Socialist California, Not Mississippi, Now Poverty Capital of America

If you’ve spent any time on your liberal relatives’ news feeds, you’ve probably seen a meme or five noting how Mississippi — a state where residents overwhelmingly vote Republican — is the most poverty-stricken state in America.

Of course, this meme ignores historical factors as well as the very salient fact that the Democrats, until relatively recently, treated Dixie as their own private fiefdom. However, all of those memes can now go away, because there’s a new poverty capital of these United States.

This time, America’s poverty capital is a state that’s had a history of wealth, both in terms of human capital and natural resources. It’s where several of our biggest industries — including defense and tech — have been based. It was a place where many people went in the 20th century to seek their fortunes. And yet, after the state turned into the most liberal — dare we say socialist? — place in America, it also became our country’s epicenter of economic misery.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present your new poverty capital: California.

“California — not Mississippi, New Mexico, or West Virginia — has the highest poverty rate in the United States,” the Los Angeles Times notes in a Jan. 14 piece by Kerry Jackson.

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“According to the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure –which accounts for the cost of housing, food, utilities, and clothing, and which includes noncash government assistance as a form of income — nearly one out of four Californians is poor.”

So, why are Californians so poor? After all, job and GDP growth is good, although most of that is based around the tech sector. Part of it, Jackson argues, is that “state and local bureaucracies that implement California’s antipoverty programs … resisted pro-work reforms” that began in the 1990s to get people off of welfare.

“It’s not as if California policymakers have neglected to wage war on poverty, Sacramento and local governments have spent massive amounts in the cause, for decades now. Myriad state and municipal benefit programs overlap with one another; in some cases, individuals with incomes 200 percent above the poverty line receive benefits, according to the California Policy Center,” Jackson writes.

“Unfortunately, California, with 12 percent of the American population, is home today to roughly one in three of the nation’s welfare recipients. The generous spending, then, has not only failed to decrease poverty; it actually seems to have made it worse,” Jackson continued.

Do you think things will get worse for California?

“It’s as though welfare reform passed California by, leaving a dependency trap in place. Immigrants are falling into it: 55% of immigrant families in the state get some kind of means-tested benefits, compared with just 30% of natives.”

Other reasons for California being the new capital of poverty? Californians spent 30 percent of their income on housing in 2015, in part because of government regulations around land use and the environment.

“Counties and local governments have imposed restrictive land-use regulations that drove up the price of land and dwellings,” analyst Wendell Cox said. “Middle-income households have been forced to accept lower standards of living while the less fortunate have been driven into poverty by the high cost of housing.”

That’s not the only place where the state’s exigent environmental regulations have hurt the middle class and poor. Some estimates have energy prices at 50 percent more than the national average due mostly to regulations.

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“In 2012, nearly 1 million California households faced ‘energy poverty’ — defined as energy expenditures exceeding 10 percent of household income. In certain California counties, the rate of energy poverty was as high as 15 percent of all households,” read a 2015 Manhattan Institute study titled “Less Carbon, Higher Prices” authored by Jonathan A. Lesser.

And things are only poised to get worse: “By 2020, California will require that one-third of electricity consumed in the state be generated from renewable sources,” the study read. “California households’ electricity prices have risen as a result of the state’s renewable-energy mandates and carbon cap-and-trade program — and will likely continue to rise at an even faster rate in coming years.”

The great irony at work here is that this has been the Democrat playbook for decades now. We’re told that if we give the poorest among us welfare, it will spark the economy more than tax cuts because the impoverished will put that money back into the economy. Green energy — adopted in expedited fashion due to environmental regulations — was supposed to create new industries and economic growth as far as the windmill-trained eye could see.

Instead, what we’ve seen is homelessness, shantytowns, extreme income inequality, joblessness, deficits, and all without discernible benefit to the state and the nation at large. Which raises the question: isn’t this what they said the conservative agenda would lead to?

H/T City Journal

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