Last week, this column looked at the anomaly of how the Democratic Party — which proudly holds itself out as the champion of working people — vigorously pursues policies that cost working class Californians their jobs; or worse yet, robs younger Californians coming into the work force from the job opportunities that abound in other states, especially in those where Republican office holders control the political and policy agenda.
Specifically, we reviewed the legislation identified by the California Chamber of Commerce as “job killer” bills — particularly pernicious proposals which send a message throughout the world that business is not welcome in California and, if business does come here, the tax and regulatory environment is anything but friendly.
We also noted that California is tied with two other states for the highest unemployment rate in the nation and that statistics showing an improving employment environment are misleading. The declining numbers result from significant numbers of the unemployed giving up on the job market, and well over 2 million Californians who would like to be working, continue to be in economic distress.
Over the weekend, the dean of California political reporting, Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee, provided the grim specifics of California’s abysmal employment situation in a column entitled “California Workforce Takes a Dive.” As is frequently the case, Walters’ column provides the perfect antidote for all the “happy talk” coming out of Sacramento claiming that the state is recovering quickly.
Getting into the weeds, Walters points out that the official “unemployment rate” is affected by both the “labor force” calculation and by the number of those who are jobless. The “labor force participation rate” means the percentage of those over the age of 16 who are either working or available for work. But what happens when people stop looking or defer employment simply by going back to school? This changes the “denominator” of the unemployment rate calculation.
On this score, California’s status is not good. Walters notes that the decrease in labor force participation from 66 percent to 63 percent translates into 900,000 potential workers “and were they still part of the labor force, it would mean California’s unemployment rate would be more than 13 percent, instead of the current official rate of 9.4 percent.”
And if that news wasn’t bad enough, tens of thousands of able-bodied workers have already left the state so they are not even part of the “denominator” any more. Although slowing, the “net domestic out migration” from California continues to be the worst — or second worst depending on the calculation — in the nation. So it’s not just the “evil rich” in California who have had it with California’s highest-in-the-nation income tax rates, it’s skilled workers who simply can’t find the middle class jobs that are so vital to a vibrant economy.
Herein lies the irony of the perverse policies pursued by California’s political elites. While mouthing the usual platitudes of “it’s for the kids,” “corporations need to shoulder more responsibility” or “the wealthy need to pay their fair share” the real people being hurt are the working class.
If policies which drive skilled workers to other states don’t constitute a war on the middle class, nothing does.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.