15 Signs of the (Depressing) Times

Depression soup line

I stumbled upon a new blog that’s appropriate for a chronicler of downfalls like yours truly: The Economic Collapse. It’s written by an Idahoan with a finance degree and a law degree, Michael Snyder, who isn’t a doomsayer in any immediate sense, but focuses on a sort-of rolling, momentum-building doom that will play out over “a number of  years.”

Snyder came up with a list of 15 signs that the American economy is “going downhill really fast.” As I read the post last night, a well-worn phrase kept jumping into my mind: “As California goes, so goes the nation.”  It seems many of these U.S. stats have a solid foundation in California, a state that can really lead – as long as the direction is downward.

Here are Snyder’s 15 points:

#1 The number of part-time workers in the United States has just hit a brand new all-time high, but the number of full-time workers is still nearly 6 million below the old record that was set back in 2007.

#2 In America today, only 47 percent of adults have a full-time job.

#3 Even though the U.S. economy created nearly 200,000 jobs in June, the number of full-time jobs actually decreased.

#4 There are now 2.7 million temp workers in the United States – a new all-time high.

#5 One out of every ten jobs in the United States is now filled through a temp agency.

#6 The U.S. economy has actually lost manufacturing jobs for four consecutive months.

#7 The official unemployment rate has been at 7.5 percent or higher for 54 months in a row.  That is the longest stretch in U.S. history.

#8 According to one recent survey, 76 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

#9 At this point, one out of every four American workers has a job that pays $10 an hour or less.

#10 High paying manufacturing jobs continue to be shipped overseas.  Sadly, there are fewer Americans employed in manufacturing now than there was in 1950 even though the population of the country has more than doubled since then.

#11 Today, the United States actually has a higher percentage of workers doing low wage work than any other major industrialized nation does.

#12 The U.S. economy continues to trade good paying jobs for low paying jobs.  60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were mid-wage jobs, but 58 percent of the jobs created since then have been low wage jobs.

#13 Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

#14 At this point, an astounding 53 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year.

#15 According to a study that was released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, only 24.6 percent of all jobs in the United States qualify as “good jobs” at this point. (In this definition, a good job pays at least $18.50 an hour, provides access to health insurance that’s partially employer-funded, and access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan.)

Progressives don’t take this kind of thing lying down. You can find – if you’re so inclined – a response for each of these points and a companion list of 15 signs that everything just keeps getting better and better under the California/Obama model. Maybe if they spent less time rebutting and more time getting their heads out of their butts, we could avoid an economic collapse.

Not Blowing In The Wind

There was a bill in the California Assembly that would push California’s the percentage of renewable energy utilities are forced to use from its current 30% to 50%. It’s not going anywhere … yet … but it stands as testimony to environmental blindness.

California’s electric utilities are having a difficult and terribly expensive time trying to reach the 30% renewable energy goal. Trying to get that much expensive wind and solar power into their portfolios is already making electricity more expensive and less reliable – and there’s no evidence its doing a thing to save the planet from climate change. Nevertheless Adam Gray, a Central Valley Democrat, wants to up the state’s game to even more unreasonable levels.

He and his allies might want to read this:

14,000 Abandoned Wind Turbines in the USA

wind farm ruinThe US has had wind farms since 1981, what the left and the green movement don’t want to talk about regarding windmills is (as usual) the truth. The truth is: windmills, like solar panels, break down. And like solar panels, windmills produce less energy before they break down than the energy it took to make them. That’s the part liberals forget: making windmills and solar panels takes energy, energy from coal, oil, and diesel, energy that extracts and refines raw materials, energy that transports those materials to where they will be re-shaped into finished goods, energy to manufacture those goods. More energy than those finished windmills and solar panels will ever produce.

There are many hidden truths about the world of wind turbines from the pollution and environmental damage caused in China by manufacturing bird choppers, the blight on people’s lives of noise and the flicker factor and the countless numbers of birds that are killed each year by these blots on the landscape. The symbol of Green renewable energy, our saviour from the non existent problem of Global Warming, abandoned wind farms are starting to litter the planet as globally governments cut the subsidies taxes that consumers pay for the privilege of having a very expensive power source that does not work every day for various reasons like it’s too cold or the wind speed is too high.

The US experience with wind farms has left over 14,000 wind turbines abandoned and slowly decaying, in most instances the turbines are just left as symbols of a dying Climate Religion, nowhere have the Green Environmentalists appeared to clear up their mess or even complain about the abandoned wind farms. …

The problem with wind farms when they are abandoned is getting the turbines removed, as usual there are no Green environmentalists to be seen. The City of Palm Springs was forced to enact an ordinance requiring their removal from San Gorgonio. But California’s Kern County, encompassing the Tehachapi area, has no such law. Imagine the outraged Green chorus if those turbines were abandoned oil drilling rigs.

The truth is: wind energy is just a tax scam. Ben Lieberman, a senior policy analyst focusing on energy and environmental issues for the Heritage Foundation, is not surprised. He asks:

“If wind power made sense, why would it need a government subsidy in the first place? It’s a bubble which bursts as soon as the government subsidies end.”

Remember: Liberal politicians are very good at not letting mere facts get in the way of their efforts to reshape California.

California’s Mullet Budget

It’s all hoopla in Sacramento today as Jerry Brown and the Legislative leaders sign the 2013-2014 California state budget into law. Jerry calls the balanced budget a sign that things are rosy in California again.

I say rose is just another shade of red.

The budget keeps the state employee pension gravy train intact, along with its $500 billion dollar hit on future generations. It doesn’t do nearly enough to address our debt, which is now pegged at $100,000 per California household. And it keeps the multi-billion-dollar boondoggle known as California High Speed Rail on track.

But wait, it gets even worse than that.

mulletThe guy with the best line about this dangerously expensive sham of a budget is Republican Assemblyman Jeff Gorell of Camarillo who called it “the mullet budget” – Conservative in front, very liberal in back.

He pointed to how the budget defers the restart of several expensive social welfare programs that were cut during the recession until the 11th month of the fiscal year. If those very expensive, very ongoing programs were implemented at the start of the budget year, or even  half way through the budget year, the budget would not be balanced. So … conservative up front, liberal in the back. Brilliant!

Of course, the next California budget will have to start with the assumption those programs will be in effect for all 12 months, so a new trick will be needed to balance the books. Maybe a new tax on millionaires ….

For more on what’s wrong with the budget Brown and the Democrat super-majority are pretending to be so happy about, read this post by Katy Grimes at CalWatchdog.


Crazifornia’s #1 Review

I just checked Amazon to read the new reviews of Crazifornia – there were two more since the last time I checked, both 5-star – but I noticed that one review was found to be helpful by 15 of the 15 people who checked a “Was this review helpful? Yes/No” box.

bookwormIt’s titled, “Witty writing and compelling facts make for a fascinating and enjoyable read,” and it gave Crazifornia five stars. It was written by “Bookworm,” an anonymous Bay Area blogger who’s been a blogging buddy of mine for many years. She was one of the first people in the country to read Crazifornia, and here’s what she wrote about it on Amazon:

Laer is a wonderful writer with straightforward, prose, a witty sense of humor that doesn’t overwhelm the narrative, and a commanding mastery of facts about California’s politics, business, education, and public policy. In theory, I should have galloped through Crazifornia in three hours. In fact, it took me three days to read.

Why did I have a problem with this fascinating book? Because, when I started I did not know how deep the Crazifornia rot ran in the state, nor was I aware quite how infectious the insanity is when it comes to the rest of America. To keep up with the deluge of evidence proving that California is indeed crazy, I repeatedly stopped reading so that I could scratch out little notes to myself: “California’s all-powerful bureaucrats are an army of Leftist Rube Goldberg’s with guns.” “This is a perfect example of voter credulity and bureaucratic overreach.” “California takes a legislatively created energy crisis and makes it worse with more legislation.” The scariest note I wrote was also the shortest: “As California goes, so goes the nation.”

Because California had long been blessed with enormous natural resources and a vital, growing population, it had the wealth to keep the impractical Progressive dream going for decades. It could abs0rb the enormous financial and human losses from almost heroic bureaucratic ineptitude (Chapter 5); laws and regulations that suck the life out of both new and established businesses (Chapter 6); ridiculous educational experiments and an all-powerful teachers union that has little interest in student well-being and education (Chapter 7); environmentalism run amok (Chapter 8); and public sector unions and pensions that have managed to go wherever one ends up when “amok” is a distant memory (Chapter 9).

In lively, humorous prose, Laer tells spins out facts and anecdotes showing a state in thrall to unrealistic visions of an untainted pastoral past, guided by wild-eyed politicians; rigid,power-hungry bureaucrats; and scheming unions. Crazifornia essentially describes a dysfunctional state, one that can best be summed up as a banana republic governed, not by oligarchs, but by a toxic mix of environmental fascists, greedy unions, corrupt or ideology-driven legislators, and all-powerful bureaucrats. But before you get too angry at these jackals, perhaps you should reserve your wrath for the ones who truly deserve it: the California voters.

It’s probably too late to save California. Laer tries to inject some optimism at the end of each chapter and in the conclusion to his book he notes that voter patterns might finally be changing (although recent polling data makes me less optimistic). As cities go bankrupt, gas and food prices rise, businesses bail, and the California middle class becomes poor, some of the voters might finally be growing up. Whether they can reverse California’s downward trend remains questionable. Laer has some excellent suggestions for getting the political pendulum unstuck from its far Left position, but it will be ugly, and it will have to be carried out by people who have been subjected to one hundred years of California’s Progressive propaganda.

When you read Laer’s book (and I hope this review has convinced you to do so), you will see that it is a profound morality tale about what happens when America’s green, anti-capitalist Progressivism gains the upper hand in government. So remember, only you can prevent the Crazifornication of America.

Full disclosure: Bookworm was my source for the “From high to Lowell” section of Crazifornia’s chapter on education.

Murdering Democrats

Feinstein gun controlAs California’s senior senator leads the Congressional campaign to impose more gun controls and Sacramento’s Democrat-dominated legislature considers a bunch of new gun control measures, perhaps they would be interested in learning more about the political leanings of recent mass-murdering wackos. This information is from a letter to the editor forwarded to us by a friend:

  • Ft. Hood shooter: Registered Democrat
  • Columbine shooters: Too young to vote; both families were registered Democrats
  • Virginia Tech shooter: Wrote hate mail to Pres. Bush, registered Democrat
  • Colorado theater shooter: Registered Democrat, worked on Obama campaign, Occupy Wall Street participant
  • Connecticut school shooter: Registered Democrat, hated Christians


(I have not documented the letter-writer’s claims independently. If you have information counter to this, please let me know.)

Small Respect for Small Business

Cagle - Fleeing California

Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) recently tried and failed to get the California Assembly to pass a resolution in support of small business. Democrats in the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development and the Economy killed the resolution on on orders from Assembly leader John Perez (D-Los Angeles) and replaced it with a new resolution.

The new resolution transformed the specific pro-small-business recommendations Allen had included in his resolution into platitudes that included no hint that state taxes, laws and regulations might actually hinder small businesses.  Undeterred, Allen offered an amendment which would have added this language:

California’s policymakers can act to relieve the uncertainty of doing business in this state by keeping taxes low, fair, stable and predictable, by reducing the regulatory and litigation costs of operating a business, by investing in public and private works that provide the backbone for economic growth, and by ensuring the availability of high-quality skilled employees.

What a good bunch of ideas! That’s why, as Katy Grimes reports at Fox & Hounds, “Democrats, led by Majority Floor Leader Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, killed Allen’s amendments in a hostile parliamentary move and vote.”

Heaven forbid that California should do anything to support small businesses – the employers of 52 percent of the state’s workforce.


Happy Birthday Prop 13!

Tax-Howard-JarvisHoward Jarvis’ Prop 13, one of California’s too-rare greatly beneficial ballot propositions, is 35 years old this week.

Millions have benefited from Prop 13 and the lower property taxes it brought, and just as importantly, California’s spendthrift state government had to learn a new way of doing things. Unfortunately, over time, the Democrat legislature learned far too well how to compensate for lower property tax revenues: Hiding taxes as fees, burdening us with billions of dollars in bond debt, and most recently, using the same proposition strategy to raise taxes.

If you’ve read Crazifornia - and I hope you have – you know that I like using a great story to turn history and policy into a vital, living thing. Today in Fox & Hounds, one of Howard Jarvis’ former staffers, James Lacy, creates such a profile of Howard Jarvis. Here’s a rather lengthy excerpt; I hope it encourages you to read the whole piece.

What is forgotten is that Jarvis was in most ways an ordinary man and very much a person of a time and place: Los Angeles of the 1970s. He could drop by our office because he was usually around. He lived not too far away, on Crescent Heights Boulevard, and had an office in Mid-Wilshire at the Apartment Association of Los Angeles.

And his story, whether you are a fan of Prop 13 or not, is a timely reminder that, if you have a powerful idea and a willingness to reach out to people, you don’t have to be a practiced politician like Jerry Brown or Pete Wilson, a Hollywood star like Ronald Reagan or Arnold Schwarzenegger, or even a cunning strategist like Richard Nixon to leave a legacy.

I went to work for Jarvis and was with him in 1978 as he convinced Californians to adopt Prop 13. I remember both the public Jarvis—a passionate man, with more than a little flair—and the private Jarvis, who lived a quiet and typical Los Angeles life. Indeed, the informality and open-mindedness of that time and place—a Los Angeles where you’d think nothing of starting a conversation with a stranger over a big idea, or dropping by an office without an appointment—helped make Prop 13 possible.

Howard was a penny pincher who wore cheap suits he bought on sale at the Zachary All discount store at 5467 Wilshire, not too far from his home. Howard’s wife, Estelle, once told me she didn’t want Howard in expensive suits, because when giving speeches he often set them on fire by absent-mindedly sticking his lit corn-cob pipe in one of the pockets. I can attest to this, because after I graduated from law school and became a full-time aide to Jarvis, I not only watched him do this once but also discovered that more than one of his business suits from Zachary All had those familiar burn marks at the pockets.

When he got excited, Howard would puff harder on his pipe, and this created a lot of excess “tobacco juice.” During one unfriendly interview with a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle, Howard got agitated and started puffing hard on the pipe. At one point, sitting behind his big, false desk with no drawers, Jarvis leaned forward and spit some of the excess tobacco juice into a waste can. The reporter, on the other side of the desk without benefit of a full view, filed a story noting that at one point in the interview Jarvis “opened his desk drawer and spit into it.”

Howard was a man of simple tastes. He used to tell me that his favorite meal was Estelle’s corn soup. While I was at Jarvis’ home one time I happened to observe the preparation of Howard’s favorite meal, which I was surprised to learn consisted of one can of Del Monte creamed corn mixed into a cup of whole milk, simmered to just below boiling and plopped into a bowl.

Doesn’t that give you a better feel for why Jarvis campaigned so passionately to downsize Sacramento’s piggy bank?

One Day, Three Outrages

Whenever I give a public talk about Crazifornia, I tell how hard it was to stop writing the book because every day California delivered some new display of liberal lunacy or governmental incompetence. I call it the current event writer’s perpetual motion machine.  Today was a particularly bountiful example, with three examples of a state bureaucracy that excels in running amok.

hazmatFirst, something I haven’t reported on before. It seems the Department of Toxic  Substances Control isn’t always as in control as we’d like. The Sacramento Bee reported today that DTSC has failed to bill polluters for clean-up work that cost the state $100 million. Another $45 million was billed to the polluting firms but hasn’t been collected.

The largest unbilled clean-up is the $9.4 million cleanup of contaminated property of the bankrupt Chemical & Pigment Co. in Bay Point in Contra Costa County. Others are as low as $3,000 – but it’s all our money and it’s inexcusable for the state to leave it uncollected.

The next two examples of bureaucracy run amok are all-to-frequent subjects of Crazifornia, Caltrans and the Oakland Bay Bridge and the California High Speed Rail Authority and its slow-moving, platinum-plated train to just about nowhere.

Bay BridgeAnother Sacramento Bee story today reported that Caltrans might miss its target of Labor Day for the reopening of the Oakland Bay Bridge. The big unknown has to do with massive steel bolts that are breaking. Those that can be removed need to be replaced – once they figure out why they’re breaking – and those that can’t be removed need to be retrofitted with steel “saddles.” How many bolts and how many saddles won’t be known until new test results are delivered in June. Based on past performance, we should expect bad news.

Meanwhile, a $270,000 study of what makes Caltrans tick so badly was announced. I don’t like expensive government studies, but really, can you even scratch the surface at Caltrans for a quarter million bucks?

Train to nowhereFinally, the San Jose Mercury News reported today that the  High Speed Rail Authority is also going to miss a previously ballyhooed Big Day – the July start of construction on the controversial Modesto-to-Bakersfield first leg of its train. (OK, I probably didn’t have to add “controversial.” What about this boondoggle isn’t controversial?)

Holding up the planned start are:

  • A lawsuit seeking to undo Proposition 1A, which initiated the high speed rail debacle-in-the-making. Led by former state senator Quinton Kopp, who was for a long time the chair of the High Speed Rail Authority, the lawsuit argues the Authority isn’t building the train that was promised to voters, that it costs more than promised, and that promised sources of funding aren’t there.
  • The Authority failed to seek a needed approval from the Federal Surface Transportation Board, a regulatory oversight of amateurish proportions that the Authority learned about only after opposition Republican lawmakers pointed it out to them.
  • 345 privately owned parcels of land must be purchased before construction can begin. No sales have closed yet.
  • And finally, a contract with construction firm Tutor Perini needs to be negotiated for the $985 million first leg. The selection of Tutor Perini is a scandal of its own since the firm was the least technically qualified bidder, has a history of cost over-runs and litigation, and is part-owned by Senator Diane Feinstein’s husband.

Just another day in paradise.

Anti-Carbon Crusaders Strike Again

Apple USALast December, Apple announced its next manufacturing facility – one that would build Macs – would be built in the U.S., not overseas. Many hoped a company facility in Elk Grove CA  would be the selected site. But that’s not to be, and California’s anti-carbon crusaders are to blame.

Apple announced last week that it will invest $100 million in a new facility – in Texas. The new plant will assemble Macs from components manufactured just about everywhere in the U.S. but California – Illinois, Florida, Kentucky and Michigan.

Why not California? Top among the many probable answers is energy costs, because it takes a lot of juice to build a Mac. Thanks to AB32, the ridiculously named Global Warming Solutions Act – energy costs in California are soaring as mandated increased reliance on expensive alternative energy sources are driving up power costs.

The smart-thinking editorial writers at the San Diego Union Tribune had this to say about Apple and AB32:

[Apple's decision] is primarily a result of AB 32, the landmark 2006 state law forcing a shift to cleaner but costlier forms of energy. After the law was passed, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and many green lawmakers and leaders predicted it would prompt the rest of the world to copy California, as had happened with many previous pioneering environmental policies.

That never came to pass. Instead, the big news on the energy front has been the revolution in fossil fuels, thanks to hydraulic fracturing and other improved energy-exploration tools. This has produced huge new supplies of natural gas in a half-dozen states, sending its price tumbling and prompting major European firms like BASF and Royal Dutch Shell to move manufacturing to the U.S. — something that would have seemed unthinkable a few years ago.

But such European firms have no interest in manufacturing in California. It is simply not cost-competitive with many other areas in the U.S. — a fact the Apple decision underscores.

So, as another $100 million leaves California and a raft of new jobs ends up in Texas, what do Californians think of all this? Chances are, they’re just fine with it because they’ve been well indoctrinated to be scared of global warming.

A just published Public Policy Institute survey (see page 20, here) tells us this:

A majority of Californians (57%) say global warming will pose a serious threat either to them or to their way of life in their lifetime; 39 percent say it will not. A decade ago, the perceived personal threat was much lower (45% yes, 50% no, July 2003). Adults nationwide are far less concerned: in a March Gallup poll, most said global warming will not pose a serious threat to their way of life (34% yes, 64% no).

frightened-woman-1960sHere’s how that majority of frightened Californians breaks down: 68% of Democrats are afraid global warming will pose a serious threat in their lifetime, but only 29% of Republicans are. Angelenos (66%) and San Franciscans (61%) are the most frightened, but majorities in the Inland Empire (52%) and Orange County (51%) are convinced warming will harm them. Only in the Central Valley do the frightened drop below 50%, at 49%.

This shows how effective the PEER Axis – Progressives, Environmentalists, Educators and Reporters – have been in establishing global warming as a threat in California. One can only hope people will wake up and call for change as they see their energy bills soar thanks to AB32′s green energy mandates, while realizing all that green energy hasn’t slowed down the PEER’s efforts to stir up greater global warming fears one iota.

Rich State, Poor State

California is certainly a rich state, the home to more than 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies, with amazing mansions and estates sprinkled along its coast and foothills.

Photo of unemployed farm workers Gonzalez Victorian and Federico Analla in Fresno County by Weyland Photo.

Photo of unemployed farm workers Gonzalez Victorian and Federico Analla in Fresno County by Weyland Photo.

But it is also a poor state – in fact, when a US Census model for factoring in cost of living is run, it is the poorest state, with a poverty rate of 23.5 percent. (Under the conventional poverty computation, California’s 16.6 percent poverty rate ranks 20th.)

Longtime California journalist Daniel Weintraub crunched the numbers:

The counties with the lowest poverty rates (using the traditional measure) are generally those near the coast, places like Marin, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Some foothill counties are also on this list: Placer and El Dorado near Lake Tahoe, and Calaveras County in the Gold Country.

On the other extreme are, for the most part, counties in the Central Valley and other agricultural regions. In Merced County, more than one-quarter of the households have incomes below the poverty line. The situation is similar in Fresno, Kern, Tulare and Imperial counties. In fact, three of the five most impoverished metropolitan areas in the nation are in the Central Valley.

That’s to be expected, unfortunately. Fortunately, the finances of second generation agricultural immigrant families improve dramatically.

Also expected, but attributable at least in part to the state’s “Crazifornification” is this:

The numbers also show the connection between poverty and family structure. Families headed by a single parent are much more likely to be living in poverty. In the ten counties with the lowest poverty rates, 25 percent of families have a single parent. But in the ten counties with the highest poverty rates, 36 percent of the families are headed by one parent. And in those counties, more than half the families with a single mother are living in poverty.

Education is also correlated with poverty. The counties with the lowest high school drop out rates, like Placer, Calaveras, Marin and El Dorado, also tend to have the lowest poverty rates. And the same is true in reverse: some of the poorest counties, like Kings, San Joaquin, Yuba and Fresno, also have some of the highest rates of high school drop outs. It’s not clear whether failing to complete high school causes poverty or is caused by it, or both, but the two are definitely related.

California was at the forefront of the social revolution that led to easy-breezy acceptance of unwed moms and divorce, and its generous welfare programs encourage rather than discourage single-parent  homes. On education, no matter how much the state meddles trying to level the playing field, it fails and our schools are perpetual bottom-dwellers in most rankings – despite the massive funds we pour into them.

Progressivism, despite its redistributionist intentions, breeds poverty. A robust free market generates jobs and spreads wealth.