A city with unfair advantages

By Tom Quiner

This city is surrounded by rich soil, thanks to the convergence of two rivers.

The rivers are navigable, bringing trade to the area.

The fertile land produces agricultural wealth and has a remarkable 292 day growing season.

The ocean is nearby, and so are mountains. The climate is temperate.

Yes, Stockton, California, has ridiculous advantages over other cities in America.

And yet Stockton went broke, as I wrote yesterday (“The bankrupting of America”).

How could a city with such unfair advantages fail? Let’s take a closer look.

Out of a city of 212,000 adults (16 or older), guess how many of them work in the private sector?

a. 175,000

b. 150,000

c. 125,000

d. 91,131

If you guessed (d), you are correct. Only 43% of the adult population work in the productive sector of the economy.

On the other hand, 18,778 work for government.

I have great respect for government employees, so many of whom are doing great work. However, government is not a productive sector of the economy. Another 11,426 collect food stamps. That means it takes 91,131 workers in the private sector to  support 30,204 folks dependent on taxpayers, for an out-of-whack three to one ratio.

Is it any wonder Stockton went broke?

Stockton, like so many other cities top-heavy with city employees, negotiated unsustainable pension benefits with public sector employees. They’re left with a $900 million pension liability that they can’t afford.

Stockton is a microcosm of America in the Obama Years. We’re seeing a trend of more people working for government, on food stamps, and collecting disability, being supported by fewer workers.

Take disability. In 1960 we had a 134 workers for every person on social security disability. Now it’s 16 workers for ever person on disability. Another way to look at it: the number of people on social security disability is doubling every fifteen years.

What is the reason for the upsurge in claims? Here’s a guess: 44% of the folks with social security disability have claims that fall into two categories, bad backs and mood disorders. Both are legitimate reasons for disabilities, but both are very difficult to disprove. Are more and more folks who can’t find jobs gaming the system? Is it too easy to game the system?

We’re only creating 150,000 jobs a month during the Obama Years, but we’re generating 250,000 applications per month for social security disability.

Like Stockton, America has unfair advantages over much of the world. Like Stockton, we’re squandering our prosperity with top-heavy government and a rising tide of folks choosing the public dole.