California’s middle class — a group made up largely of individuals earning between $50,000 and $100,000 per year — is becoming very angry.
These middle-income folks generally work in mid-level jobs in banks, insurance companies, grocery stores, small businesses, government agencies, and other places.
Basically, all middle-income people want is a home of their own, a car, some vacation time, a good education for their children, and some money for retirement.
Inflation, taxes, and unemployment are slowly draining the confidence of California’s middle class. Once an optimistic bunch, this group is now uncertain — not only about the future — but also about the present.
In the years after World War II, Californians bought homes, got jobs, started businesses, sent their children to college, and took vacations. It was the era of Governors Earl Warren and Pat Brown. (The current governor, Jerry Brown, is Pat Brown’s son.)
Even during the 1980’s and 1990’s, Californians seemed happy. Silicon Valley was booming and the stock market, from 1982 to 1999, kept going up.
In the 1970’s, a family income of $200,000 a year in California was considered very high. Today, a family income of $200,000 a year means that such a family is barely getting by. About half of that $200,000 goes for taxes of all kinds: income taxes; payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare); sales taxes; utility taxes; gasoline taxes; property taxes; and much more.
In addition to taxes, people have home mortgages, car payments, food bills, and medical expenses.
Since January of 2013, the tax burden has grown. There have been two massive tax increases at the federal level and one at the state level. Locally, many cities have raised property and sales taxes. For example, in 2010, the sales tax in Concord, California, was 8.25 percent. Now, that tax is 9.0 percent. Meanwhile, Contra Costa County, in which Concord is located, is considering imposing a higher county-wide sales tax.
Looking for a job in California is not easy. The May 2014 unemployment rate in California was 7.6 percent. The national rate was 6.3 percent.
In the 1960’s, tuition used to be $180 a year at any campus of the University of California. Today, that tuition is closer to $13,000 to $15,000 annually.
Several times over the last 35 to 40 years, the California’s middle class has revolted against higher taxes. The most famous example is Proposition 13 of 1978, a ballot measure that rolled back property taxes and made raising them difficult.
Today, people are upset over paying $4.50 a gallon for gasoline. Moreover, there are mandates from the state government to force local communities to construct special housing for low-income people and create high-rise, high-density apartments (often called stack-and-pack housing) near transit hubs.
New regulations on gasoline production may increase gasoline prices by 40 cents a gallon in 2015. An editorial in The Wall Street Journal of Saturday-Sunday (June 28-29) states: “California’s gas prices, which typically run 40 to 50 cents above the national average, are already the highest in the continental U.S. due to the state’s fuel-blending requirements and taxes — which also top the other 49 states.” The Journal added: ” . . . the state’s carbon fuel standard would drive up gas prices between $0.49 and $1.83 per gallon by 2020.”
Stressed at many levels, what will California’s middle class do? Perhaps the middle class will do wha