DeSantis Calls Florida “A Citadel of Freedom” and California a “Hellhole,” but Data Reveals the Sunshine State’s Dark Side
In the conservative imagination created by a slanderous infotainment echo-chamber, California is a basket case, a banana republic run into the ground by woke, godless liberal fools; Florida, their promised land, a ground zero for Republican governance-gone-right.
“We’ve created a citadel of freedom,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis boasted in July. “We’re proud of it.”
DeSantis added: “Let’s just be clear, California is driving people away with their terrible governance.”
A DeSantis spokesperson even called California “a hellhole.”
Numbers tell a different story.
Before Florida’s governor and California Governor Gavin Newsom face off on November 30 in a Fox News debate — appropriately called a “proxy war”for Republican versus Democratic governance — it’s worth comparing these two states using the most recent official data available to ask: Is Gov. Newsom’s California really the failure Republicans imagine? Is Gov. DeSantis’ Florida really a shining archetype of conservatism worth emulating?
But it’s all downhill from there for Florida.
California created far more jobs than Florida in the last year. Between the third quarter of 2022 through the third quarter of 2023, California employers added 54,000 more jobs.
California attracted far more business investment than Florida this year. In the first three quarters of 2023, California attracted 30 times more venture capital than Florida, according to Pitchbook-National Venture Capital Association’s report.
California families earn far higher incomes than Florida families. Median household income in California was $19,930 higher last year, Fed data show.
California workers earn far higher wages than Florida workers. The average weekly wage of California employees was 27 percent higher in 2022, per Fed data.
Californians are less likely to live in poverty than Floridians. The share of Californians making less than the official federal poverty level in 2021 was 5 percent lower than Florida’s, per Kaiser Family Foundation data.
Enough about money. Let’s talk about life and limbs. Does Governor DeSantis’ “citadel of freedom” protect life better than Governor Newsom’s “hellhole?”
Californians are safer from pandemics. Florida’s COVID mortality rate was 12% higher, CDC data show.
California workers are less likely to die on the job. Florida’s workplace death rate was 21 percent higher in 2021, per federal data.
Californians are far less likely to die by getting pregnant. Florida’s maternal mortality rate was 260 percent greater in 2021, KFF data show.
Californians are less likely to be shot dead. Florida’s firearm death rate was 56 percent higher in 2021, according to the CDC.
Californians are less likely to kill themselves. Florida’s suicide rate was 38 percent higher in 2021, KFF data show.
Californians are more likely to live longer. Florida’s life expectancy at birth in 2020 was 1.5 years lower, per CDC data.
What about murder and sexual assault? Unbelievably, Florida is hiding this data. After homicides there spiked 13 percent above the national murder rate and 32 percent above California’s in 2020, the share of Florida law enforcement agencies sending their crime data to the FBI dropped from 98 percent in 2020 to 48 percent in 2022.
Florida doesn’t want the country to know how often its residents are murdered and raped.
That’s the dark side of the Sunshine State, but California-hating conservatives can reassure themselves with this: Even though Floridians are more likely to live in poverty, to attract less capital, to earn lower wages, to die on the job, to die from pregnancy, to die from COVID, to want to die, to be shot dead and to live a shorter life than Californians, they do save 2.5 percent on their state taxes.