The middle class appears to be disappearing almost as quickly as journalists: New data shows that fewer than half of California families are in middle-class territory, the result of years of economic downturns.
From Matt O'Brien in the Contra Costa Times: "Three decades ago, 60 percent of California families could count themselves in what the Public Policy Institute of California calls the "middle-income" bracket. Not rich but doing reasonably well, the middle class formed a comfortable majority and shared the state's prosperity."
"But the portion of middle-income families slipped to 49.7 percent last year, according to the nonpartisan research group's study. Using census figures and a federal standard-of-living measure adjusted for inflation, the report defines the middle-income bracket as families who earn $44,000 to $155,000 a year."
"It really reflects a decades-long trend, at least three decades of shifts in our economy," said report co-author Sarah Bohn."
"Globalization and technological progress contributed to the long-term changes, which hurt some but were not always bad for everyone over the decades, she said. While some fell out of the middle into poverty, others moved from the middle to the higher income brackets."
In the San Francisco Bay Area, people have seen their incomes drop by 12 percent since the recession began. Aaron Glantz in the Bay Citizen has the story.
"The wealthiest families saw their incomes drop on average by 8 percent to $226,000 from $246,000, the report found. By contrast, the state's poorest families saw their incomes drop on average by 21 percent, to just $15,000 a year."
"Researchers say the collapse of the contrustruction industry is keeping the unemployment rate high even as technology, health care and other industries rebound."
"The construction industry lost nearly 400,000 jobs statewide when the housing market collapsed, said Jerry Nickelsburg, a senior economist at the UCLA Anderson Forecast. It will be years before the state needs anywhere near as much residential building as it did before the crash."
"All of those folks have skills to build homes, which are not in demand today. To get back to work means they have to have skills that people want," Nickelsburg said.
Not all economic news is bad, however: California overwhelming leads the nation in the development of electrical vehicles, grabbing nearly a half-billion dollars in venture funding.
From Jerry Hirsch in the LAT: "California is fast becoming a global center for electric-vehicle innovation and jobs."
"Businesses in the state collected $467 million in electric vehicle venture capital investment during the first half of this year, or 69% of the global total, according to a study by Next 10, a nonprofit founded by Silicon Valley venture capitalist F. Noel Perry."
"California also is now tied with Michigan, the traditional center of the U.S. auto industry, in the number of patents filed for electric vehicle technology. Both states generated 300 patents for electric vehicle technology from 2008 to 2010."
"Globally, California trails only Japan and South Korea in electric vehicle patents and leads other nations, including Germany, Taiwan and France, Perry said."
Meanwhile, California's per-person health-care spending is among the lowest in the United States, larely due to the high numbers of uninsured people and low Medi-Cal reimbursement rates.
From the LAT's Duke Helfand: "New data show that total spending by insurers, government agencies and individuals amounted to $6,238 per resident in 2009, well below the national average of $6,815. That puts California on a bottom tier with Arkansas, Georgia, Texas, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and Idaho."
"Healthcare analysts blame the low spending largely on the fact that the state has more than 7 million people who are uninsured, or about 1 in 5 Californians. As a result, many of these people seek medical treatment only when they are severely ill or injured."
"Another factor is the low reimbursement rate the state Medi-Cal insurance program pays doctors and hospitals to treat the poor. California spent a smaller amount on low-income care — $4,569 per person — than any other state in 2009, the federal report shows. Healthcare providers are suing the state to block a 10% cut in reimbursements."
And from our "Fly the Friendly Skies" file cames a followup on D.B. Cooper, the legendary skyjhacker who parachuted with the dough from a jet over Washington 40 years ago.
"The Northwest Airlines notorious skyjacking saga that has baffled authorities for 40 years may have finally been solved."
"An Oregon woman who claims her uncle was the elusive criminal known only as DB Cooper says she has been told by the FBI that her evidence is enough for them to close the file on the case."
"Burdened by guilt over her knowledge surrounding the case, Marla Cooper came forward earlier this year, claiming she had a 40-year-old family secret protecting her uncle, a man named Lynn Doyle Cooper."
See? The truth is out there.....