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Op-ed Placement

Americans Must Choose Florida's Freedom Over California's Failed Socialism

Originally Published in Newsmax on 8/3/21.

It’s never been more clear that our country is at a crossroads. The growing divide in America is exemplified by a tale of two states: California and Florida.

In the coming years, our nation will either embrace the leftist policies promoted by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, or the message of individual liberty championed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

While California has embraced government control in every aspect of its citizens lives, Florida has ensured that its residents remain free and prosperous. And with all the talk of the Delta variant in the news today, and the CDC’s recent guidance that recommends a wave of new mask mandates, it’s important to take another look at the COVID-19 statistics of California and Florida.

Interestingly enough, both states have seen relatively similar rates of COVID-19 infections relative to their populations. The same goes for mortality rates, with California’s being slightly higher. Contrary to what the media has told us, Florida isn’t a hotbed of COVID-19 compared to California.

Why does any of this matter? Because while both states have seen substantial rates of infection, Florida fully reopened in September of last year. This didn’t happen in California until June of this year, when restrictions on businesses were lifted and the state finally began to reopen.

But even now, saying that California is “open” paints a misleading picture. New restrictions are beginning to take effect in cities like Los Angeles, which recently mandated masks indoors for every resident regardless of vaccination status. Despite the fact that these policies have proven to be ineffective, leading Democrats in the state are doubling down and reinstating them anyway.

The consequences are disastrous. As of this February, more than 40,000 of California’s small businesses had closed permanently due to lockdowns. Nearly half of these were in Los Angeles County.

If that’s not bad enough, almost all of California’s students remained in remote learning all year. Rather than try to get kids back into the classroom, California’s school boards debated which public schools to rename in order to appease angry leftists.

But while California forced businesses to close their doors, businesses in Florida were allowed to decide for themselves whether they would remain open. Less than half of businesses in the state closed at any point during the pandemic.

And unlike California, Florida kept its schools open for in-person instruction. Rather than ignoring the science, Florida followed it.

Even prior to COVID-19, these states were governed very differently. California, the poster child for one-party rule, has adopted a “European approach” to government that emphasizes security at the expense of liberty.

In California, taxes and regulations have crushed the middle class. Bureaucrats have power over people’s lives, and freedoms have been relinquished in the name of “safety.”

Contrast this with Florida’s approach. Whereas California has one of the highest personal income tax rates in the country at just over 13%, Florida has done away with its state income tax entirely. This is a major reason why folks are leaving California for states like Florida.

Businesses are also fleeing California for Florida. This should come as no surprise, as California has a top marginal corporate tax rate of 8.84% — one of the highest in America. Florida's stands at just half that, a mere 4.46%.

Disney’s recent decision to move 2,000 jobs from California to Florida is just the latest example of how a pro-business climate is attracting even otherwise “woke” corporations.

As we witness all that’s going on in California, it isn’t surprising that Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing a recall election in September. His time in power has made California an example of what Democrats can do to a state if given total control. Does anyone really prefer this disaster to Florida under Gov. Ron DeSantis?

California Democrats may call themselves “progressive,” but their push for higher taxes and big government has demolished competition and left the state struggling. People clearly vote with their feet, as the old saying goes, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to pursue the American dream in dark-blue California.

This tale of two states tells us one thing. Our nation can either choose the failed socialist policies of California, or the freedom and limited government found in Florida. For the sake of the country, we must make sure it's the latter.

Adam Brandon is the president of FreedomWorks and the author of "A Republic, Not a Democracy: How to Restore Sanity in America."