Posts

Can California stop Big Tech from decamping to cheaper places?

For the past half-century, California has dominated America’s tech industry. From the development of precision farming to the incubation of aircraft, space, semiconductors and computer systems, this state has emerged time and again at the cutting edge of future industries.

That is, perhaps, until now. In a stunning procession in December, California lost the leadership of three iconic firms — Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Oracle and Tesla — all to Texas, which this year even took the Rose Bowl’s place in hosting the college football playoff. In addition, many California tech firms, including Uber and Lyft, as well as Apple, have been shifting jobs outside the state.

This has been widely described as California’s “tech exodus.” Though it’s still less than a torrent and more a steady, long-term drip, it augurs some very bad trends. In recent years, California has been losing market share of innovative industries compared with 11 states with high concentrations of innovation-oriented firms, according to research by Ken Murphy, a professor at UC Irvine’s business school.

Since 2005, California’s share of the number of firms in the innovation sector (composed of 13 of the nation’s highest-tech, highest R&D advanced industries) has shrunk while competitors like Florida, Oregon, Arizona and Utah have expanded their share slightly.

The pandemic-induced push to move work online could hasten this shift. With 2 out of 3 tech workers willing to leave the Bay Area if they could work remotely, Big Tech could readily spread talent and wealth to other states.

Increasingly, California’s cities must compete with metro areas in Texas, Tennessee and even parts of the Midwest. Housing prices are a particularly critical concern: California has all three of the most unaffordable metro regions for first-time home buyers, according to a recent AEI survey, and six of the top 10. The flow of tech workers during the pandemic has gone to places like Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth and Raleigh, N.C., and away from big coastal cities with higher living costs.

Software-based tech companies can access knowledge workers outside California, and often at lower costs. At the same time, states like Texas and Arizona have been sought to replicate the California formula for tech industry growth — public university expansion, more suburban housing and public investment in downtowns, all meant to appeal to workers and their bosses.

California’s early emergence in both the aerospace and computer-related industries was strongly tied to physical proximity. The development of the aerospace sector, largely funded by the federal government, required close cooperation between designers and suppliers. This made the state, notably the Los Angeles area, unmatched as a center of aerospace development.

The semiconductor industry grew out of related companies like Fairchild Semiconductor, Intel, National Semiconductor and Advanced Micro Devices working together with customers like Hewlett Packard. That formed the basis for Silicon Valley’s remarkable growth and created lots of well-paying jobs for a generation.

But more recently, as the tech industry becomes more virtual and services-based, the companies’ workforces have less of a need to all be in one place. While these companies create vast wealth for a relatively small group of people, this is not a formula for broad-based economic prosperity.

Read the rest of this piece at Los Angeles Times.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Marshall Toplansky is a clinical assistant professor of management science at the Argyros School of Business and Economics at Chapman University. He is a research fellow at the university’s Hoag Center for Real Estate and Finance and at the Center for Demographics and Policy.

Photo credit: TahoeGuy via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.

Chicago & Positioning: Becoming The Next Middle Class Hub

In this episode of the Feudal Future podcast, hosts Joel Kotkin and Marshall Toplansky talk with Pete Saunders about how Chicago can better position itself to become the next middle class hub.

Look to Orange County for How to Turn California Purple

For decades, Orange County was a reliable incubator of conservative politics, and, in the era of Nixon, Goldwater and Reagan, a fairly powerful force in the state and on the national level. More recently, the area has been widely seen as tilting blue, particularly during the Trump era, with the media celebrating the end of “the Orange Curtain” in the 2018 midterm elections and its metamorphosis into another addition to our state’s progressive political culture.

Yet this November’s election results tell us something more nuanced. Instead of following the flow of the state’s urban centers, Orange County turned a deep purple and, in the process, reinforced its relevance to the state’s political future.

The county defied the politics of polarization, voting for Biden against Trump, but also electing two new Republicans to Congress, Michelle Steel and Young Kim, both Korean Americans. House seats in the county are now split with five Democrats and two Republicans. And its voters supported generally conservative positions on a host of state ballot issues.

This shift is not merely an expression of pent-up white resentment. Orange County is no longer just a white enclave by the beach. It is more than half Latino and Asian, with a level of education that is considerably higher than Los Angeles’ and the state‘s. Yet despite being educated and diverse, Orange County moved back toward the center-right in this year’s elections, perhaps a harbinger of changes in other parts of California as well.

Orange County’s electorate is clearly no longer right-wing conservative, but is quite heterogeneous compared with the state’s solidly left-leaning urbanized areas. It voted for Biden by a decisive margin, 53% to 44%, strongly rejecting Trump’s awful nativism. At the same time, it showed little interest in embracing progressive agendas on economic regulation, taxation and affirmative action.

This was most evident in the ballot propositions. Orange County voters rejected by roughly 20 percentage points Proposition 15, which would have raised taxes on commercial properties and drew fears of increased costs to already beleaguered medium-sized and small businesses. County voters approved by even larger margins Proposition 22, which exempted app-based drivers from state employee laws. That measure lost only in the Bay Area and in a few rural counties. An attempt to expand rent control failed miserably statewide, and by nearly 2 to 1 in Orange County, winning only narrowly even in the blue bastion of San Francisco.

One factor behind these politically mixed and moderate results may be the relatively high percentage of homeowners, many of whom oppose higher taxes and greater regulation. Roughly 57% of Orange County residents own their own home, compared with 45% in Los Angeles County and barely 37% in San Francisco. Homeownership rates are also much higher in the Inland Empire, the outer suburbs of the Bay Area, the North Coast and most Central Valley areas.

These are places where California’s middle class can afford homes, or have the chance to start a business, regardless of whether the state’s planning priorities pushes development into ever denser communities in coastal areas.

Read the rest of this piece at Los Angeles Times.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Homepage photo credit: San Clemente, CA by D. Ramey Logan via Wikimedia under CC 3.0 License.

America Isn’t Falling Apart. It’s Still the Land of Opportunity

More than 840,000 green card holders became citizens last year, the most in a decade. Over 10 percent of the American electorate was born elsewhere, the highest share in a half-century. All of Donald Trump’s huffing and puffing could not stop this demographic evolution; nor could an endless stream of stories about what an unequal, unfair, and no good place America has supposedly become.

The ground-level integration of America—what my friend Sergio Munoz calls “the multiculturalism of the streets”—continues with ever greater mingling, epitomized by the rise and acceptance of interracial dating, up 40 percent since 2003, and marriage.

What Trump and his most dedicated opponents have both had trouble appreciating is that, rather than a chaotic future defined by racial conflict, most Americans want both order and justice. Most Americans initially supported the George Floyd protests but soon overwhelmingly rejected the violence and looting that accompanied them. Racial minorities, like other Americans, are increasingly heterodox in their political views.

This was evident in Trump—an unpleasant and unprincipled man frequently labeled as a “racist” in the mainstream media, a term also applied to his voters— improving in 2020 on his 2016 results with most minorities, including a significant gain in the Latino vote, particularly in Florida and Texas, and among Black men. In California, Asian voters also didn’t flock to Trump, but they helped reject an affirmative action measure bankrolled by the tech oligarchs. In heavily Asian Orange County, Biden won comfortably but the affirmative action measure lost 2-to-1, and two Korean American women replaced Democratic congresspeople. The measure was also crushed in heavily Latino interior counties.

Another issue where elite support and popular opinion diverge is defunding the police, a position that the vast majority of Americans—including millennials and minorities—do not favor. As my colleague Charles Blain points out, when the Houston city council was swamped with testimony from residents pushing for the dismantling of the city’s Police Department, Black council members and Mayor Sylvester Turner pushed back, saying that these people clearly didn’t spend time in the communities that they claimed to support. A similar dynamic played out in New York, where Black City Council members held the line against a push to slash the NYPD budget by $1 billion.

Economics account for some of Trump’s gains among minority voters. Before the pandemic, most minority workers had done better in terms of income under his administration than they had under previous administrations from both parties. Like working-class people in general, most African Americans did worse economically under Barack Obama despite the enormous boost in political power and influence for portions of the African American upper class on his watch.

Latinos, suggests former California state Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero. have been devastated by the state’s more extreme lockdowns, and angered to see their putative advocates, like Gavin Newsom or Nancy Pelosi, flaunt their privilege in luxury and even violate their own rules as “ordinary people have literally been arrested and even thrown in jail for opening their businesses to just survive and feed their families.”

Read the rest of this piece at Daily Beast.

Joel Kotkin is the author of the recently released book The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute — formerly the Center for Opportunity Urbanism. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin

Homepage photo credit: Angelsharum via Wikimedia under CC 3.0 License.

Ownership and Opportunity: A New Report from Urban Reform Institute

In a new report from Urban Reform Institute, edited by Joel Kotkin, J.H. Cullum Clark and Anne Snyder explore what happens when opportunity stalls. Pete Saunders and Karla Lopez del Rio tell the story of how homeownership enabled upward mobility for their respective families. Wendell Cox quantifies the connection between urban containment policies and housing affordabilty.

The introduction, authored by Charles Blain, President of Urban Reform Institute is excerpted below:

The middle-class way of living is under constant threat as housing costs increase, eating away larger shares of the average American’s income.

Homeownership, which has been a critical source of advancement for middle-class, immigrant, and ethnic minority families and an asset that people can pass down from one generation to the next, is under threat. For many families, this means that instead of building wealth, they are seeing opportunity erode before their eyes.

As housing costs are the biggest driver of variation in living costs across metropolitan areas, the relentless housing cost increases of the last two decades have undermined standards of living for many Americans in the nation’s most expensive cities. If home prices continue to outpace household incomes for ordinary Americans in coming years, the American Dream will move ever further out of reach for millions of families. This is especially the case for Millennials and Gen Zers for whom high and rising housing costs are the single largest obstacle to accumulating wealth and achieving a financially sustainable life.

The COVID-19 crisis presents America with enormous challenges, but also new opportunities to move forward in rethinking policy on the future of housing and work to improve affordability and advance opportunity – particularly for our most disadvantaged communities.

A fresh policy agenda can breathe new life into the American Dream and protect middle-class standards of living. This agenda should prioritize new housing supply at all price points, particularly in growing, high-opportunity places. Cities should relax urban containment policies that have had the clear effect of making urban real estate scarce and expensive. State governments should reform tax codes that make it more cost effective to leave land stagnant than to build upon it.

If we want to protect the ability to climb the socioeconomic ladder from one generation to the next, we must face the crisis of unaffordable housing and declining homeownership. We must protect the biggest opportunity for advancement and scale back the rules and regulations that continue to snatch this opportunity away from millions of Americans.

Click here to download/read the full report.

Join the discussion on a new policy agenda for home ownership and opportunity in our post-pandemic economy.

Date: December 4, 2020
Time: 11:30AM – 1:00PM (Central Time)

Register for Webinar

Joel Kotkin talks with Dan Proft About The Green End Game

By: Dan Proft
On: The Dan Proft Show at Omny radio

Joel Kotkin joins the Dan Proft show to discuss how the green end game runs through Biden. Outside of those dismissed as far right, there is virtually no serious debate about how to address climate change in the U.S. or Western Europe outside the parameters suggested by mainstream green groups.

 

 

Related:

The End Game

Governor Preen: Newsom’s Woke Posturing Masks California’s Dismal Economic Record

If Hollywood were to cast a governor and future president, and if a straight white male were still politically acceptable, he would look like California’s Gavin Newsom. The 53-year-old governor, a former mayor of San Francisco, Newsom handsomely epitomizes the preening politics of the California elite class that has nurtured and financed his career from the beginning. Read more

The Grand New Party

Given the likely defeat of President Donald Trump, a functionally headless Republican Party is destined for a period of reflection. Trump himself, for all his rudeness and often unnecessary, divisive rhetoric, has transformed the Republican Party from being a bastion of the establishment to a voice for America’s working and middle class.

Read more

Elite Democrats Could Destroy the Middle Class if Biden Wins in 2020

It’s been a long time since the Democrats were considered “the party of the people” and the GOP the party of the fat cats. This year Joe Biden and even more so his running mate, Kamala Harris, are raising record sums from the corporate elite, notably the tech giants and their Wall Street allies. These wealthy donors dominate the party, own much of the media, and can manipulate the social-media platforms where a growing proportion of Americans get their news.

Meanwhile, the Republicans find themselves largely castigated in the press and overwhelmed by a torrent of oligarchic wealth at the Senate and local levels. This wealthy oligarchy is not just liberal; many members also support a thorough remaking of our country. Some, like former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, are so committed to progressivism that, as he said recently, those who don’t get with the program should “face a firing squad.” Currently led by CEO Jack Dorsey, Twitter has gone so far as to block The New York Post’s account after it reported on the unsavory foreign business dealings of Biden’s son Hunter.

If these Democrats win both houses of Congress as well as the White House, things could get far worse for the already beleaguered middle class, which has been rocked by the pandemic, with an estimated 100,000 small firms going out of business. Particularly hard-hit by the recent urban unrest are inner city and minority businesses.

The other big winners have been the professional managerial class, including top levels of the federal bureaucracy, academia, and the mainstream media. These are, for the most part, people who can work from home, or, in some cases, the safety of their country houses. Meanwhile, they have achieved power at a level never before exercised outside of wartime and are as likely to surrender this control as the oligarchs are to give up their money.

If the Democrats win on Election Day, the future for the middle class could be bleak. As a lifelong Democrat, this is not easy to write, but most of the party’s initiatives — such as the Green New Deal — are directly harmful to those in the middle and working classes, who’d be forced to face increased housing and energy prices and fewer upwardly mobile jobs in industries like manufacturing.

A Democratic landslide could prove particularly devastating to owners of small businesses, particularly those in the energy, agriculture and manufacturing sectors, who were all critical to electing Donald Trump and seem likely to follow him again this year, despite the recession caused by the pandemic.

Read the rest of this piece at NYPost.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Homepage photo credit: ptufts via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.

The Roots of California’s Tattered Economy Were Planted Long Before the Coronavirus Arrived

California is in far worse shape economically than the great majority of other states also struggling through the pandemic. COVID-19 may be the primary cause of our current distress, but the evolving structure of our economy has exacerbated this calamity. The worst part is our state leaders should have known this all along.

In September, California’s unemployment rate was 11%, well above the national average of 7.9%, and better only than two other states in the nation. Since the March lockdown, California, with 12% of the nation’s population, accounts for 16.4% of all U.S. unemployment.

A similar pattern can be seen in our metropolitan areas. Among the 55 largest metro areas in the country, the worst job losses from February to August — outside of Las Vegas and Boston — have occurred in the Bay Area and Los Angeles-Long Beach. By contrast, other metro areas, such as Salt Lake City; Austin, Texas; Dallas-Fort Worth; and San Antonio are doing much better.

Over the past decade, the California economy has been divided, Janus-like, between a rising innovation economy, based largely in the Bay Area, and the rest of the state where 86% of all new jobs have paid below the median income of $66,000, and 48% are under $40,000 a year. Once a beacon of opportunity, the state suffers the highest cost-adjusted poverty rate in the country.

The slow growth in high-wage jobs, particularly outside the Bay Area, contrasts with that of other states — such as Texas, Utah, Colorado, Washington — that have continued to expand middle-income jobs more rapidly in manufacturing and in professional, scientific and technical services, a large industry classification used by the federal Labor Department to include everything from legal work to software developers to accountants.

The consequences of this distorted economy have made the state susceptible to losses in fields like hospitality and other low-end services, which suffered half the initial job losses from the coronavirus shutdowns.

The situation is particularly grim in the Los Angeles region. Over the past two decades, according to an analysis of job growth by UC Irvine professor Ken Murphy, Los Angeles County has suffered almost twice the level of industrial job losses as the nation. During that period, professional and technical service jobs — which are better suited to remote work and have survived the pandemic in reasonably good condition — grew in the region by only 14%, compared with a national increase of 36% in such jobs.

Indeed, from 2000 to the beginning of 2020, L.A. County has led the state in growth of low-paying service jobs, adding 867,000 of them. That represents a 48% increase over the number of those jobs in 2000. Similar growth has been seen in Orange and San Diego counties. Yet between 2008 and 2018, the L.A. area lost 41,000 high-wage jobs.

With the pandemic, this dependency on low-end-job growth has placed the Southland at great risk. The health crisis has wiped out 374,000 of those jobs, a reduction of 23.3%. Overall, Los Angeles has lost 11% of its jobs, Murphy notes, significantly higher than the 8% drop nationally.

In previous recessions, notably after the 2008 financial crisis, Silicon Valley’s job growth, and revenues from initial public offerings and stock price increases, helped bail out the state’s finances, which are once again under stress. With several potential IPOs coming and the rising value of existing tech firms, we could see some help for the state government’s revenue picture.

But that will not help the state recover the lower-wage-job losses or reduce the entrenched inequality making the economy susceptible to rolling catastrophes. Even at full bore, these Silicon Valley firms create few jobs for non-tech workers, with the notable exception of the Tesla factory in Fremont, which employs roughly 10,000 workers.

Even more troubling is evidence that the industry’s willingness to keep high-wage jobs in California appears to be dissipating. Palantir, the data-mining software company, recently announced it was relocating to Denver from Palo Alto. Other tech companies — such as Uber, Tesla, Apple — have committed huge investments in Texas while others have shifted to northern Virginia, Nashville and Phoenix.

Ironically, the biggest threat to California-based jobs may come from the changing nature of technology itself. Employees at the largest tech companies, including Google, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Salesforce, will very likely continue to work remotely even after the pandemic. In a recent survey, three-quarters of high-tech venture funders and founders predicted the same for their workforces. And some 40% of Bay Area tech workers say they would like to move to a less expensive region, which suggests locations outside of California.

For the past three decades, California’s leaders have assumed that the state’s great advantages — superb universities, a large, diverse labor force, international connections — would help us weather economic storms. The pandemic has shown how wrong that is and how much needs to be done to meet this steadily growing economic crisis.

This will require a dramatic shift in state policy, starting with environmental and other regulatory restraints. We should continue our efforts to embrace cleaner climate standards and move forward with lower-emission fossil fuels, such as renewable natural gas, and, when the technology is more economically feasible, gradually shifting completely to non-fossil energy.

Unless trends are reversed, California’s unstable economy will continue to erode. In 2016, an estimated 1,800 companies left, largely for Texas. Between 2009 and 2016, 13,000 companies left the state. Those include traditional middle-class employers such as McKesson, which now has the contract for distributing the COVID-19 vaccine, Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi, which have all been moving marketing and production jobs out to other states.

This does not mean we should stop focusing on “innovation sector” jobs. We need to take advantage of the rich vein of intellectual capital California has cultivated over the past four decades. But the state can diversify its economy and keep higher-wage jobs by beefing up its economic development strategies to expedite new facilities and provide incentives for companies willing to locate where working-class people live, providing education for working-class vocations, and creating a formal apprenticeship system in all trades to provide younger people with a path to a solid middle-class income.

These strategies depend on such things as retooling the education system to provide students with the specific skills required for jobs in manufacturing and other non-university-track areas. Almost three out of five California high schoolers are not prepared for either college or a career. The greatest disadvantages are suffered by Latino, African American and poor students, who have long been trapped in the worst, most under-resourced school systems.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought about great suffering for Californians in nearly every aspect of life. It’s time state government leaders focused on developing more economically diverse approaches — not only for recovery, but also to restore real opportunity to most of its residents.

This piece first appeared on Los Angeles Times.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Marshall Toplansky is a clinical assistant professor of management science at the Argyros School of Business and Economics at Chapman University. He is a research fellow at the university’s Hoag Center for Real Estate and Finance and at the Center for Demographics and Policy.

Photo credit: Dave Reichert via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.