Statewide Public Media Collaboration 'California Dream' Launches With Call-In Show
February 14, 2018 1:43 p.m.
Statewide Public Media Collaboration 'California Dream' Launches With Call-In Show
Amita Sharma, wealth and poverty reporter, KPBS News
>>> Google is trying to make their ads less annoying, but there is some risk.
>> Who is to say next month that the product representing millions of dollars worth of investment will be banded after its release?
>> Automatic at a blocking, good news, or not so much? We will tell you, next time on marketplace.
>>> Good morning, Mike Hancock here with a quick check of the roads. Traffic on the Coronado Bridge off the southbound 5, there is some painting going on along the ridge -- bridge. That could be causing that slowdown. The south 163 is tight through Balboa Park. There was a crash cleared at Robinson in Washington. Also, roadwork at the north end of the country. 115 off to mountain meadow and deer Springs is a shutdown, and the exit to go for Canyon is closed. Traffic is brought to you by the Bob Baker auto group. [ Music ]
>>> It is the reason most of us are here in the first place, the California dream. But, what does it really mean? For KPBS, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. [ Music ]
>>> KPBS Mid-Day Edition steps aside for a special statewide program to launch public radios California dream project. What is the California dream today? And who's a dream is it? Join us as we talk with Stanford historian, Richard White, journalists from KPBS and other public media outlets, and we want to hear from you. Why did you or your family come to California, why do you stay, or are you thinking of leaving? To join the conversation call us at 866-733-676. It is all coming up next on the special broadcast of today's California dream. First, the news.
>>> Live from NPR news in Washington, I am watch me sing. Students are holding vigil in Florida for the students gunned down by former student at their school. 17 people were killed yesterday, at least 15 others injured, some of them fighting for their lives at this hour. The accused, 19-year-old gunman appeared in court for his bond hearing, handcuffed and wearing an orange suit. His bond was denied. He faces 17 charges of premeditated murder, his public defender says that Nikolas Cruz is on suicide watch.
>>> Meanwhile, investigators say the suspect has a history of mental illness. Both parents have died, his mother several months ago. Students say the signs were there on social media and his history of clashes at school, and in light of his expulsion. The Republican-led Congress is facing more pressure to prevent similar tragedies. Jeff sessions has been enforcing laws already on the books, and says that is key.
>> It is no good if we have gun laws that say criminals cannot carry guns, and they never get enforced. So, we intend to enforce our laws, and if anything -- the recent events have caused us to know that we need to do even more.
>> NPR's Scott Horsley reports that the president is planning to visit the area to visit with local officials.
>> The president says that the whole country is praying for the victims, with one heavy heart. He expressed thanks to the teachers, paramedics, and law enforcement officers who responded. Then, the president spoke directly to America's children.
>> I want you to know that you are never alone, and you never will be. You have people who care about you, who love you, and who will do anything at all to protect you.
>> Trump, who was elected with strong backing from the NRA, said nothing in his statement about gun control. But, Florida's Republican governor, Rick Scott, says he wants to work with state leaders to make sure that people with mental illness never touch a gun. Scott Horsley, KPBS news, the White House.
>>> The White House -- the U.S. Senate is voting on measures after what was billed as a weeklong immigration debate turned into a week of stalemate. None of the bills before the Senate was expected to win the 60 votes needed to move forward.
>> The First Amendment is a narrow measure put together by Republican, John McCain and Chris . It focuses on the deferred action for childhood arrivals program, and border security. But, president Trump is still insisting on a broader fix, that also makes changes to legal immigration. And, the White House is threatening to veto compromising bills that do not do that. So, this measure will likely not get the 60 votes it needs to proceed, and neither will the other three measures on the schedule. That, likely means the week will and without any progress on a permanent fix for DACA. NPR news, Washington.
>>> From Washington, this is NPR news.
>>> Support for NPR comes from NPR stations, other contributors include farmers insurance, committed to helping people understand the ins and outs of insurance, so that they can prepare for life's up -- ups and downs. More information can be email@example.com, and the Annie E Casey foundation.
>> Live in the KPBS news room, I am Deb Walsh, San Diego Mayor, Kevin falconer, says the audit of the billing procedures used by the city utilities department is being fast tracked. In the meantime, the department will host a workshop today to help customers who believe that they were overcharged on their water bills. That takes place at the senior center between 5:30 PM-7 PM this evening.
>>> San Diego's are pressuring the county to make budget discussions more inclusive by scheduling a meeting outside of work hours. KPBS reporter Karen Minto says committee groups on Wednesday delivered 275 signed petitions to the Board of Supervisors.
>> Representatives from the coalition invest in San Diego families say that in evening hearing would give low-wage workers a say in the billion dollars spending plan. Some supervisors, like Bill Horn, have said the public can take off work during the day, or go online to engage in the process. Coalition member, Paulo Martinez says that is not good enough.
>> People are calling to you, to ask for basic needs like food stamps, and assistance with the rent, they probably do not all have computer access.
>> Supervisor, Greg Cox, mentioned adding a meeting in December, but his colleagues rejected the idea. Karen Minto, KPBS news.
>>> Residence in areas burned by telephone's largest ever wildfire are accusing a utility of removing utility poles that could be vital to determining the cause. Lawyers are seeking a temporary restraining order against Southern California Edison. This is KPBS news.
>>> From San Francisco, you're listening to today's California dream, a live special program on Outlook media outlets across the state. I am Mina Kim. California is a state that has been long connected to the idea of a dream. A dream of gold, a dream of economic opportunity, of strong public education, and a dream of escape, of beautiful landscapes in good weather, of starting anew. Today, the states identity is often marked by his progressive politics, and shifting demographics, but also by its skyrocketing housing costs, declining economic mobility, and devastating natural disasters. The dream may still be alive, but it is challenged at every corner. So, what does it mean today? We are kicking off a new series exploring the history, promise, and reality of the California dream. It is part of a new partnership between nonprofit media outlets up and down the state. Today, we want to hear your California dream story. What brought you here? What makes you stay? Or, if you are thinking of leaving the state, tell us why. You can give us a call at 866-733-6768 again, that is 866-733-676, or reach us on Facebook or twitter. You can use the hashtag CA dream. So, let me tell you who is with us for the hour, Richard White. He is a professor of American history at Stanford. Hello Richard.
>> Hello Mina, I am glad to be here. We are glad to have you. Also with us is a data reporter for the California dream project and Cal matters. Thank you for being here Matt, I'm going to start with you. What have you found in your research to be the predominant version of the California dream?
>> I think, at least dating back to the 50s/60s, there was this image that life in California was easier. I think, you know -- once you cross state lines you would get -- immediately get a pool, a house, and to and have kids. An amplified version of the American dream. I think that even though native Californians especially don't -- we know that it is not really that way. But, it kind of seeps generally into our expectations about what life you should look like.
>> Yeah, kind of like this California travel ad from 1952. [ Music ]
>> Inviting beaches, paradise for sportsmen, rendezvous for romance under sunny skies, this is the mural of the West, along the golden shores of California. [ Music ]
>> So Richard White -- this may have been the image that has endured, but the California dream has changed over time. I'm thinking for example of the gold rush era. Can you tell us what it has been, all of its different iterations?
>> Sure, I can give you a short attention span theater version of it. And, what it amounts to is -- at any time in California, by the dream that you know what the state is about, even before they called it the California dream. It started out with the gold rush, but it was a very different one than we associate with today. People wanted what they used to call -- competency. It was enough money to set themselves up in life, take care of their children, and they did not intend to stay in California, they wanted to make enough to go back and set themselves up. It was not a dream of great wealth. That is going to be succeeded by another version, which is going to be sort of Mediterranean California. The land of sunshine. And, this is going to be sort of a paradise for Protestants from Iowa. They can, here, they can get five acres, they can have orange trees on it, and they can make a living off of that. It becomes a developer stream, especially in Southern California. That takes root. The other one is going to be the dream that Matt talked about, it is going to be the post-World War II dream in which California becomes the place where all of these American promises that you have seen throughout the 20th century are achieved, and more so. It is a land of prosperity. It is a place of leisure, and a place where the state provides basic services. Public education is free all the way through the colleges. It is essentially the world that I grew up in, and then the final version is going to be the sort of Silicon Valley version that we have right now. Which is taking the gold rush, and drained it of its original meaning, and turned it into this place where the California dream is supposedly now about great wealth, which was not the dream of most of the people who came to California. It is going to be a dream that is -- really does not apply to those who do not have a great deal of capital, and a great deal of education, the kind of people in the gold rush would have had no place in this second gold rush. And, each of the streams is not only important in its time, but it spawns reaction, so you will have California dreaming, and then you will have people who essentially do not achieve the dream, or think that it is misplaced, and California cycles through all of this.
>> Yes, I think that Matt Levin, you're talking about if you asked 39 million people what the dream was, you could end up with 39 million different versions of it.
>> That is right. I think that, especially now, the demographics of the state have changed kind of so dramatically from what it used to be, that you really do have different visions of what California is, and what it should be.
>> Well, talk about some of those.
>> So, I think the reason that older postwar vision of California sounds white, is because California was predominantly white back then, right?
>> Up until the 70s, right to mark
>> In the early 70s is was still basically three quarters white. Obviously, that is not the case today were the majority of the minorities in the state, Latinos make up a plurality of the population, so the demographics have shifted pretty radically in a relatively short period of time.
>> And Richard White, you have talked about -- that the appeal of the California dream has still been strong among communities of color, even if it -- sort of represents this period of time when California was three quarters white.
>> Yeah, and part of it in history, you have to say who counts as white? There are a lot of people that are counted as white today that were not counted in the 19th century. But, for African-Americans for example, when they come into California, both the Bay Area and Los Angeles, for work in World War II, the trains were taken here. They named them liberty trains. They said it would be a liberation from all of the things that plagued them in the South. They will have a share of American prosperity, and here they will be free from Jim Crow. So, even though it is a relatively small number of people, compared to the larger California population, they still see California as a destination in which they will improve themselves, it is going to be a better life for their children.
>> So, we have a comment from Anna who writes -- to me, the California dream means forward thinking, inclusion, and ingenuity. We realize our diversity is our strength Emma that ingenuity is the engine that drives our economy forward. Thinking and solutions to some of our challenges, such as climate change. Jessica says -- born into the valley, drawn to the city, loved it for the landscape and be happy, warm people. Left it for higher wages, cheaper housing, affordable graduate tuition, and accessible healthcare.
>> I think what Jessica is getting out a little bit mad -- this question that has been central in your piece, which is -- how attainable is the California dream? What is the sense of residence these days?
>> So, if -- a recent poll by the University of Southern California, and the LA Times found that basically, a majority of Californians thought that the younger generations of Californians are having a tougher time achieving the California dream then previous generations did. There was also, even despite that, there is still a sense of optimism that when they were asked -- would you live anywhere else? 70% of Californians said no, I would rather stay in California.
>> Well, we have calls coming in. Let's hear from Alexis in San Diego, hello Alexis.
>> Hi. How are you?
>> I'm well, thanks. How are you?
>> I'm great, thank you. Thank you so much for taking the call.
>> Yeah, what is on your mind?
>> Well, you know -- we just moved here. My family, my husband and I from Philadelphia. We are new in San Diego. And we love it very much, in fact -- we had our first child here. As soon as we moved.
>> Thank you. She is 16 months now. We moved in 2016, I was four months pregnant, and we looked at one another like -- would you think that we would have a child with a San Diego birth certificate?
>> So, what does the dream mean to you? It is a brand-new resident, does it live up to the expectation?
>> It is, absolutely. I actually came here -- I am a gospel jazz vocalist, and the jazz community has welcomed me so well. Gilbert Castellanos, he is amazing and Irving Florez, and that entire community, with the young jazz, they welcome me. So, I'm actually flourishing already. Even after giving birth to a baby girl who is 16 months.
>> Well Alexis, again congratulations, and thank you for calling in.
>> We are also joined now by Sylvia Robles, she is a San Bernardino resident, and Sylvia Robles, are you there?
>> Hello. Have I heard right, that your family has been in California for 100 years?
>> Yes. They were part of the 800,000 Mexican immigrants that left Mexico during the Mexican Revolution, and my family got here to needles California in 1917.
>> And so, tell me about your story. So, you were born here, and one of the things that I read about you, Sylvia, is that you bought a home here in California in 1976, is that right?
>> So, how much was your home then?
>> It was 19,000 and it was very expensive for us.
>> 19,000, and so it was very expensive for you then, and -- but, do you feel like it was more doable for you then?
>> Are your kids trying to buy homes now?
>> To our homeowners, one here in the San Bernardino area, and one in Phoenix, and one is not.
>> So, how has their experience been? Are either of them moving in part because of the cost of living here in California? We were hearing from one of our listeners about why that is one of the main reasons that they left California, because of cheaper housing.
>> The one that lives in Phoenix, actually made an 18 year detour through Seattle. Their business was failing through the housing crash. So, to reinvent themselves they went to Phoenix, because they wanted a high standard of living that they felt was not available here in the Riverside San Bernardino area.
>> And, where is your son?
>> He is in Los Angeles, he works for a major publication there, and he is paying $3500 a month to live in the Little Tokyo district.
>> How is that, in terms of his income? Is that a big percentage?
>> I would say yes. It is about one third of his income.
>> Does he feel like that is enough to get a home here?
>> No. I mean, he would have possibly the cash flow to live, not downtown, but more in the suburbs.
>> Does that worry you, Sylvia?
>> It does, but I think that what we have done -- from the housing crisis, we went from one extreme to the other. Were you did not need any documentation of income to where we had 20% or you're not in the game.
>> And in terms of your son, he still wants to stay here?
>> Yes. And his work is here.
>> And, why do you think he wants to stay?
>> Well, he very much is focused on family and continuity, and he really likes the Los Angeles scene. He works for a pretty liberal publication, and the lifestyle is much around the LA culture.
>> Well Sylvia, it was great talking with you, thank you for to calling in.
>> Thank you.
>> You're listening to today's California dream, part of a new partnership between K PCC, Cal matters, and KPBS. And we are asking what does the dream mean to you? Why did you or your family come to California? You are a native, and why do you stay? Or, if you're thinking about leaving, tell us why. [ Music ] you can give us a call at 866-733-6786 . You can find us on Facebook, twitter, we are at the hashtag CA dream. More of California dream coming up next, stay with us.
>>> Welcome back to today's California dream, I am Mina Kim. We are looking at how the dream has changed, and what it means for the people who live here, and what it means to you. We're talking with Richard White, a professor of American history of Stanford University, and Matt Levin, aided reporter for the California dream project, and Cal matters. We are also talking with you, our listeners. Your sharing about what a special, what is hard about California, and where you think the state of the California dream is today. Marina says -- we left three years ago. Too expensive. And, immediate rights unless the wages and start to reflect the housing increases, they will not have diversity anymore, just two classes -- those who work for those who own everything.
>> We are joined by a wealth and poverty reporter for the dream project and for KPBS. Hello I'm a.
>> Hello Mina.
>> You have been doing a lot of reporting with people who would consider themselves part of the middle class of California. Are you hearing something similar to the comments that I just read from listeners about the hardship of staying here?
>> Oh, almost to a T. They echo what I have heard so far on the show. There are a lot of people from San Diego who have left. They have gone to places like Arizona, Texas, Washington, Oregon, and they are leaving because of the high cost of living. Specifically, the housing market. I spoke to a writer at the urbanist and he said there was a time in California when it was expected that a family would pay three times its income to buy a home. And now, home prices in some places have risen as high as 10 times a family income. One of the women, or one of the families that I spoke with down here, the rigors, the wife is a realtor, the husband is a I.T. manager, they left a year ago, they moved to Texas. And they sold their 1800 square foot home here, they own a 4000 square foot home in Texas, and they still pay less on the mortgage than what they paid here. She said that here they were paying half of their income in the mortgage and in taxes, and utilities. She said it was just too much. And, you know, when I said -- so, what was the final straw? For you to move from San Diego? She said there was no final straw. And I never felt like we had a choice. She said California basically opened its doors, and kicked us out.
>> So there is this sense of betrayal almost?
>> Yeah. There really is. And, you know -- if buying a home is out of the reach for a lot of people, what I have also found in my reporting is that renting an apartment is becoming almost as elusive. Here, you are required to show that you make three times your income in order to rent an apartment. For a lot of people, that is not doable. I spoke with one woman who has worked within the university system for 40 years, she could not show that she made three times the rent. And, so now she is living with her mother who is in her 90s. So, either you are taking on a roommate well into your 30s, 40s, and 50s, or you are forced to live with a family member. In getting back to your question, of whether I am hearing the same thing that the callers are saying, housing is just one factor, I think that where it hurts is that wages have not kept up with the cost. A lot of middle-class jobs have simply left California.
>> Well, let's hear from listener James in Scotts Valley, hello James.
>> Hi, good morning. I'm sorry, I was listening to the story. Anyways, third-generation Californian, born and raised in Orange County. The dream was, then in Southern California, you could get a 40 hour per week job and have enough money to save up and buy a house. Your medical was paid for and so on. Those days are gone. I am looking to leave. I have tentative plans to move to Hawaii. I think that ultimately the real challenge that California faces is it is a tropical desert. So, it is not the drink and water, it is water for agriculture. It is not sustainable. Last year there was a drought, this particular program and other programs on public radio basically -- it is unsustainable. The folks who live out here, the dream for them is going to be able to afford the high food cost, the infrastructure, the logistics, that has to support feeding all of these people, because single-family homes are a thing of the past. Now it is apartment city. I'm driving around San Jose and I'm looking at these places. It is okay. So, you're going to pack all these people into these little places. Pack on top of one another. Yes, the roads are still the same size. More cars, less roads, less infrastructure, and like I said -- water is a big deal. So, you have more droughts, more fire seasons, and farmers crying for more water. They're just not going to have any, because the snowpack levels are down so much that the water in the aquifer -- they do not even know how much is down there.
>> James, what I hear you talking about is how you are concerned that the natural resources are not sustainable for the population growth here.
>> No. No, not at all. That is why I want to move to Hawaii, it rains every day. You don't have to worry about it, you can get the water from the sky.
>> Thank you for sharing that. Would you consider yourself part of the middle class of California?
>> Oh, absolutely. I mean, in order to survive out here you need to have two jobs, making 100,000 per year. 200,000 just to have a shot at buying a house. At 60 years old that is going to be a money pit that needs repairs. It is ridiculous.
>> Well, James, a third-generation Californian from Orange County, what does it mean for the state, that the middle class is struggling? What impact does it have on California if you are losing people from the middle class?
>> Well, it is not good news. First of all, the numbers show that in 1970 the size of the middle class in California was 60%. Now it is down to 50%. What it means is -- you know, you have a lot of high wage and low-wage jobs. You do not have these middle income earners. Because the middle class, they are the people who buy the goods, they by the homes, they buy the cars, the by the refrigerators. If you don't have them, you lose oxygen for your economy. 70% of the American economy is based on consumer spending. So, our economy needs a thriving middle-class.
>> Mrs. Sharma, she is a reporter for KPBS, thank you for joining us.
>> Thank you.
>> You have dug into stance on California's middle class as well. And, you know -- it is -- what she is describing, what our callers have been describing, this is something happening all over. I feel like to some degree, but would you say that it is worse in California?
>> Yes. It is worse. So, if you look at the growth in the median household income in California from 1980-2014, the average Californian household is making about a percent more than they used to. And you know, 8% in and of itself does not sound like that big of a number. When you compare it to what the average US household outside of California is doing, they have seen a 20% growth over that same time period, which is a little counterintuitive, right? We think of ourselves as the state with the booming economy, where the rustbelt is where all of that inequality is happening. But, the numbers kind of bear out that it is a little bit of a different picture actually.
>> Richard White, has California been in this position before, or is this unprecedented?
>> It has been here several times before. For every California utopia, there is a dystopia. The 1% is a term invented by Henry George, and Henry George who is a big booster originally for California becomes by the 1880s, lamenting that this is a place where the rich dominate the land and the poor cannot find homes or jobs. He says how can there be such poverty in the midst of progress? And so, what you have is a reaction against it. In the downturn in California, you mentioned the 19th century, in the 1930s, you know -- the grapes of wrath is not about the California dream. It is about the economy is failing, and it seems to be on the verge of collapse. And if we go through these 50s and 60s, by the time the 60s roll around, there is going to be reaction in California against the California dream. I mean, much of the counterculture, much of the left-wing in California is going to be -- what is the cost of the suburban paradise? So you have a whole generation that rebels against it. So, every time you have a California dream, you will have the dystopian period. And, from what I hear from the callers, is that we seem to be entering that dystopian version of Californian utopia.
>> Are you optimistic we will come out of it, as we have done historically though?
>> Yes. [ Laughter ]
>> Well, that is good. Let's hear next from Ashley in Truckee, California. Hello Ashley.
>> I am well, I am sitting here listening to all of the callers and all of the concern. It is an interesting thing for me, in particular, because I work for the Tahoe truck the community foundation, we are about three and half hours from the bay area in a small mountain community. And I moved here to be around people who are really environmentally inclined, and health-conscious, and love the outdoors. And, what I found was increasingly over the past five years, that the bay area homes have gone up. Those citizens, those residents are buying property up here, and a lot of them are empty most of the year. About two thirds of our housing is empty almost the entire year. So, it is having a huge impact on the cost of living, for those of us who are not lucky enough to have a professional job, like me. And a lot of our wage earners are earning about $12 an hour. So, it is all hitting home a lot. And, we are working on housing, and to speak to the middle class, what we found is that it is actually -- 2 high income earners cannot afford to live here. We created a new term for affordable housing that is local, achievable housing. It is up to 195%.
>> Well Ashley, thank you for sharing that, I appreciate it. I want to go next to Cameron in the inland Empire, hello Cameron.
>> Hello, how are you?
>> Great, what you want to share?
>> Well, I have two things. I grew up racing motorcycles in New Mexico, and California was where the industry was. So, I grew up with rose-colored lenses for the state, just because that industry is here. And it is still here and doing pretty well. But, on the flipside, I find it really interesting that -- I am a lineal guy, white guy, just bought a home with my wife. And I am also a Republican. So, I am kind of the minority in the state at this point, where I came from being more of the majority, but it has been beautiful. And the California dream sense, but it has opened my eyes to looking at things differently when it comes to gay rights, and medical marijuana, and this that and the other. But, it is also frustrating when it comes to gun advocacy, and some other stuff. So, I still think that the California dream is very much alive, and it is well. But, I just think that it takes a new level of discipline, and a retooling on not making sure you have the newest iPhone, but better yet, making sure that you have a couple thousand dollars in the bank account in case something happens.
>> And, that is my thought.
>> Well Cameron, thanks for sharing that. It is interesting that Cameron brings up politics, because I feel like that has been cited quite a bit as one of the reasons that people want to stay in California. And often, it is actually not so much of that they are Republican, but there either Democrats or more progressive, and it is the politics that keeps them here.
>> Sure, I think that is one of the reasons, and the polling bears out that is one of the reasons that people especially move here. But, the number one reason why people say that they like California and plan to remain here overwhelmingly is the weather. So, less politics, but more so the fact that in most parts of the state, you step outside it is 73 degrees. Or, at least not 35 degrees.
>> Well, Richard White, you have been saying that the political climate right now is may be part of the reason that you are optimistic that the California dream is not dead? And in some ways, California has found an identity and its opposition?
>> Yeah. I think so. One of the things that is happening now is that California recognizes its problems, and problems are the kinds of things that all of your listeners have been calling in about, but there is a sense that this can be achievable. They will not be achievable by people going out and earning enough money to afford a house. They will be achievable by the fact that what you have to do is have affordable housing, you have to have incomes which are set to rise, and it is not going to be up to individuals. The California that I grew up in, which was also in a way progressive California, I got an excellent education. All the way through college, paid for by the state of California. It was not just elementary school education, high school education, we have allowed our education system to collapse. We have allowed much of our infrastructure to collapse. We have allowed a huge amount of wealth to go into private hands that use two, and an older California, going to public hands. It took care of a whole set of necessities that people now have to pay for out of their pockets. These are things that have to change, and I have a sense that California is coming around to recognize these things. Starting with prop 13, and with the tax policy, there has to be some real fundamental changes in the state. And, I think that for the first time in a long time, I think there is a political will to change this.
>> Higher education was something, Matt Levin, that he found that was part of the California dream for people. The master plan, by Clark Kern.
>> And, I think that Richard, you are one of the beneficiaries there were you had a very low cost higher education, but the data dream -- that dream is like other dreams, more expensive than it used to be. UC tuition is about seven times more than it was in the late 60s, early 70s. That is after you adjust for inflation. The cost of attendance is also affected by something we have talked about a lot during this hour, which is the cost of housing, right? So, if you are living off of campus, and struggling to afford rent, and struggling to afford college, it is no wonder that you can see rising debt loads in the state as well.
>> Again, if you want to join the conversation, the number is 866-733-6786. Again, 866-733-6786. Tweet us at KQED, you can also use the hashtag CA dream. You can also find us on Facebook. We are talking about today's California dream, and what it means to you, why your family came here, why you stay, or why you are finding it increasingly hard to stay. Has the state lived up to expectations? Or, even with all of its faults, is there something that just keeps you here, something especially California? We are talking with Matt Levin, he is a data reporter for the California dream project and Richard White, professor of American history at Stanford University. Earlier we were joined by a wealth and poverty reporter for the California dream project. Now, we are joined by Victoria in San Diego. Hello Victoria.
>> Hi. I'm glad to be with you folks.
>> Yes, I am very proud that my great-grandfather came from the -- Portugal in 1871, became a citizen five years later, and that is one side of the family. The other side is proudly UC graduates. And, one of them also did Stanford also. So, for me -- I am retired now, but I did work in book publishing. My dad was a -- and elementary educator, principal. And, I made a decision. I'm not making as much money in book publishing as a photo editor, but I love it. And of course, you know -- San Diego, the weather, the mountains, the ocean -- all that, you cannot beat it. So, I chose my dream, it is basically California, it is beautiful. And, the quality of life is really good. I may not be a rich woman, but I think that I am a happy woman.
>> Well, Victoria in San Diego, thank you for sharing that.
>> Okay, thank you so much.
>> We have got more of California's dream after this break. I am Mina Kim, stay with us. [ Music ]
>>> Welcome back. We are exploring how the Californian dream is changing and what it means to you. I'm joined by Matt Levin, data reporter for the California dream project, and Richard White, professor of American history at Stanford University. I'm also joined by you, our listeners. You can join us at 866-733-6786 , again 866-733-6786. And you can tweet us at KQED with the hashtag CA dream, and you can find us on Facebook. We are getting a lot of comments along these lines -- Jessica writes, my husband and I were brought here by work, if we leave it will be because of housing cost and low quality schools. A tiny house was fine for two adults, but at into kids, a dog, and a terrible school district, and things feel more complicated, maybe too complicated. And, Britney says -- or I'm sorry, Carlos says -- there is no more California dream, the taxes -- the state taxes you out of your dreams.
>> Whitney says the cost of living in taxes were too high. She says I now live in South Florida and it is easier to support myself here even with a 20% pay cut. I can buy a house here someday soon. That was an impossible dream in California. So, high cost of living, and the taxes have come up quite a bit. Can you talk about California's reputation as a high-tax state? Have we always been that way? Is it well-deserved?
>> Sure. So, it depends like a lot of things, how much money you make, and when you are alive. So, if you were a high earner, you are definitely paying more in taxes in California. That is now compared to then. But, there is some evidence suggesting that higher earners may be leaving the state, maybe at least partially because of that. The sales tax, which hits everybody, right? It is a high tax whether you're making 200,000 a year or 30,000 a year, you are paying the same tax rate, that has increased over time for the most part. So, in that sense, Californians are being taxed a little bit more. One thing that is kind of interesting, if you look at just the median tax return that gets filed with the state, at least over the last couple of decades, the tax liability that the average household is seen is actually on the decline. Our property taxes, because like Richard mentioned earlier, prop 13, resulted in some of the lowest in the country, depending on when you bought your house.
>> We will go to Vern in San Jose. Hello Vern.
>> Hello, thank you. I have watched Robert White's documentary, and equality for all, a couple of times. He was secretary of labor under Clinton and his now the UC Berkeley professor, and the thing that strikes me as affecting our California dream is partly the federal tax structure. For example, you know -- back in the 50s, the tax structure was -- the top-tier was $.90 on the dollar, but I don't recall ever hearing or seeing anything ever written that we were suffering a shortage of wealthy people. I live in Silicon Valley, I have worked at Apple, and etc. And I have been around a ton of very wealthy people. This Valley has made so many people extremely rich, and like the one caller talked about -- the Tahoe home, I mean -- they, they are -- there are so many huge homes up there, afforded by people down here who get to keep the lions share of what they make. And so much of what happens in Silicon Valley due to hard work and beautiful creativity, etc. -- but, there is a fair amount of luck involved also. I saw people go to work at one company, and get really lucky, and work just as hard at another company and did not get lucky at all. So anyway, I think that our California dream is being affected heavily by the overall federal tax structure also, which allows just an incredible amount of wealth to be concentrated in the hands of a few people. A lot of them, here in the Bay Area.
>> You agree with Richard White, who said earlier that he feels like the Silicon Valley dream is kind of the new California dream to some degree?
>> Well, it is the California gold rush. And, you know, there is a dream -- part of the dream is winner take all, desire to be incredibly rich. That is a pretty common, human desire. That is usually prevalent in Silicon Valley. And I think the thing that we are missing though is the tempering of some of those games, you know by a federal tax structure that would allow less concentration. And I think is go ahead.
>> Well I was just going to say, Vern, thanks. Your final thought quickly?
>> I just think in terms of fairness, it is just not fair for 1% of the population to own 50% of the wealth. I just don't know why we continue to -- look under all next and crannies for other answers, when this is the biggest one is staring us right in the face.
>> Well Vern, thank you so much for sharing that. And Richard White, as you were mentioning, you know -- we have seen these types of situations before, what should we learn from this right now? This Silicon Valley, sort of gold rush that Vern is describing?
>> Vern sounds a lot like Henry George to tell you the truth. Because, what George said was that California was at its best when there was comparative evenness of property. And I think that this is the kind of thing that gets me in trouble, but -- California is better off with less rich people. When California was more of a middle-class state, it was better. And, the thing that Vern suggests is that we arrange tax and public policy so that we do not have this disparity of wealth, which is now approaching the greatest in American history. It is not just true in California, it cannot be sustained. You cannot have Sony people getting so little, and so few people getting so much. And this has been a complaint that came up in California in the early 20s, and also in the 30s, it seems to be during World War II and the 1950s and early 1960s, we seem to have solved it, but now we are back there again. So, this is a recurring problem, and I think that Vern is perfectly right.
>> Well, Javier said I came for the jobs, that is the only reason why I am here. The state is in credibly greedy. San Francisco is disgusting with the way that landlords are robbing renters and pushing people into the street. It is a rat race, fault -- far worse than in New York.
>> Hello Greg.
>> Hi, I just wanted to say I have been here for 25 years. My partner is a second generation Californian. I'm trying to drag them out of the state. All of the state, I think it is beautiful, but the reality -- the leadership needs to change. I mean, you have one third of the population that is below the poverty line. I drive on the highway, and grass has not been cut in three years, sometimes I think I am in Detroit. You know, it is just one thing after another. My electric bill is $800 a month. You know, I do not even use that much electricity, it is just because of -- I dunno, the PG&E tier system. It is not sustainable. They always want -- it is like a propaganda machine. California is a propaganda machine. We only get 50% of our energy from renewable sources and they're talking about leading the pack as far as environmental climate change? There is so much -- contradiction, and the facts just don't bear out. California is not a leader.
>> Well, Greg -- thanks for sharing that frustration. You know, Matt 11, it is interesting that he talks about California as a propaganda machine. Overall, we have been saying that our economy is doing better than the rest of the nation in a lot of ways.
>> Yeah. I think that the question is if there will be returns to the bigger economic progress that we have been associated with, and if it is filtering down to middle income and low income folks, right? So, it is true. Economically, we are -- the boom times here are better than the boom times in the rest of the country, and the recessions unfortunately, typically are worse than they are in the rest of the country. But, even during those boom-times, it is not as if low income households have been thriving.
>> And, Silicon Valley, Richard White, you do not feel like that will be a source of a lot of manufacturing jobs, which tend to be the things that bring up a middle-class, right?
>> I see no evidence that Silicon Valley has provided the kinds of jobs that it claims to. Intervention productivity, and the kinds of things that are supposed to come out of Silicon Valley. Most economic statistics do not back that up. Silicon Valley is a terrific generator of wealth, but that wealth goes to a very small section of the population. And particularly, in the Bay Area, that is what drives our housing prices. When you walk into houses which you think are extravagantly priced, and somebody is willing to start bidding them up and to pay cash for them, nobody else is going to be in the market except the people who are coming from that type of tech background.
>> Well, we will hear from Desiree in San Francisco. Hello Desiree.
>> Hey, how's it going?
>> Great, what's on your mind?
>> I got lucky about a year ago, I was living in Daly city and I was paying about 2500 for my studio. And I said -- I'm tired of this. I am a hairdresser in San Francisco, and I book my clientele up here, and I moved into my parents trailer and save up some money, and I am originally from Angel came California, and I bought a house out there, and so now I split my time between country and city, and I come to California -- San Francisco and I work every day and every other Sunday, and I am a California native. I love it. Just last week I was out on the Sonoma Coast, and four days later I was in -- snowboarding. It was bad there was not as much snow this year, but I love it here and I will never leave. I will die in California, and I know that we need to work harder, we live in a little bubble, but -- I just love this state. It is sad that people are getting pushed out, but I am here for the hustle, and I'm here for the long term, and I try to put in my work, and do what I do, and just enjoy the scenery.
>> Thanks Desiree. Let's hear now from Eric in L.A., hello Eric.
>> Hi. The question is why do I want to live in California? So, I am originally from Mexico, but my dad is from New Jersey. I have always been a US citizen, I have always been able to move back and forth between Mexico and the US. And I lived on the East Coast, and you know -- New York, Massachusetts, which are also blue states, and very liberal. However, I really love living in California, because -- yes, the weather. But, also the politics. I mean, I have a kid, and you know -- it would be easier for me to move to Texas and have a big yard for him to play around, etc. -- but, I want him to grow up in a place where he is taught progressive values, not just in school, but in the community around him. And I don't feel that that would be easy to do in a place like Texas, for instance my sister lives in North Carolina, and she has to deal with a lot of nonprogressive stuff that -- you know, I don't have to worry about here. Now, having said that -- it has become very expensive to live here. That is a real problem, for sure. Now, how to address that? I mean, I strongly agree with some of the comments from the other callers about taxing the Silicon Valley people more, because they make a lot of money. I mean, California gets taxed to death already, right? What we need is less taxes to create jobs, and the city of Los Angeles, all of these companies are constantly moving to other states, because they are being taxed too much, so then they moved to Texas, and suddenly -- you lose 500 jobs, then they moved to another state, the new is another thousand jobs. So of course, people cannot afford housing here, because there are not enough jobs, because all of the good companies keep leaving.
>> Well Eric you -- your points make me think of a question that I would like to put out to listeners, for those of you who are contemplating leaving or are having a hard time, what tangible actions could the state take to keep you here? Thanks Eric, let me go next to Sharon in San Francisco. Hello Sharon.
>> Hello, thank you Mina for this. I feel like some people have touched on some of these issues, but first of all, I came here because my husband went back to school to become a professor, and he was hired at San Francisco State. I am an artist, I was a mission artist, we have lost hundreds of studios, and many of them leave the city because when they lose their studio, because what is missing is that literally every single renter in the city is talking about when they have to leave. I have been in rooms with fourth-generation San Franciscans who talk about when they have to leave. It is literally every single person in the city who does not own, and they are concerned about when they have to leave, or contemplating leaving. And it is the corporations, and it is the politicians that are allowing the corporations to take advantage of them. Why are we encouraging more tech jobs when the tech jobs are being filled by young mostly, white mostly, mail workers who come in and take advantage of the bars and the nightlife, displace multigenerational families, artists, people who have lived here for many years -- and then, they leave. And so, what is happening is -- the corporations are being encouraged to come. They have had tax breaks and all sorts of things by the city, not just the state. People are turning the other way when they are violating zoning laws, and offices are occupying what should be blue-collar jobs. In artist spaces, and it is really -- we have to stop saying we need more jobs, we need more of -- we need less, fewer of the jobs that are not hiring internally and not providing housing.
>> Well, Sharon, I hear your frustration, and it is something that has been echoed quite a bit. But Richard, quickly -- earlier you said you were optimistic, why?
>> I think because, in fact, the essence of it, the kind of sense that really shows up among Californians is that there is a sense of a kind of personal independence and a general hopefulness and self-reliance. And, there is a sense that you have here, that the state should be equal. There should be a way in which property is distributed more equally, everybody has a chance. That, I think is the bedrock of California. Not everybody has called in and said that. And, that belief -- because, I know in the past when they have had that belief, they have found political ways to turn that around. California's assets are great. I mean, there is no North Dakota dream.
>> Well, Matt Levin, earlier talked about how 70% of the surveyed respondents even after the frustration said they do not want to leave. Maybe these two comments that I will and on explain why. The Denise says my husband and I are California natives. We went to South Texas for four years. We hated it. Despite having a beautiful home here, we cannot wait to get back.
>> Jenna says I came to California in 1987 from New Jersey to go to grad school and fell in love with my first February when I walked barefoot in Golden gate Park. I'm never going back.
>> Thank you so much for joining us.
>> Thank you.
>> And thank you to our listeners, and to KPBS, KQED , and Cal matters. I am Mina Kim.