California Voters Agree State is Expensive and Lacks Jobs
The Field Poll on December 12th reported the number of Californian voters who believe the state is "one of the best places to live" has been cut in half since 1985, dropping from almost 80% to just over 40% today. According to the poll: "Despite this general dissatisfaction a majority of liberals, registered Democrats, and voters living in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area rate the state as one of the best places to live." Not surprisingly, less than a third of Republicans, conservatives, and voters living in state's rural Central Valley describe the state in positive terms. But the polling does confirm that over 90% of Californians are in agreement on two important issues, the state's cost of living is outrageous and job prospects are lousy.
Over the last two decades, the state of California has careened through a series of economic downturns and fiscal crises. It should not be surprising that Field found only a third of voters age 40-64, the prime years for wealth accumulation, now rate the state as one of the best places to live. This "mighty middle" demographic has suffered through California's economy plummeting from the equivalent of the 6th to the 12th largest in the world. About half of seniors 65 and older and young people less than 40 years old, still rate the state as a best places to live. Perhaps seniors took their gold out of the Golden State during the good times and the youth are still enjoying the state's terrific weather.
The Field Poll revealed that only liberals are California cheerleaders; with 59% of liberal voters rating the state a best place to live versus only 41% of moderates and 32% of conservatives. The lack of enthusiasm among non-liberals seems directly related to state's grim 8.7% unemployment rate, the fifth worst in the nation. Liberals optimistically argue that the jobless number has improved from over 10% last year, when it was the second worst in the country. But half of the decline in last month's unemployment came from the public sector adding 12,200 new government jobs and 9,600 positions in education and health services. The private sector shed 5,600 manufacturing positions and 3,700 financial services jobs.
One of the reasons the reported unemployment rate isn't higher is that the State of California's statistically considers all 1,427,000 welfare recipients to be "employed." With only 12% of the nation's population, 34% of nation's welfare recipients now live in California. This robust participation rate in this "employment program" is due to California paying ultra-high monthly cash grants of $638 to families on welfare. The state also continues to pay benefits for children after the parents lose eligibility and provides child care and transportation if beneficiaries attend school or training.
With progressive liberals controlling veto proof majorities in the California Legislature, the state spends more per capita than other state on the combination of higher education, public safety, and social services. To pay for this largess, Californian's are burdened with the 4th highest state and local tax rates in the country according to the Tax Foundation. This includes the highest income tax rates for upper-income households and one of the lowest income tax rates for lower-income households. California's also has the highest average state sales tax rates and one of the highest corporate income tax rates in the nation.
Despite liberals' claims of a recovery, California lost over 73,000 businesses in 2012, a 5.2% decline. The next biggest loser was Massachusetts with a loss of 5,200 businesses. Every other state in America actually reported gains in new businesses.
The Field Poll has been asking Californians about their quality of life since the late 1960s, when about 70% said the state was one of the best places to live. That number rose to almost 78% in 1985 when former California Governor Ronald Reagan was president. But it crashed to 33% in 1992 recession, then rose back to 54% in 2000 during the tech bubble, and has been mired at about 40% ever since.
High taxes may fund welfare payments that artificially drive down the unemployment rate; but those crushing tax rates drive up the cost of living and have been motivating businesses to leave the state for years. Apart from a small cadre of dedicated liberals; don't expect the bulk of Californians to start rating the state as a "best place to live" anytime soon.