California on the Brink: Too Many People, Too Little Money

Published on January 6th, 2012

The December 29 CAPS’ homepage story is an outstanding example of how overpopulation soon or later leads to societal breakdowns. California with nearly 39 million residents has one-eighth of the nation’s population but also one-third of its welfare recipients. More than 1.5 million Californians depend on monthly welfare grants. Accordingly, California's caseload far outnumbers the rest of the country, with 3.8 percent of the state’s 2010 population receiving welfare benefits.  As a result, California will spend $6 billion this fiscal year on its welfare programs, about 7 percent of its general fund budget that’s unfortunately shrunk by $17.5 billion since 2008. [Nation’s Largest Welfare State Makes Deep Cuts, by Sheila Vumar, Associated Press, December 29, 2011]

The AP story chronicled the hard times that millions of Californians have fallen upon since the Great Recession (the Great Depression, Part II?) began nearly five years ago. In a nut shell, most of those affected have limited skills and educations. Over the years, they have grown dependent on various welfare programs.

This year Cal Works, the welfare-to-work program that is the state's main support system, was cut by $1 billion. Other Cal-Works changes included shortening the duration an individual can stay on welfare and reducing his monthly check by at least 8 percent. These cut backs are a real quandary for legislators because while the state can no longer afford to fund so many generous programs, it also has the nation’s second highest unemployment rate, 11. 3 percent.  In other words, the vulnerable have no place to turn.

With no jobs in sight and reduced welfare benefits now a fact of life, many of the poorest Californians face, at best, life in a shelter or, at worst, on the street. Because of California’s growing income disparity, homelessness has been on the rise for a decade. Every major city and most rural areas have significant homeless populations.

While birth rates in California and immigration into the state have trended slightly downward in recent years, the level at which they peaked was so unsustainably high that few positive effects have been realized. More troubling, when declines in immigration and new births are recession-related, as these are, historically they are temporary. [California Birth Rate Trending Down, by My-Thuan Tran, Los Angeles Times, April 8, 2010]

According to the CAPS’ Population Facts page here California’s 2010 “natural” population (births minus deaths) increased by 283,799 while “net migration” (legal and illegal immigrants minus residents who left California to live either abroad or in other states) hit 66, 375.

A important factor in “net migration” is that because of California’s reduced quality of life, more leave than arrive from other states. Since many have jobs and pay state taxes, their departure adds to California’s revenue shortfall. Read my December 18 Los Angeles Daily News editorial about this pattern here.

The solution which CAPS has advocated for since its founding in 1986 is two-fold. First, prospective parents should adopt sensible family planning goals by limiting themselves to no more than two children (replacement level). Financially challenged couples should consider that a childless marriage may be the right choice for them.

Second, the federal government needs to include serious discussions of the connection between immigration policy and ever-increasing population. To ignore population when promoting liberalized federal immigration laws is to eventually doom the other 49 states to the same fate as California.

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