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Here’s What Would Happen To America If Californians Lost Federal Funding

The benefits of protecting America’s most vulnerable will far outweigh the risks of doing nothing at all

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Right before the Super Bowl aired this past Sunday, viewers tuned in to a taped interview between Donald Trump and Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly. During the interview, Trump suggested he would potentially pull federal funding from California as retaliation for the state’s promise to protect immigrants’ rights, claiming sanctuary cities “breed crime.”

“If we have to, we’ll defund,” Trump told O’Reilly, “We give tremendous amounts of money to California. California in many ways is out of control, as you know.” In the same interview, Bill O’Reilly described Putin as a killer, to which Trump replied, “We have a lot of killers, got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?” So, at least we know where Trump stands from a moral standpoint.

It should come as no surprise that Trump isn’t pleased with Californians. After all, more than 60 percent of them voted for Hillary Clinton. To say the federal funding California receives is “out of control,” however, would be wildly inaccurate. With 38.8 million residents, California represents 12 percent of the U.S. population, but contributes 13 percent of all federal tax revenue.

In stark contrast to Trump, Californians pay their fair share of taxes. In fact, California has a history of putting more money into the federal government than it gets in return. In 2005, the Tax Foundation revealed that for every dollar Californians paid in federal taxes, they got back an average of 78 cents in federal spending. Data collected by the U.S. Census and the IRS found that number had improved by 9 cents in 2010, while the most recent data collected by the New York state comptroller found Californians received 99 cents on the dollar in 2013. Compare that to the average $1.29 most states receive for every dollar they pay in federal taxes, and you get a good sense of the disparity.

Should Trump follow through with pulling California’s federal funding, he can count on the entire country feeling the consequences. On Monday, California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León said in a statement, “Any pain the president wants to cause in California will ripple nationwide,” citing the state’s financial contributions as extremely valuable to the country as a whole. According to the California State Legislature, “Most federal payments to California are paid directly to individuals, private entities, and universities—representing about 77 percent of the total,” meaning taxpayers would feel the pain of budget cuts most directly. On a short-term level, California provides millions of jobs that benefit Americans from all states. Long term, Californian schools deliver groundbreaking research, making us internationally competitive. It’s also worth mentioning California leads the way when it comes to combatting climate change, a commitment we can’t afford to lose as a country.

Realistically, federal courts will restrict Trump’s power, preventing him from doing any real damage to the state’s finances. Of the $343 billion California receives in federal funds each year, $200 billion benefits veterans, the elderly, and the poor. Trying to cut specific funds—like grants for art programs and scientific research, for instance—while leaving other necessary benefits intact will be difficult, to say the least, the The Sacramento Bee reports. Trump would also have to tiptoe around the 9 percent of California’s federal funds that go toward defense contracts since he’s suggested he wants to increase military spending, not curtail it.

Ultimately, Californians would be wise to take Trump’s threats seriously considering he’s stood by his most ludicrous campaign promises so far, though that shouldn’t stop sanctuary cities and counties from defending their core principles. The benefits of protecting America’s most vulnerable will far outweigh the risks of doing nothing at all.

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