How about this little bit of holiday cheer: a Harvard Business School study released earlier this month concluded that up to 42 percent of U.S. jobs – up from earlier estimates of 29 percent – could be offshored.

For the math-challenged, that is approaching one-half.

Yet in Washington, D.C., and Sacramento, political leaders appear to be oblivious to this fundamental economic challenge.

The United States has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. When considering where to locate operations, it’s fantasy to believe companies will not take that into consideration. And unlike earlier decades, the U.S. no longer can lay claim to having the world’s most educated work force as other nations catch up and surpass it.

Meanwhile, Sacramento has become disconnected from the California economy with the state budget deficit that could swell to $41.8 billion by 2010.

In the current budget crisis, very little if anything has been heard from the capitol about stimulating the California economy. Instead, the debate is centered on whose taxes to increase at a time of severe economic stress.

Last week, the California Manufacturers & Technology Association reported that the state has lost 25,000 manufacturing jobs in the first 10 months of 2008, “rounding out an unbelievable loss of a quarter of its industrial work force since 2001.”

California “has reached a tipping point where the current economic activity can no longer produce the revenues needed to sustain state spending,” the association said.

The association estimates California’s tax burden on business already is 20 percent higher than the rest of the U.S., “along with overall costs that are 23 percent higher.”

And what is the state’s plan? Increase the sales tax by 1.5 percent. That would impose an even greater burden on business because, as the association points out, “unlike 47 other states, California applies full sales tax on the purchase of capital equipment.”

At a time California and the U.S. should be encouraging business investment and domestic job creation, that sounds like the really bad idea it is.