democrats are just beginning to play the big blue vs. big red blame-game. Gavin Newsom, who just ate the GOP’s lunch in a recall election, campaigned on not wanting to “DeSantis’ ‘ California in terms of COVID-19. The strategy of painting Trump as the GOP’s mascot has won many races for Democrats- but not in Florida. 

There are many metrics to look at here.

On the most important issue to voters in cycle after cycle, the economy, the picture is unexpected. California can boast of its economy being the fifth-largest in the world, even topping that of the United Kingdom. This continued into the pandemic, with the lockdown curbing deaths and raising prospects for consumers and businesses. The state is also the center of technological innovation. For Florida, the economy topped $1 trillion not too long ago. Florida is considered very business-friendly owing to minimal regulations and a growing population that has invested in its many industries, especially tourism.

Digging deeper, we can find that California had a robust recovery, according to Bloomberg. It added 1.3 million workers to the payroll since April 2020 and household income increased much more and faster than in Florida. California has higher GDP per capita, significantly higher median household income, and a higher minimum wage, although its initial non-farm unemployment in early 2020 surpassed that of Florida. California seems the economic winner.

On related metrics, it appears competitive: in the gini coefficient, Florida is at the national average for inequality, while California is slightly above it. This is fueled by an astronomical increase in costs, making Florida the winner here. In Florida itself, Miami-Dade is unsurprisingly more expensive than average. However, unlike California metros, its minimum wage is below $9 an hour.

Affordability is also affected by taxes, and California’s are among the nation’s highest. Although taxes are needed to pay for good-quality services, they nonetheless are a burden to lower-class homeowners. Florida, by contrast, has no state income tax, and its leaders have outlawed tax increases. This has aided the growth of small businesses and suburbs, while California’s middle class shrinks.

Major issues plaguing both states are poverty and homelessness. In 2019, California and Florida were almost equal in terms of their per-capita poverty rates, although California has many more homeless, including unsheltered, per capita than Florida. Both Miami and San Francisco have become notorious for their lack of restrooms for the homeless.

Environmentally, Florida’s beaches draw millions of newcomers, but several outbreaks of “red tide” algae have been attributed to a failure to contain pollution and, in the case of Piney Point, outright neglect. At the same time, Los Angeles has smog much of the time. California is considered one of the greenest states, and Florida one of the least green. This can even be seen in housing, with California encouraging high-rise developments over new suburbs that threaten wildlife.

On to more bread-and-butter issues. Studies find that although California spends much more on students than Florida, Florida’s students are performing better. In fact, Florida is quickly rising to the top in terms of higher education, no thanks in part to our FIU! Go Panthers! This reveals a need for competent investment and trust, given California’s status as a magnet for college students from all over. I can attest, as my high school was poorly funded but had very wonderful and diligent people.

Health insurance coverage is far wider in California, while Florida has cheaper car insurance. Florida’s commutes are shorter, although they are getting longer, and California has more public transportation.

Both states are incredibly diverse, but Florida policies are less friendly towards sexual minorities, transfeminine people, racial justice protesters, and people seeking abortions. Gun control is strict in California but lax in Florida, generating more deadly shootings. 

Access to the ballot box is more restricted in Florida, while California mails a ballot to every resident. Likewise, California has higher crime but is safer overall than Florida, according to the FBI. Both states have a long history of racism, and I have seen arguments for either state being more livable for Black people.

As we can see, at least according to my analysis, both states have strong merits, but my judgment is that Republican attacks on California have only limited merit. California Democrats have serious messes to clean up, but so do Florida Republicans. I understand that each individual’s analysis may vary, as we all have different experiences and priorities.

I love both Florida and California with a passion. I am appreciative of what their leaders have done to make our lives better. Florida is my home, and I believe that we can solve our state’s problems and make it more livable for all. But in the meantime, Gavin Newsom is chuckling.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community

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