Friday, May 19, 2017

Plan Bay Area 2040 — hollowing out the middle class

Marin Voice: Plan Bay Area 2040 — hollowing out the middle class

By Susan Kirsch

POSTED: 05/10/17, 10:57 AM PDT |

It’s not surprising that President Donald Trump’s proposed tax plan would hollow out the middle class. Income tax reductions will be robust for corporations and those in the highest income brackets. Others won’t fare so well.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren warns of the demise of the middle class in her book, “This Fight is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class.” She writes about growing up in the 1950s, when minimum wage supported a family of four. In 2017, minimum wage can’t support a household of two.

But hold on a minute before simply bashing Trump. Are you surprised that progressive California Democrats are implementing strategies that increase economic inequality?

In 2008, then state Sen. Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat, crafted Senate Bill 375, a state mandate that required jurisdictions in the nine-county Bay Area to complete a Sustainable Community Strategy plan as part of a Regional Transportation Plan. The purpose was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks by building high-density housing near transportation. The plan was marketed as good for our region. Environmentalists and housing advocates jumped on the bandwagon.

Even then, Plan Bay Area predicted a negative impact on middle-class and low-income households. It concluded, “the plan moves in the wrong direction.” Housing is considered affordable if it costs less than 30 percent of household income, but combined housing and transportation was anticipated to eat up 69 percent of low-income residents’ income.
Displacement and social-equity issues were muffled under the trumpet of climate change and affordable housing. There’s big money in transportation and housing projects.

Now Plan Bay Area 2040’s “Regional Forecast of Jobs, Population and Housing” shows the rich and the poor growing to the highest numbers, but not the middle. The historic bell-shaped curve is inverted.

Marin’s representatives — Supervisors Damon Connolly and Dennis Rodoni, and Novato Councilwoman Pat Eklund — have their names on the document.

The plan forecasts: “The ‘hollowing out’ of the middle is projected to continue over the next 25 years. Household growth will be strongest in the highest income category, reflecting the expected strength of growth in high-wage sectors combined with non-wage income — interest, dividends, capital gains, transfers.”

Further: “Household growth will also be high in the lowest-wage category, reflecting occupational shifts, wages stagnation, as well as the retirement of seniors without pension assets.”

Plan Bay Area is a dense, nearly indecipherable collection of documents with hundreds of pages of appendices. It is not intended to communicate, but confound. It swaggers with the broad shoulders of the street bullies of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Organizers take bragging rights for offering each county one comment session. Marin’s session is at 8:30 a.m. May 20 at the Mill Valley Community Center.

Expect yellow Post-it notes, but don’t expect citizen respect or impact. It leaves me with these thoughts.

1. Our elected leaders have their pants on backwards when they support economic plans that steadily decimate the middle class.

2. Plan Bay Area’s goals to reduce greenhouse gases and build affordable housing are important. But driving billions of dollars into transportation and housing special interests, with detrimental impact on the vast majority, violates consciousness and common sense.

3. Plan Bay Area 2040 accelerates plans for regional government agencies with unelected leadership to amass greater power to set regional permitting, zoning, and taxing measures, while local control is steadily diminished.

4. The middle class is being hollowed out with increased regional taxation without representation. In addition, while essential services are cut, the middle and poor disproportionately shoulder the impact of higher parcel taxes, rate increases for water, sewer, and garbage; and unfunded pension debt. Property owners will pass increases along to renters.

MTC’s swanky, eight-story headquarters at 375 Beale St. in San Francisco are built around a hollow middle, a physical representation of SB 375. Everywhere we turn, we see the “hollowing” of the middle class. Having identified the trend, we can change it. Raise your voice to keep the middle, not dependent, but strong.

Susan Kirsch of Mill Valley is a core group member of Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers (CO$T) and was a candidate last year for the county Board of Supervisors.

No comments:

Post a Comment