Friday, November 11, 2005

#89 - Can't See Texas for the Woodys

Pursuant to this story over at the Woundup, I need to explain at a personal level just why California's current economy stinks.

California, of course, is one of those states that continually makes money hand over fist. No matter how hard we try to create deficit budgets (or, more accurately, no budgets) every year, the state continues to rake in the tax revenues. Most of that, of course, comes from the obscenely high taxes most businesses have to pay in this state in order to do business.

It's the classic domino effect: higher costs of business drive local prices up, which means that more and more people have to work in order to maintain the state's revenue projections, and housing costs keep going through the roof, which means that your average household requires two (or more!) incomes just to break even, assuming you want to live in a house that has indoor plumbing. Welcome to California. No bankruptcies allowed.

California politicians tend not to get this because - try to keep up here - most of them tend to be rich. It's really through no fault of their own, mind you, because if we assume that our elected officials manage their own finances the way they manage state money, they'd all be first in line to file for bankruptcy even if you could file for bankruptcy, which you can't. Not you, anyway. Businesses can file all they want.

So. How does this affect me? Well, my family has lived in Southern California for decades. We're talking about two and a half generations, minimum, of Woodys living here in the Southland. Both of my parents came to California as youngsters. We Woody kids were all born and raised here, and those of us who have married have brought our children into the world within shouting distance of the old homestead.

But in the past several years, change has altered the geographical makeup of the family. My grown daughter now lives in Maryland. No real surprise, since her Air Force hubby works in Washington, D.C. They're already dreaming of coming back to California. My son lives in Minnesota, but that's mostly because his Mom remarried and her hubby comes from that neck of the woods.

Then Mom got married. She met a very nice man named Bob. (Men in stories are always named Bob. Not sure why that is, but I think it's Bill Cosby's fault.) Bob had retired, which in his case means no longer making money doing what he loves best, which is photography. Bob is one of those who would find a way to be the photographer at his own funeral. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Anyway, Mom married him. In so doing, she also married into Texas, which is where Bob bought his retirement home. It's a little on the snug side, but he was able to pay for it with what he cleared on the sale of his California home. Apparently housing is quite reasonable in Texas. Which I believe also accounts for the imminent treason of my baby sister. They've been living for a while now in a nice house in California, a house they can no longer really afford to live in. They've bought a home in Texas just recently. A home quite close to Mom. And Bob. And all the friends that used to live in California close to Mom and Bob who now live close together in Texas. Not that there's anything wrong with that, either.

Me? I'm pretty much glued to California and my 21 year pension. It'll be a lot closer to 35 years by the time I can retire safely (meaning the kids are grown to the point of self-sufficiency). Plus, we both still have family in the area. I still have a few siblings left, and Mrs. Woody has a sister and her Mom here. So don't look for Woody to be renting a moving van anytime soon.

Maybe I can sell some stocks to buy train tickets out to Texas. If I don't go bankrupt first, that is.

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