Monday, March 10, 2008 | Now is the time to plan a San Diego beyond a recession.
San Diegans are having a tough time making ends meet. The cost of living in San Diego is increasing faster than wages. Today, a single adult needs at least $28,510 a year for basic essentials and a two-adult working family with two children needs $71,385 for basic expenses including childcare.
Falling employment, stagnant wages, uncontrolled debt and slack consumer confidence are afflicting San Diego as much, if not more than, the rest of the nation. San Diego has the lowest average wage per job, when adjusted for the cost of living, among comparable metro areas in the United States. San Diego wages also have the lowest purchasing power, given local costs. In this context, low-wage workers are most vulnerable since they often lack a cushion of savings.
As San Diego braces for recession-like economic conditions, we need to step back and reevaluate our failed economic development strategy from the past decade. Our vision for San Diego beyond the recession should be one of stable employment providing decent wages and healthcare coverage. To build a strong local economy, San Diegans need to be self-sufficient, adaptive, educated and trained, and they need institutional protections to maintain a decent standard of living.
The region’s biggest economic stimulus package lies in the earnings of all San Diegans. For their hard work, people expect to earn enough to at least cover food, housing, gas, childcare and medicine.
There are innumerable ways in which local governments can influence the livelihood of workers. Sandag found that, since 1990, the local economy has created eight times more low-wage jobs than high-paying jobs. This structural imbalance is not just the voodoo of some invisible hand, but a product of decades of land-use and public policy decisions that have bled the work force through neglect.