Gavin Newsom is as familiar as anyone with the media narrative of earthquakes, persistent wildfires, droughts, homelessness and companies fleeing California to Texas for a tax- and regulation-free lifestyle. This is nothing new. California’s governor recalls a 1994 Time Magazine cover story citing “a string of disasters rocks the state to the core, forcing Californians to ponder their fate and the fading luster of its golden dream.” And yet, “the California dream is still alive and well,” the state’s 40th governor said in a Zoom interview a month before his probable reelection.
California’s economy has proven relatively resilient, first through the pandemic and now through the current period of elevated inflation. So much so, that the Golden State’s gross domestic product is poised to overtake Germany’s as the fourth largest in the world after the US, China and Japan. It had already leapfrogged Brazil (No. 7) and France (No. 6) in 2015 and supplanted the UK (No. 5) in 2017. Although many of California’s current figures won’t be published until 2023, estimates suggest the state may have already caught Germany, with at least one forecast implying California is ahead by $72 billion when considering the state’s recent growth rate.
California’s trajectory is most transparent in the growing divergence between its 379 companies with a market value of at least $1 billion and the 155 publicly-traded firms based in Germany meeting a similar benchmark. Whereas corporate California revenues and market capitalization rose 147% and 117% during the past three years, Germany mustered inferior gains of 41% and 34%, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The margin of Germany’s nominal GDP of $4.22 trillion over California’s $3.357 trillion last year was the smallest on record and is about to disappear, with Europe’s largest economy barely growing in 2022 and forecast to shrink in 2023.