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Stop Talking and Start Doing

Columnist: Norman Rosinski
May, 2015 Issue
Columnist

Norman Rosinski
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How is it that our roads are in such bad shape given that California already has the highest gas taxes in the nation?

 
Welcome to the May Housing/Real Estate issue of NorthBay biz magazine. Housing and real estate is a recurring theme in the magazine. The reason isn’t surprising: Housing is arguably the single most important issue we face, and housing availability is directly linked to the vitality of the entire North Bay.
 
In addition to all the stories, there’s a special report on health and medicine, plus more than a dozen columns and special features. So please enjoy reading the North Bay’s only locally owned, formerly glossy business publication—NorthBay biz.
 
Once again, my topic selection sensors are being overstimulated. With so many controversial/polarizing issues confronting our daily lives, it’s difficult to focus my commentary on just one. So this month, I think I’ll try to weave together my thoughts on housing, unemployment and, my personal favorite, taxes.
 
Let’s start with housing and how, over the years, California has lost its way. A recent report by the state’s legislative analyst includes a study titled, “California’s High Housing Costs: Causes and Consequences.” It reports what we all pretty much know simply by living here. California’s housing costs have risen to be far and away the most unaffordable in the nation.
 
The state’s average home price is now $440,000, which represents about two-and-a-half times the national average of $180,000. Imagine how the average Californian’s life would be positively impacted if our home prices were close to the national average. California’s average monthly apartment rents are now $1,250. Compare that to the national average of $840 per month. Just paying for a roof over your head, in too many cases, now consumes 40 to 50 percent (or more) of a family’s take home pay.
 
How did this happen? The report concludes that the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of the government’s public policy that constrains new housing construction. The report goes on to say, “Community resistance to housing, environmental policies, a lack of fiscal incentives for local governments to approve housing and limited land because of land set-asides, all combine to severely constrain new housing development.” It’s no surprise, then, when the so-called “smart-growth” or “controlled-growth” policies fuel run-away housing costs. It’s a case of limited supply underserving demand.
 
The report concludes that the state’s housing costs will continue to rise and outpace the rest of the country. Unless there’s a substantive change in public policy, the economic burdens will continue to rise for all Californians—demanding more of their income to be spent on housing, increasing family debt, commuting further to work and living in more crowded conditions, creating a larger drag on the state’s economy. Isn’t it time to stop talking about creating affordable housing and actually do something about it?
 
There are several new tax proposals being floated by Sacramento politicians that, when taken together, amount to another $12 billion in additional taxes. I’ll say this: The tax-and-spend folks are no small thinkers when it comes to our money. One of the proposals calls for a new tax on drivers to pay for highway and road repairs in the state.
 
Now, no one can say that our roads aren’t in need of repair. They’ve been allowed to deteriorate at an alarming rate. However, I have a question: How is it that our roads are in such bad shape, given that California already has the highest gas taxes in the nation? Is it possible that our roads are crumbling because the road maintenance money is being spent on bike lanes, environmental mitigation and mass transit funding? All those projects are worthwhile unto themselves, but that’s not where money for roads should be spent.
 
So now the roads are in terrible shape across the state and the only solution is to enact a new tax. How about, for once, using the tax money the state is already collecting for its original and stated purpose?
 
There’s been much hoopla lately emanating from the White House and its complicit media celebrating the rebounding and now robust economy that uses a reported 5.6 percent unemployment rate as substantive proof. It’s true the economy has been improving slowly, but it certainly falls short of “robust.” How many people do you know who are currently unemployed or significantly underemployed?
 
Here’s the government’s trick: If you’re unemployed and stopped looking for work over the last four weeks, you’re no longer considered unemployed and, consequently, are dropped from being included when calculating the unemployment rate. Stated simply, the published unemployment rate doesn’t include long-term unemployed or part-time underemployed. If it did, the rate would easily climb into the double-digit teens. Has government lost the ability to tell the truth about anything?
 
One more thought (and I’m paraphrasing because I don’t remember the source): Drought is the provenance of the divine, but a water shortage is a function of government/bureaucratic policy.
 
That’s it for now. Enjoy this month’s magazine.

 

 

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