Posted on | November 10, 2013 | Comments Off
Poorer than we thought. Using a calculation that factors in California’s relatively high cost of living, the state has the highest poverty rate in the country. According to Census Bureau, 23.8 percent of Californians live in poverty where the official poverty rate is 16.5 percent.
Even using the official calculation, a quarter of the state’s children live in poverty, a rate still somewhat lower than in the early 1990s, but thought to be increasing, this according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Child poverty in the state increased markedly in the Great Recession.
Teacher pension fund crisis getting closer. For at least a decade, the legislature and governors have ignored the shortfall in STRS, the state teacher pension fund. The shortfall—the difference between current contributions and future payments— totals $70-billion and grows by $22 million a day, this according to Channel 10. STRS predicts insolvency in three decades, a long time off in political terms. Yet, the cost of righting the system would be an additional state contribution of $4.5 billion a year, almost as much as the state spends on the entire CSU system.
The California legislature, like others in the country, can only kick this can down the road so far. Former L.A. mayor Richard Riordan and journalist Tim Rutten have suggested a federal insurance program. It would allow local governments to purchase guaranteed bonds that would stabilize their pension systems in exchange for fiscal discipline on the part of local governments and employee unions. Riordan’s ideas have been heavily opposed by employee unions, but his plan—or someone else’s—should be on the political agenda. Ignoring the elephant doesn’t make it go away.
A footnote to freshman English. Harper Lee, the author of To Kill A Mockingbird, is suing the museum in Monroeville, Alabama, where the novel is set and where she continues to live, at 87, in an assisted living facility. Lee claims that the museum has profited from her work and has not provided compensation. The Guardian tells the story in Southern gothic style with plot twists and twisted relatives. And did you know that Scout was really Truman Capote?