According to a new study by the Urban Institute, 60 percent of low-income families (those earning less than twice the federal poverty level, or less than $50,100 for a family of four) admitted to struggling to pay their bills.
And as I’ve been pointing out recently, families earning less than $30,000 of pre-tax income spend 27 percent of their after tax income on household energy costs, including the excessively regulated and over-taxed gasoline for their car.
Keep in mind, America is currently in the 10th year of an economic expansion, with unemployment at its lowest rate in 50 years. The economy has been growing in the mid- 3 percent range for the past two years.
The rate of unemployment for blacks and Hispanic is at its lowest since records were kept. It’s the best of times for many, but not for all.
In other words, the American economy has never been stronger, and yet 60 percent of low-income families, which comprise 48 percent of all families in America, are struggling to make ends meet.
According to that same Urban Institute study, four in 10 Americans sometimes face what economists call “material hardship,” meaning they struggle to pay for basic needs such as food and housing.
And while these numbers reflect what is going on in the country nationally, it would be wrong to assume this situation isn’t occurring locally. It absolutely is.
Again, as I’ve pointed out numerous times, Santa Barbara County, an area of the country most people assume enjoys unparalleled prosperity, actually has the third-highest poverty rate in California.
And most of this poverty exists in the North County, particularly in Lompoc, Guadalupe and Santa Maria.
Am I one of the only people who cares about this? I know Andy Caldwell cares. I’m sure there are some clergy who care, and if there are some self-identified economic justice warriors who also care, well, I’ve not heard from any of them.
Meanwhile, the Santa Barbara County Board of Certified Public Accountants spend an inordinate amount of time wringing their hands over budget equilibrium, and controlling the “costs” of various county departments, lest those costs interfere with their political agenda.
What agenda is that, you ask? To spend county resources on long-range plans centered mostly around getting people off fossil fuels, into cannabis and efficient light bulbs, out of their cars, and into car pools, buses, trains and community-aggregated risky energy schemes.
You know, the always popular “green agenda,” a luxury people in Montecito, Hope Ranch and Los Olivos can afford.
Instead of holding emergency public hearings each week focused on creating a long-range plan for North County economic revitalization — organized around maximizing the area’s comparable advantages, which include massive oil and gas supplies located onshore and out of view — it is business as usual.
This past week, for example, the supervisors spent time discussing ways to persuade the 73 percent of county employees who prefer driving to work alone to join the 14 percent who like arguing with their coworkers over what to listen to on Pandora.
Now, in fairness to our county supervisors, there is a big project currently underway. And it’s in the North County. Hallelujah!
The county is building a brand-new jail big enough to incarcerate nearly 400 North County residents (90 percent of whom are males and almost certainly Hispanic).
Oh, and there’s more good news: A (South County) main jail renovation is also in the works.
Building new jails and renovating existing ones seems to be the only growth industry we have today in Santa Barbara County.
Many of these people— not all of them, but many of them — are the people who have been left behind by an electorally powerful South County “social-justice” political cartel.
These South County residents care more about green virtue-signaling than about impoverished North County families who are seeing their economic futures systematically stolen.
If I’m being too harsh, I welcome them to prove me wrong.
Are oil and gas jobs the only employment option for these low-income North County families? No. There are other jobs we should be creating as well. But local oil and gas jobs are an ethical and moral option.
And our county supervisors wouldn’t even need to do all that much to bring these high-paying jobs to the North County economy; they could do it within the next two years. Maybe less.
Indeed, the Board of Supervisors could bring all five of the energy projects currently moving at a glacier’s pace through the county’s planning process and give them all conceptual approval.
The supervisors could even insist on whatever green initiatives and mitigations are deemed reasonable by the county’s professional planning staff in coordination with the project applicants who are, themselves, highly trained professionals.
Within a matter of hours, we could create the legal conditions to leverage millions of new private dollars for public investment in all sorts of green initiatives and programs, while adding tens of millions of new income vibrancy and wealth to the North County economy.
A new 21st century prosperity agenda for the North County in a single hearing. Economic opportunity created, hope restored, a job well done.
And by the way, this isn’t the logistical equivalent of the Marshall Plan, or Operation Desert Storm. This is an entirely doable, sensible and moral economic undertaking.
So what are we waiting for?