Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

What is driving the middle class out of California?

Tom sent me this article from the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt:

Nearly four million more people have left the Golden State in the last two decades than have come from other states. This is a sharp reversal from the 1980s, when 100,000 more Americans were settling in California each year than were leaving. According to Mr. Kotkin, most of those leaving are between the ages of 5 and 14 or 34 to 45. In other words, young families.

The scruffy-looking urban studies professor at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., has been studying and writing on demographic and geographic trends for 30 years. Part of California’s dysfunction, he says, stems from state and local government restrictions on development. These policies have artificially limited housing supply and put a premium on real estate in coastal regions.

“Basically, if you don’t own a piece of Facebook or Google and you haven’t robbed a bank and don’t have rich parents, then your chances of being able to buy a house or raise a family in the Bay Area or in most of coastal California is pretty weak,” says Mr. Kotkin.

While many middle-class families have moved inland, those regions don’t have the same allure or amenities as the coast. People might as well move to Nevada or Texas, where housing and everything else is cheaper and there’s no income tax.

And things will only get worse in the coming years as Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and his green cadre implement their “smart growth” plans to cram the proletariat into high-density housing. “What I find reprehensible beyond belief is that the people pushing [high-density housing] themselves live in single-family homes and often drive very fancy cars, but want everyone else to live like my grandmother did in Brownsville in Brooklyn in the 1920s,” Mr. Kotkin declares.

[...]Meanwhile, taxes are harming the private economy. According to the Tax Foundation, California has the 48th-worst business tax climate. Its income tax is steeply progressive. Millionaires pay a top rate of 10.3%, the third-highest in the country. But middle-class workers—those who earn more than $48,000—pay a top rate of 9.3%, which is higher than what millionaires pay in 47 states.

And Democrats want to raise taxes even more. Mind you, the November ballot initiative that Mr. Brown is spearheading would primarily hit those whom Democrats call “millionaires” (i.e., people who make more than $250,000 a year). Some Republicans have warned that it will cause a millionaire march out of the state, but Mr. Kotkin says that “people who are at the very high end of the food chain, they’re still going to be in Napa. They’re still going to be in Silicon Valley. They’re still going to be in West L.A.”

That said, “It’s really going to hit the small business owners and the young family that’s trying to accumulate enough to raise a family, maybe send their kids to private school. It’ll kick them in the teeth.”

A worker in Wichita might not consider those earning $250,000 a year middle class, but “if you’re a guy working for a Silicon Valley company and you’re married and you’re thinking about having your first kid, and your family makes 250-k a year, you can’t buy a closet in the Bay Area,” Mr. Kotkin says. “But for 250-k a year, you can live pretty damn well in Salt Lake City. And you might be able to send your kids to public schools and own a three-bedroom, four-bath house.”

According to Mr. Kotkin, these upwardly mobile families are fleeing in droves. As a result, California is turning into a two-and-a-half-class society. On top are the “entrenched incumbents” who inherited their wealth or came to California early and made their money. Then there’s a shrunken middle class of public employees and, miles below, a permanent welfare class. As it stands today, about 40% of Californians don’t pay any income tax and a quarter are on Medicaid.

It’s “a very scary political dynamic,” he says. “One day somebody’s going to put on the ballot, let’s take every penny over $100,000 a year, and you’ll get it through because there’s no real restraint. What you’ve done by exempting people from paying taxes is that they feel no responsibility. That’s certainly a big part of it.

And the welfare recipients, he emphasizes, “aren’t leaving. Why would they? They get much better benefits in California or New York than if they go to Texas. In Texas the expectation is that people work.”

California used to be more like Texas—a jobs magnet. What happened? For one, says the demographer, Californians are now voting more based on social issues and less on fiscal ones than they did when Ronald Reagan was governor 40 years ago. Environmentalists are also more powerful than they used to be. And Mr. Brown facilitated the public-union takeover of the statehouse by allowing state workers to collectively bargain during his first stint as governor in 1977.

Mr. Kotkin also notes that demographic changes are playing a role. As progressive policies drive out moderate and conservative members of the middle class, California’s politics become even more left-wing. It’s a classic case of natural selection, and increasingly the only ones fit to survive in California are the very rich and those who rely on government spending. In a nutshell, “the state is run for the very rich, the very poor, and the public employees.”

Another Wall Street Journal article I just spotted talks about how states with low income taxes have much higher population growth rates than states with high income tax rates.

Excerpt:

Over the past decade, states without an income tax have seen 58% higher population growth than the national average, and more than double the growth of states with the highest income tax rates. Such interstate migration left Texas with four new congressional seats this year and spanked New York and Ohio with a loss of two seats each.

The transfer of economic power and political influence from high-tax states toward low-tax, right-to-work ones is one of America’s most momentous demographic changes in decades. Liberal utopias are losing the race for capital. The rich, the middle-class, the ambitious and others are leaving workers’ paradises such as Hartford, Buffalo and Providence for Jacksonville, San Antonio and Knoxville.

Illinois, Oregon and California are state practitioners of Obamanomics. All have passed soak-the-rich laws like the Buffett Rule (plus economically harmful regulations, like California’s cap-and-trade scheme), and all face big deficits because their economies continue to sink. Illinois has lost one resident every 10 minutes since hiking tax rates in January. California has 10.9% unemployment, having lost 4.8% of its jobs over the past decade.

Now these blue states may raise tax rates again. In California, a union-backed ballot initiative would raise the state’s highest tax rate to 13.3%. Union-funded groups in Illinois aren’t satisfied with last year’s income tax rate hike to 5% from 3%, so they now want to go as high as 11%. That would put them in the big leagues with California and New York. And in Oregon, lawmakers are considering raising the highest rate to 13% from 9.9%. In all of these states, proponents parrot Mr. Obama, insisting that the rich can afford it.

They can, but they can also afford to save hundreds of thousands or more each year by getting out of Dodge. Every time California, Illinois or New York raises taxes on millionaires, Florida, Texas and Tennessee see an influx of rich people who buy homes, start businesses and shop in the local economy.

Republican governors in Florida, Georgia, Idaho, North Dakota, South Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Wisconsin and even Michigan and New Jersey are cutting taxes to lure new businesses and jobs.

Asked why he wants to reduce the cost of doing business in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker replies: “I’ve never seen a store get more customers by raising its prices, but I’ve seen customers knock down the doors when they cut prices.”

Georgia, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma are now racing to become America’s 10th state without an income tax. All of them want what Texas has (almost half of all net new jobs in America over the last decade, for one thing).

This is important because voters need to understand that when you tax and regulate people, they don’t just sit there are take it. The same thing can happen at the national level if we pursue the same policies. People just move their money and businesses out, and eventually, themselves. If young people want to vote for socialists because of abortion, gay marriage and environmentalism, they may find themselves without jobs – without enough money to even support a family.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What is issue 2? Should you vote no on Ohio issue 2?

In the 2010 mid-term elections, Republican John Kasich won the governorship and promised to balance the state’s budget by reining in the state’s spending on salaries and benefits for public sector union employees. To accomplish this, the Ohio legislature pass Senate Bill 5. However, an effort is on the ballot to repeal the law, and Ohio voters will get a chance to keep or scrap the law on Tuesday, November 8th, 2011.

Here’s what Ohio’s State Issue 2 is all about:

Issue 2 makes some very fair and common sense requests of our government employees to give local communities the flexibility they need to get taxes and spending under control, while providing the essential services that we rely on.

  • It allows an employee’s job performance to be considered when determining compensation, rather than just awarding automatic pay increases based only on an employee’s length of service.
  • It asks that government employees pay at least 15 percent of the cost of their health insurance premium. That’s less than half of what private sector workers are currently paying.
  • It requires that government health care benefits apply equally to all government employees, whether they work in management or non-management positions. No special favors.
  • It asks our government employees to pay their own share of a generous pension contribution, rather than forcing taxpayers to pay both the employee and employer shares.
  • It keeps union bosses from protecting bad teachers and stops the outdated practice of laying off good teachers first just because they haven’t served long enough.
  • Finally, it preserves collective bargaining for government employees, but it also returns some basic control of our schools and services to the taxpayers who fund them, not the union bosses who thrive on their mismanagement.

Even under the reforms of State Issue 2, Ohio’s government employees will still receive better pay, better health care and better retirement benefits, on average, than the vast majority of Ohioans who work in the private sector.

There are a number of myths going around about Issue 2, and it’s important to set the record straight, so I’ll do that below.

Ohio Average Pay: Public vs. Private

Ohio Average Pay: Public Unions vs. Private

Myths and truths about Ohio State Issue 2

Here’s a common myth:

State Issue 2 would “cut salaries and benefits.”

The truth:

Issue 2 would not cut salaries or benefits for any government employee. Employees would simply be asked to pay a modest share of their benefits, just like employees in the private sector do. For health care coverage, they would pay at least 15% of their overall plan. (Many local government employees currently pay less than 9% of their health care premium, while the average private sector worker pays upwards of 30%.) In addition, employees would be required to pay their personal share of a retirement plan (only 10%), rather than asking taxpayers to pay that share. That’s not too much to ask at a time when many private sector workers get no retirement benefit at all. Finally, Issue 2 requires that benefits apply equally to all public employees, so no one gets special treatment.

And another common myth:

State Issue 2 will eliminate government employee pensions.

The truth:

Government employees will still get a very generous pension benefit – an annual payment that averages their three highest annual salaries. That’s a pretty nice deal, when many private sector workers get no retirement benefit at all. State Issue 2 only ends a practice where some government union contracts require taxpayers to pick up the tab for BOTH the employer AND employee shares of a required pension contribution. In this economy, it’s simply not right to ask struggling taxpayers to foot the bill so government employees can get a free retirement. Issue 2 simply says government employees should pay their required share (10 percent) and taxpayers will contribute the employer share (14 percent).

Another myth:

State Issue 2 will cut teacher salaries.

The truth:

That’s one of the scare tactics government unions are using to turn people against these reforms. Nothing in Issue 2 determines salary levels. It only ends the practice of handing out automatic pay raises, or “step” increases, and longevity pay – or bonuses just for holding the job for a certain period of time. Issue 2 also asks that performance be added as a factor in teacher compensation, a goal President Barack Obama set out in his national education policy in 2009.

And another myth:

State Issue 2 will cost jobs

The truth:

Just the opposite is true. Ohio’s state and local tax burden ranks among the top third in the nation. As a result, companies large and small have left our state in pursuit of better tax incentives elsewhere, taking hundreds of thousands of jobs with them. If Ohio hopes to compete for new job growth, we have to make our state a more affordable place to live, work and do business. That starts with getting the cost of government under control so we can direct more of our limited resources into economic development, community revitalization and better schools.

More myths about Ohio State Issue 2 are corrected on this page.

Newspaper endorsements

So far, Issue 2 has been endorsed by several Ohio newspapers, including the biggest ones.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer:

The fiscal picture of local governments and school districts, especially, will improve as they are able to right-size their work forces and their expenditures on services. That will happen over time, not overnight, as new contracts are established.

Repeal SB 5, though, and it’s going to be awfully hard for local governments to manage their payrolls without resorting to larger-scale layoffs than would otherwise be necessary. And local governments will continue to be hamstrung by anti-merit seniority rules that lead to worker complacency and protect dead weight and time-servers.

Voting YES on Issue 2 will prevent layoffs by keeping public sector wages and benefits in line with what the private sector can afford to pay.

The Columbus Dispatch:

Despite the insistence of opponents, the effort to reform Ohio’s out-of-balance collective-bargaining law is not an expression of disrespect for or dissatisfaction with Ohio teachers, police officers, firefighters and other government employees. It is a much-needed attempt to restore control over public spending to the public officials elected to exercise that control.

It does not assert that public employees are worth less than the compensation they’re receiving, only that the compensation has grown faster than the public’s ability to pay for it.

[...]With more ability to control the escalation of salary and benefit costs, governments won’t be forced as often to impose layoffs, and might be able to afford to keep even more police and firefighters on the streets.

Again, no one is saying that public sector workers don’t matter – the question is whether we can afford to give them better wages and benefits than the private sector workers who are their customers and their employers. Public sector workers work for the public, and the public can only afford to pay so much.

Conclusion

Government employees are paid 43% more than private sector employees, in salary and benefits:

I think that people who care about the long-term prosperity of Ohio should vote “YES” on Issue 2 to make public and private salaries and benefits MORE EQUAL. Ohio is facing enormous economic pressure from the global recession, and everyone has to make sacrifices. Now is not the time for public sector workers to insist on higher wages and benefits, especially when the private sector workers who pay their salaries don’t make as much money, nor do they get the pensions, nor do they get the better job security. Ohio voters can certainly go back and renegotiate union salaries and benefits when Ohio is out of the recession.

Click here to learn more about Ohio State Issue 2.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Nancy Pelosi: 1800 waivers for Obamacare were given to small firms – like McDonald’s

From Guy Benson at TownHall. Nancy Pelosi thinks that the waivers for Obamacare were only given to small companies… some of them very, very, small companies.

Excerpt:

The spin:

[Nancy Pelosi speaking]: “They’re small. I couldn’t speak to all 1,800 of them, but some of the lists that I have seen have been very, very small companies. They will not have a big impact on the economy of our country.”

Flashback I:

Nearly a million workers won’t get a consumer protection in the U.S. health reform law meant to cap insurance costs because the government exempted their employers. Thirty companies and organizations, including McDonald’s and Jack in the Box, won’t be required to raise the minimum annual benefit included in low-cost health plans, which are often used to cover part-time or low-wage employees.
Of the 204 new Obamacare waivers President Barack Obama’s administration approved in April, 38 are for fancy eateries, hip nightclubs and decadent hotels in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s Northern California district.
And more:
UPDATE – Obama: Bring back Speaker Pelosi!

President Obama on Saturday said Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was a great House Speaker and that she will get that job back after the 2012 elections.  “I am biased, but I think Nancy was one of the best Speakers of the House this country ever had,” Obama said after Pelosi had introduced him at the National Italian American Foundation gala.  “She was no doubt the best Italian American Speaker of the House we ever had. And I believe that she will be the best Speaker of the House again in 2013.”

The Weekly Standard notes that over half of the Obamacare waivers were given to big unions – the same big unions that spent millions to get Obama elected.

Excerpt:

Not surprisingly, it helps to be a Democratic ally when seeking a waiver. The Republican Policy Committee reports that over half of the workers that have been exempted so far belong to unions:

The plans newly approved for waivers cover more than 160,000 people, bringing to nearly 3.1 million the number of individuals in plans exempted from the health law’s requirements.  Of the participants receiving waivers, more than half – over 1.55 million – are in union plans, raising questions of why such a disproportionate share of union members are receiving waivers from the law’s requirements.  The percentage of participants receiving waivers that come from unions also continues to rise – the number was 48% in April, and 45% in March.

Unions already received a generous concession in the health care bill. Their generous “cadilac” insurance plans were exempted from being taxed until 2018, adding about $120 billion to the bill’s cost over ten years.

This is the woman who treated the national debt like her own personal credit card and rang up 5.34 trillion in purchases over the four years that she was Speaker of the House.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , ,

Mitt Romney flip-flop videos: flat tax, abortion, health care, public sector unions, global warming

Most of the other Republican candidates are supporting flat taxes. But what does Mitt Romney support?

Human Events explains.

Excerpt:

In a full page Boston Globe advertisement in 1996, Romney attacked Steve Forbes’ flat tax proposal as being unfair and a “tax cut for fat cats!”

In the ad, he took an entirely populist theme saying among other things that the Forbes flat tax will drop taxes on the super-rich while stiffing the middle class.

The ad said, “0% Forbes tax on Kennedy’s, Rockefellers, and Forbes down and gone,” and on the other side said, “Forbes tax on you up and up!”

The Club for Growth noted Romney’s opposition to the flat tax in it’s white paper:

His strident opposition to the flat tax is most curious and difficult to explain since Romney wasn’t a political candidate at the time. In 1996, he ran a series of newspaper ads in Boston, New Hampshire, and Iowa denouncing the 17% flat tax proposed by then presidential candidate Steve Forbes as a “tax cut for fat cats.”   In 2007, Romney continued to oppose the flat tax with harsh language, calling the tax “unfair.”

That’s Romney’s actual view on tax reform. Whatever he says during an election campaign cannot be believed, because the man will say anything to get elected. Don’t believe me? Watch the videos below.

This short video shows a few of Romney’s biggest flip flops.

Note: I don’t support John Huntsman, but that’s a good look at Romney’s flip-flops.

Another one on global warming:

Another one on health care:

And another one on public sector unions:

Why is this man getting 20% of the vote in the Republican primary? He is not a serious candidate. Stop judging on appearances and make a right judgment.

Read more about Mitt Romney’s horrible policies in Massachusetts in this post.

Filed under: Videos, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rhode Island superintendent fires entire staff at unionized public school

Story here on Business Insider. (H/T Hot Air)

Excerpt:

A school superintendent in Rhode Island is trying to fix an abysmally bad school system.

Her plan calls for teachers at a local high school to work 25 minutes longer per day, each lunch with students once in a while, and help with tutoring.  The teachers’ union has refused to accept these apparently onerous demands.

The teachers at the high school make $70,000-$78,000, as compared to a median income in the town of $22,000.  This exemplifies a nationwide trend in which public sector workers make far more than their private-sector counterparts (with better benefits).

The school superintendent has responded to the union’s stubbornness by firing every teacher and administrator at the school.

ECM sent me this article about New Jersey earlier this week, which ruined my entire Monday.

Excerpt:

One state retiree, 49 years old, paid, over the course of his entire career, a total of $124,000 towards his retirement pension and health benefits. What will we pay him? $3.3 million in pension payments over his life and nearly $500,000 for health care benefits — a total of $3.8m on a $120,000 investment. Is that fair?

A retired teacher paid $62,000 towards her pension and nothing, yes nothing, for full family medical, dental and vision coverage over her entire career. What will we pay her? $1.4 million in pension benefits and another $215,000 in health care benefit premiums over her lifetime. Is it “fair” for all of us and our children to have to pay for this excess?

The total unfunded pension and medical benefit costs are $90 billion. We would have to pay $7 billion per year to make them current. We don’t have that money—you know it and I know it. What has been done to our citizens by offering a pension system we cannot afford and health benefits that are 41% more expensive than the average Fortune 500 company’s costs is the truly unfair part of this equation.

And from CNSNews.

Excerpt:

Time.com reported last week that Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry estimated the government shut down cost taxpayers $100 million a day in labor that workers were unable to perform. That would suggest that the four and one quarter days the federal workers missed last week cost taxpayers about $425 million–close to the $445 million calculated on the basis that federal workers average $79,197 per year in salary not counting benefits.

The federal government was officially shut down on Feb. 8, 9, 10, and 11 and opened for business two hours late on Feb. 12.

Federaljobs.net’s Damp told CNSNews.com that not all of the more than 340,000 federal employees stayed home on those days. Some of these workers are designated as “essential” employees and are supposed to show up even when the weather or other conditions closes the federal government. These include, for example, law enforcement officers, key personnel with the Federal Aviation Administration, and workers who are needed for national security reasons.

“But I think it’s safe to say most of the workers did not go to work,” Damp said.

When non-essential federal workers are told to stay home because of a government shutdown, they still get paid, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

And also from CNSNews.

Excerpt:

State and local governments spent $1.1 trillion on employee wages and benefits in 2008. That’s half of what those governments spent overall.

And while the private sector job market remains bleak, there are more civil service jobs than ever. The federal Labor Department projects wage and salary employment in state and local government will increase 8 percent by 2018. That’s a comforting thought for anyone who has to spend time in line at the DMV.

Wish we could be as confident about the prospects for creating new corporate and manufacturing jobs to help pay for these new hires.

It’s not simply the number of new jobs that costs taxpayers. It’s that these government jobs pay more than ever. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that state and local government workers earn almost $40 per hour in wages, salaries and benefits. That’s more than 25 percent higher than the combined compensation of the average private sector job ($27 per hour).

One of the things that weights most heavily on my mind is the outrageous pay and benefits that are paid to public sector union employees. I am in the private sector and I have to pay these exorbitant salaries to people who have probably never worked a day in their entire lives! I have never had a moment’s peace in my career – the threat of layoffs has been a constant since I was doing internships during my undergraduate days. And I have two degrees in computer science!

Look, I’m a child of first generation immigrants, and I’ve been volunteering since I was 14 and working since I was 16 in high-tech. How can it be that people who cannot even teach children successfully can make so much money? It just is not fair, and I find it very depressing that I am paying for these layabouts. It makes me want to give up trying to do anything! The fact that Obama keeps raising public sector salaries in a recession does not help. And Obama opposes school choice, too.

I say abolish public sector unions, and abolish bailouts to private sector unions, too.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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